Question 1: Professor Robert DUSSEY, hello. For several years now, you have accustomed us to presenting the results of Togo’s diplomatic action at the end of each year. 2022 is no exception to this rule. Outside observers that we are, we, men and women of the media are tempted to say that Togolese diplomacy has achieved a lot of success this year, given the many distinctions that have been awarded to you. What do you say, minister?
First of all, I would like to thank you for the particular attention you give to Togo’s diplomatic action. To come back to your question, I would like to say that you are not wrong to think that Togolese diplomacy has made great strides in 2022. The distinctions to which you refer, far from being a reason for personal satisfaction, rather constitute the recognition of the relevance of the international political vision of the Head of State, His Excellency Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE, who can only be criticized for one thing, that of dreaming big for his country. Under his leadership and in accordance with the priorities he has defined, we have worked to strengthen the attractiveness of Togo economically, to make our contribution to the construction and consolidation of peace and stability in our regional space. and to strengthen the influence of our country in the community of nations without forgetting our commitment to the diaspora.
Question 2: …. and what are the main projects on which your action has focused?
First of all, that of the commitment to peace without which nothing can be done. As you already know, peace and security in the Sahel and West African regions have been severely tested for several years by repeated attacks by armed terrorist groups. For a long time confined to the Sahelo-Saharan strip, these attacks unfortunately increasingly affect the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, including Togo.
Added to this fragility are political instabilities in several countries in the region following coups. Taking its responsibility, Togo is actively involved on several fronts to help sister countries in difficulty, such as Mali, to find the way to normality through dialogue and consultation. Always faithful to its tradition of building peace, our country also mediates between African countries in the cold. Activities such as the Lomé International Colloquium on Managing Political Transitions and Building Resilience to Violent Extremism on March 6, 2022, the 3rd Meeting of the Transition Support Group in Mali (GST-Mali), held in Lomé on September 06, 2022 and the co-organization of the 3rd edition of the regional forum on peace education through intra- and inter-religious dialogue which has moreover consecrated Lomé “the capital of peace, mediation, dialogue and tolerance”, are part of this dynamic of asserting our country’s leadership on these themes. The same is true of the launch in Lomé by the African Union Commission of the 2022 edition of the month of amnesty.
Then, in 2022, Togo made a strong case for a fairer and more equitable multilateralism that will drive stable development and sustained global growth. Our country vigorously condemns these champions of multilateralism who, according to their interests, trample on its foundations. While reaffirming its attachment to multilateralism, Togo nevertheless invited a questioning of its foundations, in the light of the realities of our time and from an Afro-centric point of view.
The voice of Africa unfortunately does not seem to be heard, as some simply do not want Africa to be a strong continent. But we encourage Africans to wake up from the torpor and numbness inherited from colonialism to concern themselves with the place that Africa occupies on the world stage. It is up to us to ensure that our countries are no longer just a reservoir of voices or areas of influence for others, by becoming aware of the specific responsibility of our continent, which has its say. Africa expects not charity but more equality, respect, fairness and justice. Those who want to help Africa must do so taking into account the priorities defined by it.
Question 3: It is clear that the place of Africa in the world is a subject that concerns you deeply. We felt it during your speech at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly where you mentioned the concept of Africanophony. What is it about ?
Africanophonia is the set of African people and peoples who speak one of the African languages, understood here not only as a means of transmitting thought but also as an expression of a cultural identity. Africanophony is therefore the recognition and acceptance of our history, of our culture. It is the expression of values specific to Africa, which is in itself a cultural power. If Africa wants to be considered at its fair value by the rest of the world, if it wants its voice to be heard on major international issues, it must impose itself as a singularity and stop wanting at all costs to identify with this or that block of thought. On this point, the African has work to do on himself to assume his intrinsic identity.
The concepts of French-speaking, English-speaking, Portuguese-speaking, Arabic-speaking Africa, etc., are historical and ideological epistemological conditioning from which we must leave. Africa is simply Africa. It is true that in Africa many speak languages such as French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, but this is not enough to brush aside the deep civilizational and anthropological realities that are uniquely African. In the dynamics of contemporary Pan-African consciousness, we clearly affirm our desire to get out of the logic of self-conditioning by others. It is for the honor and the future of Africa to get out of the exogenous gaze through which others only see in Africa what they want to look at and not what Africa is or intends to be. to be herself and to rebuild her relationship with her neighbors in other parts of the planet. It is important to build our own narrative.
