Togo Country Report 2020
The Gnassingbé clan has ruled the country since 1967. The demand for political change, initiated by institutional and electoral reforms, constituted the major contentious issue between the government and challengers of the Gnassingbé regime during the review period. An alliance of opposition parties and civil society groups organized peaceful demonstrations in opposition to the regime, which were often violently suppressed. Civil society organizations and representatives of Christian churches supported the demands of the opposition. Protests by the notoriously divided opposition took on new momentum in August 2017 led by a hitherto hardly known opposition party and its charismatic leader, Tikpi Atchadam. The legislative elections on December 20, 2018, boycotted by the major opposition parties, resulted in victory for the ruling party, however, without the expected constitutional amendment majority. Local elections, crucial for democratization at the grassroots, but postponed time and again since 1987, were again indefinitely postponed on short notice in December 2018. Simmering discontent of hardliners within the security forces and the ruling party remained a potential threat. The opposition tried unsuccessfully to overcome internal divisions between its moderate and radical wings. The human rights record of the government has improved, but remains poor. Despite undeniable improvements to the framework and appearance of the regime’s key institutions during the review period, democracy remains far from complete. However, the international community, notably Togo’s African peers, the AU and ECOWAS, followed a laissez faire approach in the interests of regional stability and their national interests in dealing with Togo. Economic growth remained stable at about 5% per annum. Public investment in infrastructure (e.g., roads, harbor) and increases in agricultural productivity, notably of export crops, had been the key drivers of economic growth. However, growth remains vulnerable to external shocks and the climate, and has not been inclusive. Positive growth was overshadowed by increasing interpersonal and regional inequality as well as an increase in extreme poverty. Moreover, money laundering, illegal money transfers and trafficking grew alarmingly. Nevertheless, the business climate improved considerably. Though the World Bank still defines Togo as low-income, fragile state, the government aims to achieve the status of a developing economy.
Togo, established in 1884 as a German colony, became a U.N. trusted territory under French administration following World War II and wrested its independence from France on April 27, 1960. In the first democratic presidential elections of 1961, Sylvanus Olympio became president of the newly independent Togo. His assassination, on January 13, 1963, by a group of Togolese veterans of the French colonial army, led by Sergeant Etienne Gnassingbé (later called Eyadéma) was the first violent coup in the history of independent sub-Saharan Africa. After another coup d’état on January 13, 1967, ousting President Nicolas Grunitzky, Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Gnassingbé Eyadéma became president of Togo on April 14, 1967. Establishing a one-party government, Eyadéma ruled as Togo’s authoritarian head of state for 38 years. In July 1991, influenced by the implosion of the Soviet empire and by apparently successful democratization efforts in a number of African countries – including neighboring Benin – a Sovereign National Conference was organized with the objective of deciding on the country’s new constitutional and political order. The assembly opted for a semi-presidential system and elected an interim prime minister. Four months later, however, President Eyadéma ordered the army to attack the interim government, re-establishing his dictatorial power. The political persecution of opponents over the following two years triggered an unprecedented wave of migration in which some 350,000 refugees fled to Togo’s neighboring countries Benin and Ghana as well as to Europe. In 1993, the European Union and other major international and bilateral donors (e.g., Germany) officially suspended development cooperation with Togo due to gross human right abuses. Notwithstanding political support from Paris, the substantial reduction in international aid and the decline in inward investments had severe effects on the country’s economy.
When Gnassingbé Eyadéma died unexpectedly in February 2005 after nearly four decades of autocratic rule, the military proclaimed Faure Gnassingbé, one of the sons of the late president, the new head of state. Widespread international protests compelled the new president to call presidential elections on April 24, 2005. Despite international protests against massive electoral irregularities, Faure Gnassingbé was sworn in as president on May 4, 2005. The majority of the Togolese population protested against this manipulation of the public will, but the military brutally brought down the protests. About 700 people died, and more than 40,000 citizens migrated into neighboring countries. The economy of the country further declined. Finally, massive international pressure forced the government into negotiations with the opposition political parties and civil society groups. This resulted in the so-called Global Political Accord (GPA, APG in French) in August 2006. The first free parliamentary elections took place on October 4, 2007. The then-governing party, the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT, since 2012 renamed UNIR), won an overwhelming majority under questionable conditions. Contested presidential elections in March 2010 and April 2015 paved the way for a second and third five-year mandate for Faure Gnassingbé.
Togo still belongs to the impoverished fragile states according to OECD criteria. The state’s monopoly on the use of force is guaranteed in principle over all its territory and population. However, a long-standing culture of impunity for extra-legal killings committed by the security forces persists. The army, gendarmerie and police are loyal to the incumbent government, apart from rivalries within its own ranks. The security apparatus is substantial for such a small country. It consists of the Togolese Armed Forces (Forces armées togolaises, FAT), including the army, navy, air force and gendarmerie with an estimated total of 11,000 troops as well as the secret service (Agence Nationale des Renseignements, ANR, number of personnel unknown) and the national police. During elections, an additional Election Security Force (Force sécurité élections, FOSE) composed of personnel from the gendarmerie and the national police (totaling 8,000) is charged with securing the elections. The loyalty of all the security units stems from historically developed strong ethnic (Kabyé) and interpersonal ties between the army’s leadership and the presidential extended family.
According to U.N. reports, Togo has become a major hub of drug-trafficking and money laundering in West Africa, related among other things to profits from re-exports of used cars from western Europe to neighboring markets (mostly smuggling to Nigeria). According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the proceeds of trafficking are increasingly used by Islamist terrorist groups. Another domain of illicit trade is smuggling African ivory to Vietnam and China. According to a scholarly investigation published on September 19, 2018, this trade is dominated by three criminal cartels, one of them based in Lomé, which coordinates shipments of ivory for the whole of West Africa.
A basic patriotism is observable among the vast majority of Togolese citizens for generations. Particular dates and events in the country’s history (e.g., independence day, football championships) are inscribed into the collective memory. However, the sentiment of national belonging is often mitigated by intra-ethnic and regional cleavages. Tensions between ethnic groups, dating back to Togo’s colonial past, still play a considerable role in limiting equal access to remunerative and strategically important public authorities, thereby abetting nepotism and compromising good governance. This holds particularly with respect to the divide between the Kabyé of northern Togo, who dominate Togo’s politics and security services, and the economically more powerful Ewé of southern Togo. An example of self-interested nationalism includes calls by trading elites, like the influential Nana-Benz, the politically influential cloth-trading women of Lomé, who during the 1970s earned more revenue than the phosphate industry, to limit market access for foreigners. These trading elites have been increasingly critical of a growth in the “unfair” competition they face from small-scale Chinese traders and Nigerians, who are often accused of drug dealing.
The formally established religious groups – Christians (about 48%: 28% Roman Catholics, 10% Protestants, 10% others), 33% traditional African religion, 14% Sunni Muslim (most Muslims are of the Sufi order of Tidjaniya) – seek to play a neutral and constructive role in the political system and to make democracy more vibrant. This was observed during 2018 legislative elections, as well as with their active participation in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Commission Vérité, Justice et Réconciliation) since 2009. The Ministry of Territorial Affairs (MTA) continued to organize meetings with religious leaders and communities to discuss pending draft legislation regarding religious freedom.
