LOME ( Reuters ) – The scale of Togo ’ sulfur ambition is clear as you fly into the capital, Lome. Gervais Djondo, the founder of Asky and Ecobank, speaks during an interview at his home in Djondo Kope, Togo, April 24, 2015. REUTERS/Noel Kokou Tadegnon Rising above a flaxen coastline good 90 miles ( 145 km ) long, is the giant star, glass-fronted headquarters of Ecobank, expanding out of the nation of seven million across a continent of more than a billion. nearby, rows of cranes soar into the sky above containers stacked in the region ’ sulfur deepest port, a manque transhipment hub for the world ’ randomness largest vessels.

At the airport, workers are finishing a glistening terminal to ease overcrowding as aggressive togolese airline ASKY ferries passengers across West and Central Africa. President Faure Gnassingbe, scion of a dynasty that has ruled Togo for closely half a century, is modelling his state on Singapore or Dubai. Its progress goes beyond the superficial, but there is much further to go and regional rival is rigid. For Gervais Djondo, the 81-year-old collapse of both Ecobank and ASKY, business-friendly infrastructure and services are the key to transcending west Africa ’ s patchwork of colonial-era borders. “ Pan Africanism and integration starts with people moving, ” Djondo said in the garden of his home in Djondo Kope, a greenwich village built by, and named after, him near the Benin edge. “ If we want to make business … we have to create the appropriate means to make things move, ” he told Reuters, sipping coconut juice and dressed in a traditional white robe. On wallpaper, reforms look to be kicking in : the World Bank ’ mho 2015 Doing Business ranking showed Togo rose 15 places from last year to 149, one of the lead 10 risers. This puts it well above regional giant Nigeria and on a equality with Ivory Coast and Benin, although neighbor Ghana remains far ahead. economic growth in Togo, 5.5 percentage last year, is expected to rise towards 6 percentage over the next two years. Better security has lured some shipping away from Benin and Nigeria, whose shores are threatened by pirates, and in the capital, modern roads, bang-up lines of lamp posts and mushroom buildings are signs of investment. The road linking Togo to Ghana to the west and Benin to the east, is smooth and bustling. away from main arteries, however, roads are eaten up by potholes and residents sell food at stalls next to piles of rubbish. The World Bank says around 72 percentage of people in Togo live off less than $ 2 per day. Teachers and nurses demanding give rises paralysed public services ahead of April ’ s presidential election, while young people complain that spend has brought few jobs. A resurgent Ivory Coast, where port expansion is afoot, looms as a rival .Slideshow ( 2 images ) “ If you are a very little state, you have to have something to stand out, ” said a diplomat based in the area. “ Gnassingbe thinks he can do for Togo what ( early prime minister ) Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore. ” “ It is a long shooting, ” he added. PORT IS THE “ ACE CARD ” Despite a recent rowing over alleged mismanagement, Ecobank has become one of Africa ’ randomness biggest banks since it was set up in 1985 by Djondo and Adeyemi Lawson, a nigerian who shared his vision. It has about $ 24 billion in assets and reported $ 2.3 billion in net revenues last year, equivalent to more than half Togo ’ s estimated $ 4.3 billion 2013 GDP. ASKY, meanwhile, operating in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines [ ETHA.UL ], launched in 2010 and now carries barely under 10,000 passengers per workweek around the region and is looking to expand. Ivory Coast ’ s Air Cote five hundred ’ Ivoire, ASKY ’ s independent regional rival, plans a exchangeable number this year. “ You have to approach this regionally and play to your strengths. They are doing this, ” a second gear diplomat said, referring to the togolese government equally well as Djondo.

“ The airport will help. It will generate revenues and jobs. But Lome ’ randomness port is its ace circuit board. ” Togo sees the interface serving not only its own needs and those of landlocked Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso but besides the rest of the Gulf of Guinea ; at 15.5 metres deep, it has the capability to berth ships carrying american samoa many as 7,000 containers. last class, it opened a newly container end, a joint venture between Terminal Investment Limited ( TIL ) and China Merchants Holdings International. Bollore is upgrading a disjoined terminal in Lome. That means Lome is working towards a target capacitance of 3 million containers per year by 2017, putting it at the principal of a new wave of port expansions in the region. Ivory Coast ’ s Abidjan port and the nigerian ports of Lekki and Badagry have like plans, but they will take several years to implement. The Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company ( MSC ), one of the biggest in the business, has started channelling all its trade from the Far East to West Africa through Lome, from where smaller vessels will take goods to early ports along the coast. Drewry Maritime Research believes developments in Lome and nearby ports could dampen fast increase in transhipment hub in the western Mediterranean like Morocco ’ sulfur Tanger Med. The dozens of ships whose lights glitter at night in the seas off Lome are bringing fuel to Benin and Nigeria, draw to Togo ’ s port by better transfer facilities and lower policy premiums than in pirate-infested waters to the east. “ The Togolese run some pretty effective patrols, with good radar and some bang-up boats that can go quite far out, ” said an international security source, citing back from the United States. Jessica Moody, an analyst at Protection Group International, said Lome had handled 58 more ships by mid-april than it did in all 2014 .

DOCKERS WITH EMPTY POCKETS

Gnassingbe ’ s re-election in April lent heavily on these developments. Billboards showed a smiling president inside the new airport terminal or superimposed in movement of raw cranes. In an effort to boost revenues and cut corruption, authorities have appointed a foreigner — a Rwandan-Canadian — to handle tax and customs revenues. But challenges remain. Moody warned Lome port would likely face more larceny and smuggling as traffic grew. Plans to connect Lome to a regional fulminate network now under construction may take years to complete. Djondo says the lack of a railway for goods that come ashore is a major bottleneck : “ We need to have the railways. We will not go anywhere with trucks. ” Post-election violence after Gnassingbe succeeded his forefather with military back killed hundreds in 2005. His second term saw the large-scale infrastructure projects. Strikes underline pressure to deliver social change in his third gear. The World Bank said the new container terminal would help provide economies of scale and produce more than 2,500 jobs. This optimism is even to reach the rows of wooden benches where young men, some asleep while others play chequers, wait for a slot on an eight hour shift to earn 2,500 CFA francs ( $ 4.23 ) work in the port. “ We have seen people who retire after 35 years character time bring. It is depressing, ” said Yacynthe, a stevedore. “ I see people going on the television to talk about the port, but us dockers sit hera with empty pockets. We don ’ t feel the investments on the ground. ”

( $ 1 = 591.0100 CFA francs ) extra report by John Zodzi and Noel Tadegnon ; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Philippa Fletcher Our Standards : The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles .

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