We discussed how best to embrace and exploit the passion and potential of his country's youth towards building an inclusive entrepreneurial nation for all.
Critical to this is ensuring that its young entrepreneurs become global founders and can compete with their peers on both the continent and around the world, while creating much-needed jobs locally.
Recently, I returned to Togo for the launch of its highly-anticipated National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2022.
Dubbed “Togo First”, the plan sets strategic goals for economic and social development, as well as for growth over the period 2018-2022.
At the launch, Gnassingbé acknowledged the need to redistribute wealth and become more inclusive, reiterating that all who work for the wealth must also share in the wealth.
He also called for renewal and a firm commitment to achieve, without delay, the necessary transformation and construction of a new, revitalised Togo that all citizens will be proud to live in and leave for the generations to come.
The plan focuses on three key deliverables:
* Create a world-class logistics hub and a business/entrepreneurship centre of reference in the region.
* Develop poles of agricultural processing, manufacturing and mining.
* Consolidate social development and boost inclusion mechanisms.
By implementing the plan, the Togolese government aims to create 500 000 jobs by 2022 and achieve a gross domestic product growth of 7.6 percent. It also seeks to attract $7 billion (R99bn) from the private sector to help achieve this goal.
Recently, the country held the first China-Africa business forum, as China has become a highly significant and vital role player in economic development across the continent.
Evidence of this is the Debre Birhan industrial park constructed by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in Ethiopia at a cost of more than $71 million The park spans some 75 hectares, has eight industrial sheds ready to accommodate prospective investors and is expected to create job opportunities for over 1000 Ethiopians.
Togo is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to its new and inclusive economic uprising. It also plans to hold an EU-Togo business forum in June to attract various investors and development partners from the European region.
Carlos Lopes, the chief national adviser of the NDP, hailed the development of Togo over the past few years.
He said that although development was clearly evident, the country also needed to focus more on transformation and inclusiveness.
Africa must mobilise technical, financial and managerial resources to meet its developmental needs and also create strong infrastructures to lessen external dependencies.
What’s more, we must draw inspiration from existing and new technological innovations because the advantage that Africans have is that we're “latecomers”, so we simply have to "copy and paste".
By this I mean that most of what we're trying to do has been tried and tested by various other nations, showing models that work and those that don’t - so job done. Let's implement the existing off-the-shelf solutions that suit us.
At the NDP launch, I was pleased to see the inclusion and participation of entrepreneurs. Koudou Komi Dovi, an agro-processing entrepreneur producing rice and beans, shared his journey of becoming an entrepreneur and what more the government can do to support many of the country's unemployed youth.
One recommendation was to develop impactful training programmes that will equip young people to meet the needs of the job market.
In a nutshell, Togo’s NDP to build a prosperous country for all will focus on creating an invigorative investment climate, increased employment, better healthcare and social development.
During the launch, there was a palpable sense of collegiality, collaboration and optimism among various stakeholders. Yes, Togo’s NDP is ambitious, yet I believe it’s achievable, as long as the stakeholder commitment stays strong and never wanes.
To close, I borrow from Gnassingbé’s speech in which he mirrored my sentiment and encouraged all stakeholders to work together to achieve the NDP’s objectives by saying that “big rivers are made of small streams”
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chairperson of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa - 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest start-up campus.