African traditional religions, notably Vodun in the southern regions and occult belief systems all over Togo, still play an important role in everyday life. Their priests often act as esteemed conflict mediators at the local level. In the past African religions and occult belief systems were instrumentalized for political motivated witch-hunts.
Whereas the state’s basic administration extends throughout the entire territory, it is functionally deficient. Key public goods are not available to large parts of the population. Only 13.9% of the population have access to improved sanitation facilities and 62.8% to improved drinking water sources.
The basic public administration continues to suffer from the parallel structures of formal and informal institutions (e.g., traditional chieftaincies) inherited from colonial rule. In addition, the legitimacy crisis left behind by decades of despotic rule and growing corruption in a fragile economic environment are barriers to good government and a transparent administration.
The state’s administrative organizational structure is centralized. The political elite still lack the political will to devolve power and resources in order to enhance local autonomy, as demanded by the constitution, the opposition and the donor community. Local elections have been repeatedly postponed since 1987, when the last communal elections were held. On June 12, 2018, the Constitutional Court obliged the National Electoral Commission (CENI) to organize local elections before the end of 2018. Thereupon, the government fixed the date for local elections for December 16, 2018, together with a referendum on a revision to the constitution as proposed by the government. However, in December 2018, both the local election and the referendum were canceled on short notice without any given reason.
On January 27, 2018, the Law on Decentralization and Local Freedoms of 2007 was modified with reference to the Law on the Creation of Communes of 2017, in order to regulate the process of decentralization. The law codified, among other things, the number of councilors per commune, prefecture and region and limited the mandates of local councilors to a maximum of two.
The legislative elections of December 2018 resulted in a victory of the ruling party, UNIR. The constitutional and electoral reforms that would have been required for free and fair elections, according to the Global Political Agreement (2006) between the government and opposition, have been repeatedly postponed.
Shortly before the official start of the electoral campaign (December 4, 2018) for legislative elections, the C14 (the 14 main opposition parties united to create a common front) called for a boycott of the elections in view of the biased electoral process. However, the government continued with its preparations, inter alia, by organizing workshops for the high command in the regions and prefectures to train the Election Security Force (Force sécurité élections, FOSE-2108). The latter consisted of 8,000 special forces, charged with securing the elections, according to the roadmap proposed by the ECOWAS in July 2018. For the legislative elections on December 20, 2018, 856 candidates from 12 political parties and 18 lists of independent candidates were registered by the CENI between November 9 and November 19, 2018.
Parliamentary elections, initially scheduled for July, were held on 20 December 2018. They had been postponed until the ECOWAS mediation group agreed to the government’s polling plan. C14 boycotted the election, following the president’s refusal to cancel his proposed constitutional reforms to allow him to run for a third and eventually fourth consecutive term in 2020. As a result, the ruling party won easily, although it failed to attain the necessary majority to change the constitution (four-fifths of 91 seats), as it had hoped. According to the official results, confirmed by the Constitutional Court on December 31, 2018, the ruling party, UNIR, won 59 out of 91 seats in parliament (i.e., slightly fewer than in the 2013 legislature (61 out of 91). The coalition party, the Union of Forces of Change (Union des Forces de Changement, UFC), that had not joined the boycott, won seven seats and the oppositional New Togolese Engagement (Nouvel Engagement Togolais, NET) three. The remaining seats were distributed among the relatively high number (18) of independent deputies. According to the national election commission, CENI, voter turnout was 59.25% (i.e., 1,869,717 out of 3,155,837 registered voters participated, with 118,607 blank or invalid votes cast.
Major donors like the EU and France did not participate in international election observation in view of the contested conditions, but the AU and ECOWAS did. They congratulated the government on the peaceful conduct of the elections, which they recognized as free and transparent. According to the CENI, 3,418 election observers, including 3,215 national and 203 international observers (AU, ECOWAS, Conseil de l’Entente, CEN-SAD, etc.) followed the elections, in which there was a total of 850 candidates and 8,498 polling stations countrywide.
The president has the support of the country’s administration as well as that of the security forces. He faces few major structural constraints in putting his decisions into practice. However, the president is possibly not always in command of the hardliners within the ruling party, army or secret service. Prime Minister Komi Sélom Klassou (appointed in 2015) is an Ewé originating from Notsè, and regarded as a hardliner and long-time ally of the Gnassingbé regime. However, Klassou resigned along with his government on January 4, 2019, apparently in reaction to the disappointing outcome of the legislative election of December 20, 2018, when the ruling party, UNIR, failed to win the majority it needed to pass its constitutional amendments. However, on January 26, 2019, Klassou was reappointed prime minister by the president. He will lead a cabinet of 25 ministers, all from the ruling party, half of whom have been reappointed. In general, the prime minister needs the president’s support more so than that of parliament if he wants to implement important public policies.
An unprecedented wave of desertions in early 2018 alarmed the command of Togo’s armed forces (FAT) and the government. About 40 officers and ordinary soldiers from different security forces left their positions. Six of them belonged to the National Gendarmerie, commanded by Colonel Yotrofei Massina, a notorious securocrat of the Gnassingbé regime, accused of torture in 2012 by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). These defections added to six desertions and demands to leave of four officers, which had been denied by the military hierarchy, in 2017. Three other soldiers committed suicide in April and June 2018, a phenomenon that was hardly known until then.
The guarantee and protection of rights to freedom of assembly and association have improved since 2007. However, limitations persist, particularly on assembly rights. The regime interferes with demonstrations, including temporary blocks on mobile phones and internet service, to prevent social networking. It has banned weekday protests. Member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council (OHCHR, Geneva) and Amnesty International (AI) have expressed alarm about the continuing impunity and excessive violence of police and gendarmerie, arbitrary arrests and restrictions of freedom of expression.
Moreover, AI accused the regime of having activated, in August 2017, bands of militia armed with cutlasses and firearms and wearing hoods, who attacked demonstrators in suburbs of Lomé and opposition hotspots in the interior (Mango, Bafilo, Sokodé, Kparataou). Altogether, 11 people were killed and hundreds of demonstrators were injured by militia members and the security forces. According to an integrated LTDH-report published on July 30, 2018, the violence in connection with the anti-government demonstrations between August 19, 2017 and July 20, 2018 resulted in 22 deaths and 941 injured, including 202 injured by bullets, and 472 arrests countrywide. Fifty-three of the arrested people were still in detention in July 2018. On December 8, 2018, demonstrations in Lomé resulted in at least two additional deaths, including one child.
Freedom of expression and the media is constitutionally guaranteed, but restricted in reality. In 2017 and 2018, anti-government demonstrations in the urban centers of Lomé, Atakpamé, Kara, and Sokodé were violently suppressed by security forces, resulting in several deaths (see Q2.3). According to Afrobarometer 2018, just 13% of those interviewed (2017 – 2018) felt entirely free to say what they thought.
