Blue Innovation. On the 15th of October 2016, at the initiative of the African Union, African heads of state gathered at Lomé in Togo for an extraordinary summit on maritime safety and security and development in Africa. What were the results of this summit?
Robert Dussey. First of all, the stated goal of the Lomé Summit was to gather, under the auspices of the African Union, the governments of member states, regional economic communities and African and international institutions and organizations specialized in maritime issues, in order for them to discuss and find solutions to the challenges that the African maritime sector is facing.
Given this objective, the results achieved are very satisfactory, considering the fact that Lomé welcomed several thousand maritime experts who focused on various questions—notably the fight against piracy, IUU [illegal, unreported and unregulated] fishing, and the blue economy. Important recommendations were made during these exchanges, and are compiled in the final documents of the Lomé Summit. The latter are an important source of solutions to the various challenges that the African maritime sector is facing. The most precious of these results is of course the signature by 33 countries gathered at Lomé of the African Charter on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa (the ‘Lomé Charter’). This charter is an important tool for the co-ordination of the efforts of different African states in the maritime sector, and is the first of its kind on the continent.
Blue Innovation. The first forum on Africa’s blue economy took was held in London in June 2018. Do you think Africa is sufficiently aware of the wealth of opportunities its marine resources offer?
Robert Dussey. Africa has always been aware of the opportunities its marine resources offer. This awareness was expressed during the African Union’s 2014 summit in Addis Ababa by the adoption of Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy for 2050. The latter was confirmed during the Lomé Summit, and we need only note the interest and enthusiasm of the different delegations, experts and other participants. The 1st forum on Africa’s blue economy in London, which brought together several African experts on the maritime sector in this global maritime capital in order for them to share their experience, is a further example of this awareness.
With 38 countries located on the coast, Africa cannot afford to ignore its marine wealth. Its awareness is a reality, and with the adoption of the Lomé Charter, we now possess the tools we need to properly manage these resources. All that remains to be done is for the states to ratify the charter in order to enable it to achieve its expected results.
Blue Innovation. The emergence of a real Togolese blue economy is one of your government’s priorities. What does this sector of activity represent within Togo’s national economy, and to what extent do you expect the sector to grow?
Robert Dussey. The blue economy is a powerful lever for development in our countries, and this sector of activity is already quite present within the Togolese economy.
You of course know that Lomé’s autonomous port is one of the best deep-water ports in the region. Thanks to the different reforms we have carried out, the port is now one of the most modern of the African continent, and is an important point of transit for different kinds of goods—both for neighbouring countries and the hinterland. It is quite obvious that with all its advantages, Lomé’s autonomous port contributes effectively to the country’s economy. And let us not forget the important contribution of fisheries to this economy. Even if this sector is neither particularly industrialized nor developed, it represents around 22,000 jobs—of which 15,000 are direct employment—which is quite significant.
In terms of future prospects, the government, led by the president, is doing all it can to make the best use of the maritime sector. An example of this is the ongoing construction of a new fishing harbour in Gbétchogbé, 24km from Lomé. This new facility will serve as a modern base for various fishing activities, and will enable Togo to increase its annual catch, which is currently estimated at 25,000 tonnes.
Equally noteworthy is the creation at the University of Lomé of the Institute of maritime trades, which will train students to carry out various occupations and strengthen the capacities of workers. The goal is to supply the maritime sector with a competent national workforce capable of contributing to its development. We hope to see all these future prospects realized and achieve both short and long-term results in order to turn the blue economy into a driving force for Togo’s development.