An increasing number of major banks are setting up their headquarters in Togo's capital, Lome. New infrastructure is also raising its presence as a financial hub, in its quest to become the 'Switzerland of Africa', Grace Pascoe reports.
West Africa's Togo is bursting with ambition. The small nation is home to around 7 million people. And reforms have led major banks to headquarter themselves in its capital Lome. Ecobank is one such bank, its founder Gervais Djondo. (SOUNDBITE) (French) GERVAIS DJONDO, ECOBANK AND AIRLINE COMPANY ASKY FOUNDER SAYING: "Togo is a country which at some point was known as the Switzerland of Africa. It is all a question of will. There has been the political will from politicians to support those who want to achieve something." Infrastructure is booming too. New roads and buildings are springing up all over the capital city. More marine security means some of the world's largest vessels can be serviced in Togo's port with less threat from pirates. But it's to the skies that Togo is looking for future growth too. Djondo is also the founder of airline ASKY, set up in late 2007 in partnership with Ethiopian Airlines. It now carries 9,500 passengers a week across 22 destinations. While in Togo itself, a brand new airport terminal is due to replace the old one. ASKY CEO, Henoc Teferra. (SOUNDBITE) (French) HENOC TEFERRA, CEO, ASKY AIRLINES SAYING: "We want to make Lome a regional hub. As you know, having an aerial hub is strategic for any country and will also go towards attracting investors, increase trade and tourism and also improve regional integration." Critics say that the majority of Togo's economic benefits have gone to the wealthy. Many Togolese still suffer high poverty levels and unemployment is rife. But its GDP has more than doubled since 2005. Stephane Akaya is a Togolese economist. (SOUNDBITE) (French) STEPHANE AKAYA, ECONOMIST SAYING: "Togo's human development index (HDI) went from 0.4 to 0.5 percent last year, and as a result, we think that Togo is well positioned to become a regional hub, meaning that it can become a country on which West Africa can rely on to play an important role geopolitically as well as on the international stage." And it's getting noticed elsewhere. The World Bank's 2015 Doing Business report showed Togo had risen 15 places on the year before, a sign that government reforms are kicking in.