There is a wide range of daily and weekly newspapers, as well as a robust private press. Radio is the most popular medium, particularly in rural areas. The government-owned radio network includes multiple stations. There are also several dozen private radio stations and a few community radio stations. There are two state-owned and five private TV stations that regularly broadcast news. Facebook (830,000 subscribers at end of 2017, 35.6% penetration rate), Twitter and other social media networks are increasingly used both by the government and the opposition. Internet access is improving, with 17% of the population having regular access to the internet in December 2017, compared to 2.4% of the population in 2008. Nevertheless, the penetration rate is well below the African average of 21%.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed by law, but the law is not always respected. The High Authority of Broadcasting and Communications (HAAC), meant to protect press freedom and to ensure basic ethical standards, is heavily biased in favor of the government, notably during election campaigns. However, according to AI, the criminalization of the media created a climate of fear and self-censorship and discouraged journalists and members of civil society from criticizing human rights abuses, notably with regard to corruption, the army, the president and the president’s family. Increasing encroachment on internet media freedom took various forms, ranging from subtly increasing regulatory powers over social media to countrywide internet shutdowns, (e.g., to thwart huge anti-government demonstrations in early September 2017). Government interference with the internet and mobile phones was of special concern in view of the growing reliance on digital information and communication technologies (ITCs) in the context of the participatory development approaches of international donor agencies. Therefore, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU)democracy index 2017 ranked media in Togo all in all as “unfree,” as opposed to Freedom House 2018, that upgraded Togo’s overall status, including freedom of press status, since 2014 from “not free” to “partly free,” with an aggregate status of 47 (out of 100).
The constitution of 1992 established the legal framework for a presidential multiparty system in Togo. The president is elected for five years and cannot be challenged by the legislature (excluding extraordinary circumstances, such as abuse of office or illness). In a “constitutional coup” at the end of 2002, a majority of the then ruling party, the RPT (which had secured power through rigged elections), in parliament voted for constitutional change in order to guarantee the continuity of the political power of the Gnassingbé clan in crucial domains. Among others, it changed Article 59 of the constitution to allow for a third consecutive presidential term.
The prime minister is nominated by the majority group in the unicameral parliament and appointed by the president. However, a great deal of power is invested in the office of the president, which makes it difficult for the other sections of government to serve as a counterbalance. The legislature in particular needs much more technical and constitutional authority and capacity if it is to successfully act as a check on the president’s power. In addition, the corrupt judiciary has yet to live up to its constitutional role.
An independent judiciary does not exist. The Supreme Court and Constitutional Court, the latter inaugurated only in 1997, are dominated by members loyal to the Gnassingbé clan and the ruling party, as demonstrated by various biased decisions relating to recent elections. In September 2014, the head of state and the UNIR majority in parliament, boycotted by the opposition, re-installed the majority of the notorious Constitutional Court judges who had been appointed in 2007, including the president, Abdou Assouma. There is a sharp discrepancy between constitutional law and its implementation. A separation of powers between the judiciary and executive branches (attorney and police) is rudimentary. In 2017, only 36% of respondents to the Afrobarometer survey trusted the judiciary. Moreover, it is necessary to belong to the ruling party’s inner network to be nominated for any influential position in the judiciary.
Apart from that, the judicial system suffers from legal pluralism (i.e., the separation of official and customary law derived from colonial times). Traditional chiefs are considered brokers between the state and local populations and are recognized as custodians of customary law (droit coutumier) by constitutional stipulations. However, many of traditional chiefs have been discredited by decades of compliance with the autocratic Gnassingbé regime (see Q5.2).
There exists a long-standing culture of impunity vis-à-vis human rights abuses of the security forces. Abuse of public office is still endemic in Togolese society, and the embezzlement of public funds remains rampant. However, the political opening has meant that corrupt officeholders are subjected to somewhat more (negative) publicity. Nonetheless, due to the judicial system’s shortcomings, these officials are rarely prosecuted. Instead, perpetrators have close links to the ruling family and hold high-level public offices. In May 2017, the Franco-Togolese lawyer, Pacôme Adjourouvi, a former classmate of Faure Gnassingbé, was nominated as special councilor to the Togolese head of state at the rank of minister. This happened despite accusations of corruption against Adjourouvi, investigated by the French counterespionage DGSE shortly beforehand. He was accused of having facilitated corruption as the go-between in making a “gift” (€7.5 million) from Faure Gnassingbé to then-French Prime Minister Manuel Valls during his official visit to Lomé in 2016, in order to promote the Valls’ campaign for the upcoming French presidential election in 2017. There are also cases of arrests. In August 2018, the French secret service revealed that Colonel Neyo Takougnadi, imprisoned in 2018, was a principal member of a cocaine-trafficking network, close to highest circles of the regime in Lomé. He was officer of the FAT, who had been promoted shortly beforehand by the head of state to become chief of the General Staff of the president. Before the promotion, he was director of the national police.
Apparent large-scale corruption also affected the construction of the Gnassingbé Eyadéma airport terminal. Its $75-million budget mysteriously doubled without any corresponding improvements. Likewise, obscure deals by Chinese companies with the government arouse suspicions of corruption.
Although Amnesty International (AI) recognized slight improvements relating to human rights, a culture of impunity still prevails, notably concerning security forces, trafficking and money laundering. The regime delayed the implementation of most of the recommendations for judicial reforms made by the CVJR in 2012. The National Human Rights Commission (Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme, CNDH) complained of a lack of resources and of the government’s unwillingness to cooperate, although a bill to improve the composition and organization of the CNDH, particularly with respect to the prevention of torture, was adopted in parliament in mid-October 2015.
Although the civil rights situation in Togo has improved substantially, serious problems persist. Serious human rights issues include arbitrary deprivation of life, the use of excessive force by security forces, a lack of due process, harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers, arbitrary arrests, executive influence on the judiciary, government restrictions on freedom of assembly, corruption of officials, criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although not enforced, and trafficking in persons. Human trafficking especially includes children, both internally and across borders, (e.g., to Nigeria and Gabon). In 2017, authorities identified 126 child victims of trafficking, compared to 99 child victims identified during the previous reporting period. The new Penal Code of 2015 increased penalties for human trafficking and established penalties for the worst forms of child labor. However, the government did not devote sufficient resources to combating child labor, and enforcement of laws related to child labor remained weak.
Most Togolese rely on informal institutions of justice. They do not have access to the national judicial system because they are too poor and powerless. However, even the handling of the customary law by traditional authorities, many of them hand-selected by the ruling regime, corresponds all too often to the interests of the local elites.
Deplorable prison conditions gained international attention. There were 4,859 prisoners and pre-trial detainees (including 156 women) in 13 prisons and jails designed to hold 2,720. On January 8, 2019, the president granted a presidential pardon to 454 prisoners.
The police and gendarmerie were reported to regularly use torture to extract confessions. Plagued by corruption, strong executive influence and lengthy pre-trial detention periods, the judicial system functions poorly. Civil rights for a number of groups are restricted.
Violence against women and the practice of female genital mutilation continues, though on a diminishing scale, in part, because of donor assisted awareness campaigns. Female genital mutilation (FGM) was formally outlawed in 1998 and has decreased by more than halve since 1996. The prevalence of FGM in women aged 15 to 49 nationally is 4.7%.