For example, in the conflicts facing the world today, Africa has its say, its role to play. It is a question, without being naïve, of working for the return of peace through dialogue and consultation between brotherly peoples in conflict. This is one of the values that all African cultures carry, values that we must promote and assume through Africanophony.
Question 4: At the multilateral level, Togo’s accession to the Commonwealth on June 25 was the culmination of a long process. Why this choice and what does Togo gain from it?
Togo’s membership of the Commonwealth is a carefully considered sovereign decision. The acceptance of Togo’s application for membership is above all the recognition of the considerable progress made in recent years by our country not only in terms of good governance, democracy and human rights, but also in terms of reforms. from the business community. The process was laborious and very demanding. The fact that a country belongs to large regional or international groups is a factor in improving its diplomatic influence. By choosing the Commonwealth, our country aims to diversify its partnerships. Togo does not turn its back on its traditional families, but we find it economically useful to be part of the Commonwealth, which represents a market of around 2.5 billion consumers.
Question 5: But Mr. Minister, the diplomatic influence of a country is not achieved only by its membership in large organizations, but also by the placement of its nationals in international organizations. In this regard, Togo seems to be late …
I will not speak of delay but of the possibilities which remain to be explored. In some organizations, Togo has reached or exceeded its representativeness quota. Our ambition is not only to get as many compatriots as possible into international organizations or multinational groups, but also to work to promote those who are already there to raise them to positions of responsibility. It is the number, but it is even better to aim for the quality of the representativeness. We therefore welcome the election on March 25, 2022 of our compatriot, Mr. Gilbert Fossoun HOUNGBO as head of the International Labor Office (ILO). The real influence is at this level. As part of strengthening the presence of our compatriots in international organizations, my department has adopted a strategy for the placement and promotion of Togolese executives in these bodies, which the placement unit is working to implement, in perfect collaboration with other actors including the Association of Togolese International Civil Servants (AFIT).
Question 6: Now let’s talk about bilateral cooperation if you don’t mind. In this register, what progress has been made in 2022?
At the bilateral level, we continued the dynamic of diversification of the partners that we need to support the implementation of the Togo 2025 government roadmap. In 2022, we decided to strengthen our bilateral cooperation with the countries of the Near and of the Middle East without leaving aside our traditional partners. Thus, at the beginning of the year, at the invitation of my Iranian counterpart Dr. Hossein AMIRABDOLLAHIYAN, I paid a working visit to Tehran where I had talks with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, His Excellency Mr. Ebrahim RAISSI and other personalities from the political and economic spheres.
Strengthening cooperation in the fields of security, trade, investment, health, agriculture and mining was at the heart of the exchanges.
Since most of our agreements with Israel date from the 1960s, it has become essential to update them in order to better adapt them to the current context. This was the purpose of my official visit to Jerusalem, from May 28 to June 4, 2022, at the invitation of my Israeli counterpart, Mr. Yaïr LAPID. We took the opportunity to define new priority areas of cooperation, namely: agriculture and irrigation, adaptation to climate change, security, health, new information and communication technologies, industry, renewable energies, education and training.
In Pakistan, where I went from August 10 to 12, 2022, I placed particular emphasis on the business opportunities offered by the Adétikopé industrial platform and Togo’s desire to further assert its vocation as a logistics hub. and services through the strengthening of its port, airport and road infrastructures. With the Pakistani authorities, we have also opened negotiations with a view to signing several agreements, including a reciprocal visa exemption agreement for the benefit of holders of diplomatic and service passports.
Our relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were also reinvigorated in 2022. I thus stayed from October 4 to 6, 2022 in Riyadh where I met my counterpart, His Highness Prince Faisal Bin Fahran Bin Abdallah Al Saud as well as other members of the government and officials of the largest Saudi companies. In addition to the fight against terrorism, we have agreed to give new impetus to our relations in the areas of investment, mining, agriculture and energy.
Cooperation with Türkiye has been strengthened by the effectiveness of the opening of our embassy in Ankara this year. The first political consultations between our two governments, in accordance with the memorandum of understanding signed last year, took place in Lomé on June 24, 2022. The work made it possible to take stock of the cooperation and identify actions to be taken. to accelerate the conclusion of the agreements under negotiation and the implementation of the partnerships decided by the two Heads of State during the visit to Lomé of His Excellency Mr. Recep Tayyip ERDOGAN, on October 19, 2021.
