Togo: Africa’s Top Port Country


Chances are that when you run a Google search for the keywords, “Top Sea Ports in West Africa”, Togo tops the list. At first glance, the small West African nation might seem out of place on this list among larger nations like Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria. However, on a closer look, one would discover that this country doesn’t make the top of this list by error.

Sure Togo’s position on this list invites an obvious question: How did the port of a small nation like Togo – (not as rich or advanced as other West African countries) manage to outrank the ports of larger economies in the region?

To understand Togo’s current port ranking, we must cover a quick history lesson of the region’s port:

Before 1967, Togo was nothing more than a lighterage port exporting phosphate, coffee and agricultural products like coffee bean, and groundnut. In 1967 after a series of events, the country’s port experienced major changes after an artificial deep-water harbour designed for 400,000tn of annual traffic was established by a German consortium. This new harbour inaugurated in 1968, would further undergo developments in 1981 and decades after. French company – Groupe Bolloré subsidiary SE2M Togo was chosen to manage the construction of a third quay for the port in 2011. The project cost 300bn CFA francs ($600m), centres on a quay 450m long and 15m deep

From 2014, Groupe Bolloré, as well as the situation of the port of Togo, would undergo profound change. A 2014 article challenging Boloré’s monopoly over the transhipment business in the area gave way to a new agreement and construction of the Lomé Container Terminal (LCT) worth EUR225 million – including a 1,050 and 1,350-metre long quays. The opening of the Lomé Container Terminal paved the way for Lomé to become West Africa’s biggest port by 2017. The LCT alone processed 75% of all the cargo going through the port of Lomé – 890, 000 TUE annually. The Port of Lomé also tripled its capacity from 311 500 containers in 2013 to 1.1 million in 2017, according to data from Dynamar, a Dutch maritime intelligence and consulting firm.

In a report according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Togo ranked top five in terms of port connectivity. TIL Terminal Investment Limited’s (owned by MSC) investment of US$380 million has caused the expansion of the Lomé’ Container port to handle post-panamax vessels and act as a transshipment hub.

Although the region of West Africa is experiencing a decline from its compound growth of over 10% in recent years, the sector was projected to grow by 5% from 2021. Already, major West African countries are competing to outdo each other and become number 1 regional hub in the region. These countries are working on a line up of ambitious port projects.

For instance; Nigeria has already recorded significant progress in moving its container shipping operations from Apapa/Tincan to Lekki – located at the Lagos Free Trade Zone. This US$1.5 billion port project in Lekki port is expected to open for operations in 2023.

In Ghana, a joint venture between the French company Bolloré and APM Terminals (Maersk) is in motion to secure US$1.5 billion funding for Ghana’s Tema Port – to operate container ships carrying up to 18’000 containers.

Abidjan’s US$930 million and 1 million TEUs-worth Ndayane Le Port du Futur Dakar port project in Senegal, are a few examples of port expansion projects taking place in West Africa.

Notwithstanding, Togo’s current lead in this race of ports in West Africa is not without evidence – the port is well-connected and goods can be delivered to several West African capitals in a single day. In addition to being the first modern transshipment hub in West and Central Africa, Togo’s developed port has helped to expand the maritime sector, and stimulate competition in the regional shipping and logistics market.

Not only this, the increased tax payments from increased revenues from people and companies associated with LCT contributes to the local economy of Togo. Additionally, an estimate of 1,200 direct jobs and 2,500-3,000 indirect ones during the construction of the LCT, 700 additional, and terminal support activities such as suppliers, could result in additional 2,000-2,500 jobs, says the International Finance Corporation.

Top-10 ports in Africa in 2019 (by volume in TEUs)
Ports and Harbours: The Ports of West Africa Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire
Port Series: Lomé, Togo
Wikipedia: Togo
The Main Ports Pushing For Number 1 Regional Hub In West Africa
A day in the life of Lomé Port in Togo
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Lome Container Terminal, Togo