Togo has ratified most international human rights treaties and was a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council from 2016 to 2018. Nevertheless, important omissions still remain. By the end of February 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Council encouraged the government to endorse U.N. treaties not yet ratified, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), still not endorsed at the end of 2018. Following the first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the U.N. Human Rights Council (Geneva) in 2011, Togo submitted its second national report on August 17, 2016. The UNHRC working group on the UPR adopted its report on November 4, 2016, proposing a further 136 recommendations for the improvement of human rights and the rule of law in Togo. The UNHRC summarized the outcomes of its universal periodic review on March 16, 2017, with the opaque formulation that “questions or issues (were) not sufficiently addressed during the interactive dialog held in the Working Group.”
Formal political institutions are only partially democratic and their performance remains deficient. The president’s conduct of office shows more transparency and commitment to dialog than has been the case during his father’s regime. The question is whether his efforts are sincere and stable given that President Faure Gnassingbé is still surrounded by many figures of the old dictatorial regime. Whereas parliament now engages in controversial debates, its deputies often lack professional depth of knowledge. This is due, on the one hand, to the legislature’s insufficient working conditions and, on the other hand, to the fact that the opposition has yet to move beyond criticizing the government to formulate alternative policy proposals. Togo’s population has become increasingly frustrated by the regime’s inability to initiate meaningful reforms. Judicial reform is underway, but the aforementioned challenges persisted throughout the assessment period. In Freedom House’s 2018 Freedom in the World rating, Togo’s overall status remained “partly free” as in the previous two years. However, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index 2017, Togo was downgraded from rank 130 (2015: 3.32 out of 10 possible points) to rank 142 (2017: 3.05 points) out of 167 countries, mainly due to encroachments on media freedom and wholesale internet (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter) and mobile network shutdowns (see Q2.1). The EIU classified Togo as an “authoritarian regime” as previously.
The commitment to democratic institutions has obviously increased in the wake of the political opening and continuing pressure of international donors. Apparently, the Gnassingbé regime has learned from the past, as indicated by the formal rupture with the legacy of the former unity party RPT and its replacement by a modernized conservative party UNIR in April 2012. The regime was eager to strengthen the legitimacy of its irregularly acquired grip on power through peaceful although not democratic legislative (2007, 2013, 2018) and presidential (2010, 2015) elections. However, as far as the existing institutions are concerned, a high degree of skepticism remains, since the president was not elected democratically and parliament, still dominated by the RPT/UNIR, has not shown its real potential yet. The personality cult around the president is still present in daily life. All this, together with the unpredictable attitude of the hardliners within the RPT/UNIR and the security forces, raises further doubts about the level of commitment to democratic institutions.
Although there exist 113 (2018) political parties in total, Togo is de facto heading toward a two-party system, involving the ruling UNIR party, and the National Alliance for Change (l’Alliance Nationale pour le Changement, ANC), which split from the Union of Forces for Change (l’Union des Forces de Changement, UFC) during the schism within the major opposition party following the lost presidential elections of 2010. The dissolution of the ruling RPT, the former socialist unity party founded in 1969, and creation of a modernized party UNIR in April 2012 was the response by the ruling party to adopting the requirements of a modern multiparty system.
The opposition split between a “radical” and a “moderate” wing, labels which were originally attributed by the government in the 1990s, with moderates more willing to cooperate with the government. The “radical” wing, represented in parliament until the boycotted legislative elections of December 2018, is the Let’s Save Togo Collective (Collectif Sauvons le Togo, CST), which was founded in April 2012. CST is composed of political parties and civil society organizations led by the National Alliance for Change (l’Alliance Nationale pour le Changement, ANC). Shortly afterwards, in August 2012, a confederation of smaller moderate opposition parties, the Committee of Action for Renewal (Comité d’Action pour le renouveau, CAR), National Surge (Sursaut National), etc., joined the foundation of a rainbow coalition, Arc-en-ciel. The extra-parliamentary opposition embraced the New Togolese Engagement (Nouvel Engagement Togolais, NET), the Organization to Build in the Union a Solidary Togo (Organisation pour Bâtir dans l’Union un Togo Solidaire, OBUTS), the Panafrican National Party (le Parti National Panafricain, PNP) and over 80 other smaller parties.
In August 2017, a hitherto hardly known opposition party, the PNP, founded in 2014, thoroughly rearranged the encrusted domestic politics by organizing huge demonstrations with all the 14 major opposition parties. The PNP’s charismatic leader Tikpi Atchadam used social media to mobilize citizens.
The party system still mirrors to a considerable extent regional and ethnic divisions. Thus, political parties tend to have readily identifiable ethnic and regional bases. The RPT/UNIR party had greater representation among northern ethnic groups than among southern groups, while the reverse was true for the ANC and CAR opposition parties. Beyond this, the Togolese diaspora (estimated at 2 million people) could play a decisive role in domestic politics if it were allowed to vote, as the opposition has demanded for several years, the idea of which was supported by the ECOWAS consultation group in 2018.
There exists a broad range of interest groups. The most influential Christian churches and two Muslim organizations, the Union of Muslims in Togo (UMT, founded in 1964) and the Association of Muslim Executives of Togo (l’Association des Cadres Musulmans du Togo, ACTM, founded in 2003) exert a mediating and constructive political influence, which has been recognized far beyond their own followers. Earth priests (chefs de terre) and traditional chiefs still wield a strong influence at the local level. Yet, the political crisis of 2017 showed that the traditional chiefs were still deeply entangled with the Gnassingbé regime, which had manipulated and instrumentalized them for generations so that they did not dare to take a position during the crisis, contrary, for example, to the Christian bishops.
Apart from pro- and anti-government student organizations, there exist numerous professional representations of traders, farmers, lawyers and judges. However, most of them are either biased and closely linked to the former unity party RPT/UNIR or they have little political influence. Although there are a large number of labor unions in Togo, none of them has the strength or capacity to significantly influence the policy-making process. The unions nevertheless succeeded in convincing the government to continue paying subsidies for fuel, some staple foods and fertilizers so as to avoid a serious social crisis.
With the democratic renewal of the early 1990s civil society organizations (CSOs) mushroomed. According to informed estimates, there existed about 2,000 CSOs already in 2012, of which just 325 were officially registered NGOs. Their activities are mostly focused on Lomé and Togo’s southern regions. Many, CSOs are income-generating organizations for their founders (so-called “ONG valises”), while their target groups are rarely allowed adequate rights of participation or self-determination. However, there exist a handful of CSOs that are influential, viable and independent and operate nationally. These include ACAT-Togo (Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture), the human rights organization, LTDH (Ligue Togolaise des Droits de l’Homme) and the GF2D (Groupe de Réflexion et d’Action Femmes, Démocratie et Développement) concerned with gender rights and impunity. Some of these organizations cooperate with political parties in broad anti-government movements, such as the CST.