I will also mention the visit to Lomé of the Director General of the Department of African Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and Secretary General of the Forum for Monitoring China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Mr. WU Peng, in June 2022 He announced the cancellation of 1.5 billion FCFA of Togolese debt.
Our relations with the Kingdom of Morocco have also intensified, as evidenced by the opening this year of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco in Lomé and the opening of a Consulate General of Togo in Dakhla, in addition to our existing embassy. already in Rabat. In order to bring the two peoples closer together, we have concluded an entry visa exemption agreement for ordinary passport holders, which entered into force on September 09, 2022. These are some initiatives at the bilateral level among many others including our country can boast in 2022.
Question 7: Another important part of your attributions is the diaspora! There is no longer any doubt about your commitment to Togolese abroad. We have seen this year that despite your busy schedule, you always make time to meet the Togolese diaspora during your various missions. On this subject, what are the concrete achievements?
We have decided to maintain a constant dialogue with the diaspora to better understand their expectations and also to explain to them the orientations of the development policy implemented in our country. It is not said that we will always agree on everything. But the game is worth the candle because the dialogue helps to clear up a good part of the misunderstandings. For example, the preferential rate agreement that we have negotiated with certain companies for which ASKY meets a need expressed during these meetings. Today, all Togolese abroad benefit from a 12% reduction on ticket prices to destinations served by ASKY. Diaspora compatriots also repeatedly mention the difficulties they have in obtaining or renewing their identity documents. In response, we have, with the help of other competent administrations, sent a traveling mission to Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Nigeria and Mali to establish nationality certificates. A total of 2,284 requests were registered. This initiative, highly appreciated by the beneficiaries, is expected to be sustained as much as possible.
Moreover, in order to better articulate public policies in favor of its diaspora, it has proven necessary to know the Togolese diaspora well in terms of its workforce, its geographical distribution in the world and its socio-professional profiles. We thus organized, from May to June 2022, the first census of Togolese abroad and set up a reliable and secure database on the Togolese diaspora. Togo is one of the few countries to have undertaken such a large-scale operation.
2022 was also the year of the renewal of the members of the High Council of Togolese Abroad (HCTE). The 48 new country delegates were trained and officially installed in their functions during the HCTE-REUSSITE DIASPORA forum which was held in Lomé on 22 and 23 November.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the diaspora who are undertaking and investing in Togo. They are indeed very numerous to carry several projects and businesses. The task is often not easy for them, we are aware of that. I would like to reassure them of the government’s support and attention, through the Diaspora Desk dedicated to them.
Question 8: Mr. Minister, one imagines that if Togolese diplomacy records such a performance, it is because you have competent staff on which you rely…?
The staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a reflection of society: there are excellent civil servants and less good ones. To transform Togolese diplomacy, we have understood that it is necessary to work on the man, the framework and the working method at the same time. Working on people means ensuring that the merit of the best is recognized and valued. It is also giving those who are average but who have the will to surpass themselves the chance and the opportunity to improve both personally and professionally. This is the meaning of our initiative for the award of excellence that we have instituted.
Working on the framework means improving the living and working conditions of the Togolese diplomat both at the headquarters and in our diplomatic missions and consular posts. This component is a bit complex because it involves other administrations, but we are working on it.
As for working methods, it was necessary to strengthen the managerial capacities of ministry officials in order to bring them into line with the modern tools of diplomacy. In addition to the internship opportunities abroad that we negotiate and which allow the continuous training of diplomats abroad, we have organized coaching and upgrading workshops.
Question 9: We have had enough of your time. We’re going to have to wrap it up. Would you have a final word?
We are at the end of the year. I would like to take this opportunity to express to all Togolese my sincere wishes for health, happiness and prosperity for the year 2023.
I pray that God grants the Head of State, His Excellency Faure Essozimna GNASSINGBE, good health, protection and inner peace. I extend his wishes to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Victoire TOMEGAH-DOGBE and to the entire Government.
To the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I wish a year 2023 filled with health, happiness and progress in their professional and personal lives. Finally, to you men and women of the press, also receive my wishes for health and prosperity for this new year.
Happy New Year everyone !