Togo's encouragement of the private sector has attracted support from an unlikely source. Shoshana Kedem reports from the Togo Investment Summit in London
In June, the former UK prime minister Tony Blair made a surprise appearance at the Togo Investment Summit in London's Mayfair to promote investment in the small but rapidly developing West African country.
The veteran British politician appeared on stage to welcome President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo and a delegation of top trade officials to London as part of efforts to market the country as an up-and-coming investment destination as it advances investment reforms. Yet the country's dynastic politics could complicate investor efforts to re-engage.
Since leaving office in 2007 after over a decade in power, Blair has forged a colourful and sometimes controversial career as a multi-project philanthropist, speechmaker and high-profile consultant.
His non-profit organisation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has been working with Togo since 2017 to "train high-performing teams within the government" and fast-track "job-creating projects" by opening doors and smoothing the way for investment from around the world, according to the institute's website.
While recognising "major challenges", Blair was effusive in his praise of the country.
"I am absolutely enthusiastic about the country and its prospects, he said. "I see in Togo a government who is willing and able and an environment conducive to business. The NDP [National Development Plan] sets out priority areas for Togo, so there's. a very clear plan in place. There's no doubt at all about the opportunities there. There is a deliberate attempt by the government to attract foreign direct investment. There's an encouragement of the private sector."
He added that there are major opportunities in the agriculture sector, which is a central pillar of Togo's economy, accounting for around 40% of GDP, according to the World Bank.
President Gnassingbe said that the $8bn National Development Plan for 2018-22 hopes to capitalise on the country's access to surrounding West African markets.
"The first priority is to turn the country into a regional logistics hub. Our country is strategically located in a region of more than 350m inhabitants, so that is a lot of consumers ... Our country offers a natural gateway to Burkina Faso and Mali, and trade from other ECOWAS destinations."
As part of the plan, the country aims to develop domestic plants...