According to the Afrobarometer survey 2018, 75% of respondents affirmed that democracy is the best of all forms of government Beyond this, 87% of respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that there should be a two-term limit on the presidential mandate (which is not in effect). Whereas the high level of participation (85%) in the legislative elections of 2007 can be interpreted as an indication of the population’s clear commitment to taking part in building democracy, the relative low turnout of 61% and 59% during the presidential election of 2015 and the legislative election of 2018, respectively, can be interpreted as a sign of general disappointment in the opposition and the biased electoral process.
The level of trust among the population is fairly high. According to Afrobarometer data, 76% of surveyed Togolese would like to have a neighbor belonging to another religion than themselves and 80% would like to have a neighbor of a different ethnicity. This data indicates that Togolese trust citizens from different ethnic or religious backgrounds. However, trust is much lower when it comes to sexual orientation: 86% of the Togolese dislike the idea of a homosexual neighbor.
The history of informal political institutions in Togo shows the rich base of “traditional” as well as “modern” institutions, which participate actively at all levels of society. The most visible outcome of people’s participation was the Sovereign National Conference of 1991 with representatives of all social strata of the nation. However, because the visions of this conference were dashed by the violent political oppression of the dictatorial Eyadéma regime up to 2005, similar social initiatives were difficult to re-establish. On the basis of the Global Political Accord (APG) of 2006, the general public was inclined to feel free to associate, to express their views and to organize themselves for self-help efforts, in spite of the government’s attempts to restrict association and assembly rights (see Q2.3). There exists a variety of traditional associations (including a multitude of microfinance and credit institutions), trade unions, human rights, religious and media organizations, as well as numerous local associations. Many of these self-help groups are based on traditional systems of mutual support; others have been stimulated by international NGOs, churches or the government (see Q5.2).
Although the current socioeconomic situation in Togo remains precarious, it improved considerably over the past decade. Thus, Togo’s HDI trend progressed over the past three decades from 0.4 in 1990 to 0.5 in 2017. Nevertheless, Togo was still ranked toward the bottom (165) of 189 countries surveyed in 2017.
Despite strong agricultural production, economic growth was estimated to have fallen from 5.1% in 2016 to 4.4% in 2017. The sociopolitical tensions in the aftermath of huge violent anti-government demonstrations in August 2017 increasingly took a toll on economic activities. Turnover at large companies, notably in the tertiary sector had fallen. Private sector credit during the second half of 2017 was lower by 4.2% relative to the first half of 2017; the largest decline was in the construction sector.
Moreover, growth was not inclusive. Poverty remained at a high level, with 55.1% of the population living below the poverty line in 2017 (GNI per capita $1,620), though the poverty rate has decreased since 2011 (59%). However, according to the latest available figures, the depth and severity of poverty has worsened, with about 80% of the population now at risk of falling below the poverty line. The rate of extreme poverty (49.2%) in Togo was almost twice that in Ghana (25.2%).
There was an alarming variation in poverty between the so-called leading and lagging regions of Togo, according to a World Bank publication on the geographical concentration of welfare, published in November 2017. Poverty in the far north of Togo was up to three times as high as in the south. Moreover, about half of Togolese people had neither access to sanitary drinking water nor to electricity (the rural population’s access to electricity was 20% lower), and the country had just one doctor per every 14,500 inhabitants.
In addition to regionally, inter-household income inequality has increased. The Gini coefficient for Togo increased from 0.34 in 2013 to 0.43 in 2017. The rural exodus continued. About 40% of the population live in urban areas, an increase of 160% between 1990 and 2014. Inequality is more pronounced in urban centers than in the countryside. Urban unemployment and underemployment persist, with an estimated 33% of the urban population either unemployed or underemployed. Official rates of unemployment at. 1.8% are questionable (see Q10.1).
The subsistence economy in rural areas, the potential of the informal sector in urban areas, and remittances from expatriated Togolese (see Q17.1) have helped to stave off a more severe crisis.
Once euphemistically called the “Switzerland of West Africa,” Togo today strives to transition from a low income, fragile state to an emerging economy. Yet, Togo still lacks the foundations for credible market-based competition and good governance, although there have been undeniable improvements.
Togo’s World Bank Doing Business indicator improved little over the past 10 years. In 2009, Togo was one of the worst-performing economies, ranked at 166 out of 183 countries. Although, in 2018 it improved to 156 of 190 economies worldwide, in the past two years, there was a slight deterioration from 154 (2017) to 156 (2018), both well below its peers in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region and the sub-Saharan African average. Starting a business takes 5.5 days, four procedures and 41.7% of the average income per capita, placing Togo at 74th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business subindex on Starting a Business in 2019. However, over the past decades, foreign direct investment net inflows improved steadily, from $18 million 1990 to $146 million in 2017. Economic freedom, as measured by the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index 2018, published in November 2017, decreased from 137 (2016) to 144 (score: 67.2 in 2018) out of 183 countries surveyed. In short, Togo’s economic freedom remained with the overall status of “mostly unfree.”
Togo’s political and administrative operating environment constituted a barrier to the growth of private direct investment and private sector activities. A thorough reform was prevented by vested interests, widespread corruption and a lack administrative and judicial transparency.
As a member of WAEMU, Togo adopted regional competition legislation in 2003. Additionally, in July 2018, Togo became a member of the newly founded ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Regional Competition Authority (based in Bijilo, Gambia). Key sectors of the economy, notably banking, cotton and phosphates, are in the hands either of a few individuals or parastatals. The electricity sector is characterized by high costs and limited penetration. The Compagnie Energie Electrique du Togo (CEET), created in 1963, is a state monopoly that provides electricity to about 166,000 customers (CEET 2018). The CEET is mainly a distribution company, purchasing 50% of its electricity from the joint public Benin/Togo Generation and Transmission Power Utility (Communauté Electrique du Benin, CEB), and 50% from Contour Global, a private power producer. Privatization of the state-owned banks was further delayed. Reforms of the mining, telecommunications and energy sectors progressed slowly under resistance from vested interests. The mining industry has the potential to develop into one of Togo’s largest economic sectors, with the country being the world’s fourth largest phosphate producer. Phosphates, the major export industry, which had been nationalized under late Eyadéma Gnassingbé in 1974, received a boost in 2017 by the completion of a $1.4 billion-project to mine 5 million tons per year of phosphate rock. Production was managed by the Société Nouvelle des Phosphates du Togo (SNPT), a public-private venture (60% state- and 40% private-owned), supplemented by the construction of a phosphoric acid and fertilizer plant, built by Elenilto, an Israeli mining company. However, the SNPT apparently underperformed because of large-scale corruption.
Foreign trade is liberalized in principle, but significant limitations persist. Togo’s major agricultural exports are cotton, cocoa and coffee. These exports generate about 40% of export earnings, with cotton being the most important cash crop. Moreover, Togo is among the world’s largest producers of phosphate. Re-exports are significant as well, as Togo is one of West African’s most important transit-economies, along with neighboring Benin. Foreign trade is decisive to Togo’s economy. The combined value of exports and imports of Togo’s entrepôt trade (legal transit and mostly illegal re-export/smuggling) amounted to 105% of GDP (Heritage 2018 Index of Economic Freedom). This consisted mostly of petroleum products (from Nigeria), cotton (from Burkina Faso) and used cars (from Europe). Unofficial entrepôt trade contributed to a culture of corruption and tax evasion.
