Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter—
Togolese President Mr Faure Gnassingbe arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday to invite African Union chairperson President Mugabe to chair the continental body’s forthcoming Maritime Security and Development conference to be held in Togo’s capital Lome in November. Mr Gnassingbe held a two-hour meeting with President Mugabe at State House in Harare where they discussed the forthcoming conference and bilateral issues.
Briefing journalists soon after the meeting, Mr Gnassingbe said the conference was set to benefit immensely from President Mugabe’s wisdom. “Under his chairmanship, the AU has accepted to organise a conference on Maritime Security and Safety. “The conference on Maritime Security and Safety relates to issues of piracy that have become a serious problem for Africa,” said Mr Gnassingbe speaking through an interpreter.
“There is a problem of piracy, illegal fishing, drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, pollution of our waters in our seas. “This conference will take place in Lome, Togo from November 1 to 7 this year. “And during this conference, we will also talk about the issue of illegal immigrants from Africa to Europe. It has actually become a burning problem especially in countries in West Africa. I have said to President Mugabe that I will be happy to welcome him at this conference, that he can chair this conference so that he can use his wisdom for the success of this conference.”
The AU Conference on Maritime Security and Development will draw Heads of State and Government, regional economic communities, institutions specialising in maritime and related activities, and Africa’s development partners. Asked about the other issues they discussed, Mr Gnassingbe said they spoke about how best they can explore and improve bilateral relations between the two countries.
“You know, this is my first official visit to Zimbabwe. We discussed economic co-operation with Zimbabwe. I have requested President Mugabe, if Zimbabwe could assist Togo in reconstructing its wildlife and fauna for tourism purposes. The President was even kind enough to invite me for a State visit. And I think it will be during my State visit when we will have an opportunity to discuss how we can economically develop together,” he said.
Yesterday’s meeting was also attended by Vice Presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Phelekezela Mphoko, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe and Togo agreed to share experiences on ICT developments including training in telecommunications, Information Communication Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said after meeting his Togolese counterpart Cina Lawson in Harare yesterday.
Minister Mandiwanzira said it was important to convert political relations between the two countries into economic benefits.
“I have agreed with Minister Lawson that we must take the relationship between President Mugabe and His Excellency the President of Togo (Faure Gnassingbe) as ministers and convert it into economic relationship between our two ICT ministries. She was telling me that the President has a lot of support in Togo.”
Minister Mandiwanzira said Minister Lawson intimated that her country was making huge investments in ICTs and was willing to learn from Zimbabwe.
“She has suggested that we look at areas of cooperation which include training,” he said. “We told her that TelOne here runs the only training institution to train telecommunications engineers. “She is excited about that possibility and she would like to see whether we can create a relationship where Togolese people can come into Zimbabwe for telecommunication training.”
In this regard, Minister Mandiwanzira said, Minister Lawson invited him to Togo. President Gnassingbe was welcomed at Harare International Airport by VP Mphoko, Minister Mumbengegwi, Minister Made, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira and other senior Government officials.
In May this year, President Gnassingbe sent a special envoy with an invitation for the Lome conference. Togolese Foreign Minister, Mr Robert Dussey was received by VP Mnangagwa at his Munhumutapa offices. Togo offered to host the conference during the 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in Equatorial Guinea last year.
While incidents of maritime piracy have decreased globally in recent years, the West African coast has recorded an increase especially in the Gulf of Guinea. Studies show pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea increased by 33 percent in 2013. According to the International Maritime Bureau, the annual cost of piracy to the global economy ranges between $7 and $12 billion.