In 2015, Togo ratified the WTO free-trade agreement, with a third of the LDCs having now signed the treaty. Togo has four Export Processing Zones (EPZ); three in Lomé and one in Kara, managed by the company SAZOF. Lomé’s EPZ were created in 1989 with the aim of promoting foreign trade and attracting investments by granting benefits and privileges (tax, financial and administrative) to encourage participating companies to increase employment and value-added activities. Trade freedom scored better (67.2 out of 100 points) than investment and financial freedom (65.0 and 30.0, respectively), according to the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom of the Heritage Foundation. The most favored nation applied tariff was 12.2% in 2017.
The banking system in Togo deteriorated since the early 1990s because of unprofessional government involvement in lending and banking decisions. As a consequence, the IMF has requested since 2007 a reform of the banking sector, including the privatization of government-run banks and an increase in bank capitalization. The system was then put under the scrutiny of the WAEMU. More than 30% of loans issued by these banks were considered to be non-performing and strained by bad loans from parastatals. The government wanted to privatize public banks by the end of 2010. The IMF’s call for privatization of the two remaining state-owned banks, the Bank for Trade and Industry (BTCI) and the Union of Togolese Banks (UTB), which had been opposed by the government for years, was finally heeded by the National Assembly on 16 November 2018, which authorized privatization. According to the IMF, further action is needed to tackle vulnerabilities in other banks.
In addition to formal institutional banking, the microfinance system (systèmes financiers décentralisés, SFD) and informal traditional African savings and loans schemes (tontines, known as Adakavi in Togo) play an important role, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), notably in the informal sector. Mutual tontines had an estimated 2.4 million beneficiaries by end of June 2018. In the microfinance savings and loans system, overall savings amounted to $249 million and credits to about $207 million, representing 12% of all savings held by Togolese financial institutions.
SMEs were aided by the African Guarantee Fund (AF West Africa) that declared in July 2018 it would help SMEs gain access to bank credits to the tune of $150 million over the next five years, by providing $75 million in guarantees to banks and other financial institutions in Togo. Moreover, in August 2018, the Professional Association of Decentralized Financial Systems in Togo (APSFD-Togo) was founded with the aim of helping the government end the practice of illegal microfinancing.
Consumer price inflation remained low due to a sharp decline in fresh food and energy prices. However, because of relatively strong growth that maintains demand-side inflationary pressures and an increase in global food prices, imported inflation remains below the WAEMU convergence criterion of up to 3% (estimated at 0.5% in 2018, 0.3% in 2019 and 0.2% in 2020). The inflation rate should remain moderate over the coming years due to the currency peg and government subsidies on fuel prices. As a member of the CFA franc zone, the country cannot pursue an independent monetary policy. The West African CFA franc is pegged to the euro at a rate of F CFA 657.88 to €1. Integration into the franc zone is still mainly justified for political rather than economic reasons. This is because of high exposure of West African countries to political crisis. However, crucial common denominators of the CFA franc zone are not necessarily in the economic interests of Africa. Its shared colonial heritage, including a social and economic infrastructure, oriented to the mise en valeur of African resources for the former colonial power, entails a considerable loss of economic and political sovereignty on the part of African member states. In addition, the volatility of the euro, triggered by the global financial crisis and poor governance in some EU member states, shows that the perpetuation of the established monetary structure of the CFA franc zone is increasingly anachronistic.
In the past, the government pursued a stability-oriented monetary and fiscal policy. However, public debt, including debts owed by public-sector enterprises, increased from 44.5% of GDP at the end of 2011 to an estimated 76.9% of GDP at the end of 2017, which was above WAEMU’s total public debt limit (70% of GDP). The IMF was especially concerned that China was overloading Togo with unsustainable debt via its large infrastructure projects. At the end of 2018, the IMF predicted a decline in public debt from 81% of GDP at the end of 2016, before the start of an ECF-supported program, to 74% of GDP by the end of December 2018 (or 71% excluding debts owed by state-owned enterprises). In 2018, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, announced a partial debt write-off. Togo aimed to cut public debt to 70% of GDP by the end of 2019 by reducing capital investments financed solely by public debt and relying more heavily on partnerships with the private sector. Togo’s public debt already started to decline in 2017 (from 81.3% of GDP at the end of 2016). By the end of 2018, Togo was already bringing its budget management in line with Economic Community of West African States norms.
The judicial system does not sufficiently protect private property. The influence exercised by the executive is too strong. Inheritance and property protection laws are deficient and where they exist, they are not adequately enforced. Property Rights decreased to 32.7 points (out of 100), according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom.
The insufficient protection of property rights is particularly evident in the land-tenure system, in which traditional and modem law coexist. In addition, land tenure regimes have changed over time because of the historical impact of introducing of cash crops and public projects (resettlement, forest reserves, etc.), as well as cases of contested land privatization as a result of registering of property titles. Most contracts on agricultural land are still verbal. Only about 36% of arable land is under a tenure system that provides long-term security. Especially poor farmers, migrants and women, who do not have secure rights, are negatively affected. Disputes over land are extremely common: 80% of court cases regard land-tenure questions. The new Land Code of 2018 is meant to stop land seizures. However, as with most Togolese laws, contracts are difficult to enforce.
Land grabbing threatens 25,000 hectares in Togo, including 53 cases of lease contracts or large-scale land acquisitions (Forum national sur l’accaparement des terres, FOPADESC 2018).
A limited sector of small- and medium-sized enterprises cover a greater part of Togolese day-to-day consumption needs. But the private sector is comprised primarily of the agricultural sector, which employs 65% of the country’s labor force in both subsistence and small-scale commercial farming. The informal sector still prevails, providing employment for more than three times as many laborers than the formal sector (see Q16.1).
Privatization processes such as those of state-owned enterprises proceed slowly and with long delays (see Q7.4).
Togo’s welfare system is underdeveloped. It is available only to government employees and those employed in the formal sector. The monthly minimum wage (salaire minimum interprofessionnel garanti, SMIG) was increased in 2017 to CFA42,000 (€64.03) but is hardly enough to feed an individual for a month and it applies only to the formal sector.
According to official data presented by the government in 2017, the overall unemployment rate was 1.8% and youth unemployment was 2.8% (INSEED). However, these figures are questionable and considered politically motivated calculus. According to ILO-modeled estimates, unemployment was 6.20% as of 2017. In addition, in 2017, the rate of underemployment increased from 22.8% (2011) to 24.9%, making a total of at least 28.3% unemployed and underemployed, mostly young people who represent about 35% of the population. The government tried to counteract this tendency with limited success by introducing in 2011 a program for unemployed school leavers that turned in 2014 into the National Agency of Volunteers in Togo (Agence Nationale du Volontariat au Togo). According to the agency, 15,921 volunteers had participated in the program, 34% of whom were women, as of February 2018 and 4,538 demobilized volunteers were integrated into active roles in over 900 reception structures.
Pension schemes in Togo do not guarantee beneficiaries a decent living. Despite the fact that the median age in Togo is 18.9 years (i.e., almost half of the population is younger than 18), the current system is no longer financially sustainable.
Togo’s health services system is insufficient. Most individuals suffering hardship or accidents rely either on the help of family members or that of traditional mutual assistance schemes.
According to Afrobarometer 2017, Togolese are widely supportive of gender equality when it comes to life opportunities, such as access to education and land, as well as being elected to public office. Most Togolese express tolerant attitudes toward people of different ethnic origins, religions, and nationalities. However, very few extend the same tolerance toward people in same-sex relationships. A new penal code, adopted in November 2015 after years of advocacy by human-rights organizations, strengthened protections against gender-based violence and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion and other factors. However, the new law reinforced penalties against people in same-sex relationships.
Although women are dominant in the informal sector (e.g., agriculture and petty trade), they have only very limited access to, and control of the factors of production (land, equipment, inputs, credit). However, a law on land rights, adopted by the National Assembly in June 2018, which reconciles traditional and modern law in a statute promoting equality for women and men represents a legal step forward. It is nonetheless highly unlikely that women will get equal access to wage employment in the formal sector in the foreseeable future.
Despite a previous national action plan to correct gender inequality (2009 – 2013), discrimination of women remains widespread. In the most recent UNDP Gender Inequality Index (GII, 0.567, 2017), Togo ranked 140 out of 189 countries. The Gender Development Index (2018) for Togo is 0.822. Thus, Togo belongs to a group of 5 countries with the lowest gender equality in HDI. The mean years of schooling for girls (3.3) was only half of that for boys (6.5). Girls are increasingly more disadvantaged vis-à-vis boys as education level increases. Only 26.3% of females had at least some secondary education (age 25 and older) compared to 52.5% for the same category of males.
Women are also underrepresented in the political arena (i.e., government, parliament and political parties) and enterprises, with only six female ministers out of 26 in the cabinet (2018), 17 women members of parliament out of 91 (2013 elections; diminished to 15 in the new parliament, December 20, 2018), and two territorial prefects out of 39. Togo amended the national electoral law in 2013, which now requires that candidate lists include equal numbers of men and women. This amendment applied for the first time in the 2018 legislative election. On January 20, 2019, a woman was elected for the first time in history as head of the Togolese parliament. The candidate, Chantal Yawa Tségan, replaced Dama Dramani, also from the ruling party UNIR. In addition, a 2013 law on Political Party and Electoral Campaign Funding provides that 20% of public funding allocated to political parties be distributed in proportion to the number of women elected in previous legislative elections.
Togo still belongs to the low-income countries with a per capita income of $1,570. However, economic growth remained strong at about 5%, driven by investment in infrastructure and the key cement and clinker sector. Per capita growth was 3.0% in 2017 and thus has remained at a similar level since 2014. Inflation has been well below 2% since 2012 (when it surpassed 3% per annum). In 2017, it was -0.8 and in 2016 0.9%. Foreign direct investment has been around 2% of the GDP since 2012. Public debt, however, has increased from 42.4% of GDP in 2011 to 79.7% of GDP at the end of 2017.
Togo’s main exports include re-exports, cotton, phosphates, coffee and cocoa. High rates of underemployment in general (estimated 28% to 33%), notably among recent school graduates (65%), remain alarming (see Q10.1). The current account deficit will gradually shrink from an estimated 7.8% of GDP in 2018 to 5.4% of GDP in 2020, driven by rising goods exports, supported by infrastructure investment to improve market access and relatively strong external demand. The overall fiscal deficit (commitment basis) will improve from 9.5% of GDP at the end of 2016 to 1.5% at the end of 2019, according to the IMF. The current account shortfall will be financed by a combination of foreign direct investments and external loans, mainly on concessional terms.
Factors like the foreign trade ratio, foreign capital investment and wage incentives have had a strong impact on efficiency. Togo’s largest exports in 2016 were gold ($557 million), cement ($109 million), refined petroleum ($105 million), phosphates ($96.3 million) and crude petroleum ($90.1 million).
Togo once counted among the largest phosphate producers in Africa. Phosphate from the Kpémé deposit in southern Togo provided 40% of the country’s revenues from exports and made up more than 20% of Togo’s GDP. Since 1997, however, production has fallen from an annual 5.4 million metric tons to 800,000 in 2010, primarily due to corruption and mismanagement. Production increased again to 1.5 million tons in 2015 (27% of export earnings from minerals, compared with 49% for clinker and 24% for gold), and Togo again became the fifth-largest phosphate producer worldwide. However, phosphate earnings, representing about 14% of domestic exports (excluding re-exports) were affected by the volatility of world prices of phosphate (e.g., a price decrease of 24% in 2014), combined with a 9.4% reduction in production due to outdated technical equipment and prolonged strikes in the mining industry in 2015. In 2018, the local firm TFC secured three additional exploration licenses for phosphate in Kara, northern Togo. Industrial growth in 2019 to 2020 will be supported by construction, including construction related to the Adjarala Dam, and by clinker and phosphate production. Services will benefit from the expansion of the port and the airport. Relatively strong growth with key trading partners, such as Niger and Burkina Faso, will also support economic activity in Togo.
Environmental degradation and natural resource depletion are mainly due to population pressure, outdated and neglected farming systems, and global climate change. According to the IMF, the current economic growth rates are offset by environmental degradation, primarily through soil and forest resource depletion, coastal erosion, and ambient air and water pollution. Due to the country’s failure to accumulate and preserve its physical, financial and natural wealth, Togo’s adjusted net savings, including particulate emission damage (as a percentage of GNI), became increasingly negative, falling from -22.1% in 2010 to -31.0% in 2015, when adjusted for environmental degradation. The waterfront in the capital losses about 10 meters per annum because of manmade erosion. Smaller villages situated along the coast like Baguida, Gbodjomé, Agborafo successively become immersed in the sea.
In the global country ranking of deforestation, Togo was in the bottom range (165 out of 190 countries) in 2015. The forest cover of Togo amounted to 8.5% or about 486,000 hectares in 2010. Of this, none was classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse form of forest. From 2001 to 2017, Togo lost 43.9 kilo hectares of tree cover, equivalent to a 7.9% decrease since 2000, and the release of 2.68 metric tons of CO₂ emissions. From 1990 to 2015, forest area decreased even more, from 12.6% to 3.5%. Environmental laws and programs were adopted long ago but are insufficient and poorly enforced. Reforestation attempts have been unable to counteract this development. The high rate of demographic growth (2.84% per annum), slash-and-burn agriculture and the use of wood for fuel have been identified as major sources of deforestation. The government aims to influence a change in habits by subsidizing kerosene and household gas as a substitute for the domestic use of firewood, but to little avail.
Water pollution presents a health hazard and hinders the fishing industry. Air and water pollution are increasing rapidly in urban areas, notably in Lomé (aggregated pollution index: 72.13%; air pollution 62.5%, water pollution 75%; Numbeo, 2018). The government has yet to formulate specific policies on pollution.
It should be mentioned that the environment in most Togolese towns is much cleaner compared to years past, as some waste management efforts have begun to yield improvements. In general, however, eco-friendly consciousness is not well developed, neither by the population nor by producers, including the mining companies, which results in serious environmental pollution (e.g., by phosphate sludge) and health hazards.
In December 2016, Togo and four neighboring countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire) agreed to ban imports of dirty fuels from Europe. The WHO ranked dirty fuels among the top risks to global health, associated with heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory problems. New stricter standards have reduced the sulfur limit in fuels from 3,000 parts per million to 50 (still above the EU limit of 10 parts per million). However, in Nigeria, a hub of (mostly illegal) fuel exports into West Africa, stakeholders were still awaiting the enforcement of the ban at the end of 2018. Thus, Nigeria became an easy haven, as well as an illegal entry point, for dirty fuels into neighboring states, including Togo.
After having suffered under the political and economic crises of the past decades, the entire education system has since recovered with remarkable success. Public spending on education rose from 3.4% in 2008 to 5.1% in 2016. The U.N. Education Index stood at 0.506 in 2017. Free primary school education was introduced in 2008. As a consequence, the gross enrollment ratio increased considerably. In 2017, the gross enrollment ratio was 123%, with the net enrollment ratio reaching 89.9% in 2017, but the net enrollment rate has fluctuated substantially in recent years. The gross enrollment ratio compares favorably with neighboring African states. Overall, the primary school completion rate (TAP) varied from 57% in 2008 to 54% in 2014. The primary to secondary transition rate was 83.25% in 2016, with 86.25% for males and 79.97% for females.
However, the quality of education is worryingly poor. Insufficient and poorly qualified teachers and classes of 50 pupils are common. Increasingly, children aged between 5 and 14 are forced into work due to the poverty of their families. The literacy rate among adults (age 15 and older) was 63.7% in 2014. The youth (15 to 24 years) literacy rate was 87% (male) and 79% (female) in 2015, according to UNESCO. There are strong regional inequalities in education, as indicated by a literacy rate (for the same age group) of just 25% in the Savanes region and of 85% in Lomé, or generally 43.5% in rural areas, as compared to 79.2% in urban areas. Because of a lack of state resources, some local communities assumed responsibility for running schools, notably in the poorest regions in the north. Thus, in the Savanes region, most schools were entirely funded by local communities, which supported building classrooms and paying teachers’ wages.
The absorption rate of school graduates into the national economy is limited. Unemployment and underemployment among recent graduates is alarmingly high (estimated 28% to 33%).
Research and development remains a neglected area. Universities are overcrowded, lack resources, staff and learning facilities. According to the latest available World Bank figures, R&D expenditure stood at only 0.3% of GDP in 2014.
Togo is a small country with promising natural resources. The population still depends to a large extent on subsistence farming. Major foreign exchange earners are the phosphate sector, clinker, cement and cotton production and (mostly illicit) re-exports, all dependent on volatile terms of trade on the world market. In addition, the country only produces some of the energy that it needs. Togo is dependent on neighboring Ghana and Nigeria for electricity and gas supply. Although Togo’s performance in terms of providing energy access is improving, the overall access rate in 2015 reached only 29.2%, that is, significantly lower than the sub-Saharan African average of 37%.
Migration, accelerated by the political crisis, has had a dramatic impact on the country’s labor force in the last two decades. The International Organization for Migration disclosed on November 28, 2017, that in 2016 more than 330,000 migrants had passed the frontier between Niger and Libya for a European destination, among them at least 300 Togolese. Many qualified Togolese can be found in Europe but also in neighboring West African countries. The lack of good governance, including the ruling elite’s unwillingness to devolve political power, still constitutes the major single development barrier.
Civil society development flourished with the second wind of change since the early 1990s. Today, there are thousands of NGOs and associations in all spheres of public life that exercise their right to freely express their opinion or form self-help groups (see Q5.2). This has resulted – mainly in the cities – in the creation of a multitude of different associations, often competing against each other for both the right to represent their clientele and for donor support. There are notable partnerships between various interest groups that have been forged around issues such as human rights, elections, gender and micro financing. This indeed is a clear sign of agency and a vibrant civil society determined to take its fate in its own hands. Some of these civil society organizations should exercise greater transparency in defining their operational mode and objectives. It remains to be seen whether such associations will gain the same strength in rural areas that they have in urban areas, especially Lomé.
Since August 2017, politics has become more confrontational in Togo as large-scale protests against the current regime began to happen and continued throughout the period under review. There were repeated violent clashes between protesters and security forces. Several protesters were killed, even though the regime’s response to the anti-regime protests is much less violent than it was in 2005.
The high potential for conflict that existed under Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s rule through the ethnic polarization and the militarization of society can no longer be considered the one crucial impediment to Togo’s development. Yet, both elements still need to be considered. The most important determining factor in conflict remains the power politics of the Gnassingbé clan and its followers. It should be mentioned that Togo has not yet encountered severe tensions between different religious groups. Generally, the relationship between Muslims and Christians is amicable. Cooperation is sought by both groups on many occasions. Transnational conflicts over transhumance between pastoralists and agriculturalists are still virulent beneath the surface. Occasional instances of violence occur in about one-third of prefectures, notably in northern and central Togo. In 2016, the government put in place a Transhumance Management Plan (TMP) for the regulation of conflicts. For 2017 and 2018, the National Committee of Transhumance (CNT) recorded no serious conflicts or fatalities. Regional inequalities, and sentiments of distrust and mutual antipathy between people in the south and north still need to be addressed. Having enjoyed the spoils of the system throughout much of recent history, northern Kabyé still hold an unduly high number of relevant public offices compared to their counterparts in the south, notably in the security services. There are sharp and increasing differences between the poor and the rich in Togo, but these have not yet led to a situation of violent conflict. Yet, growing discontent among unemployed school leavers contributes to political unrest in urban centers, notably in Lomé.
It remains unclear whether the political leadership as a whole is committed to political democratization, decentralization and economic liberalization. Prioritization was most visible in economic planning. The National Development Plan (NDP; 2018 – 2022) envisaged developing Togo as a logistical hub of the West African sub-region, including extension of Lomé’s deep-water port and of extractive industries. It seeks to create jobs and to encourage manufacturing. Another aim, to establish Lomé as a dynamic financial center, will build on the presence of headquarters of several regional banking and insurance groups, as well as the development of the digital economy.
Despite the lack of a clear commitment from the political leadership, major improvements in good government are undeniable. According to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2016, Togo was among the top five best improvers over the past decade for overall governance (33 out of 54 in 2015; score 48.5, up 9.7 points between 2006 and 2015). In the past two years, its rank again increased to 30th (score 49.1 in 2017, up 5.2 points from 2008 to 2017; Ibrahim Index, 2018). In 2019, it ranked between Niger (29th) and Gabon (31st); neighboring Ghana was 6th and Benin 15th.
In 2008, Togo joined the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM; MAEP, in French) of the NEPAD as its 29th member. The APRM is meant to enhance good governance in the sub-region. However, the first efforts to initiate a nationwide evaluation structure in Togo only reluctantly began in 2011. There is a national APRM commission, composed of 37 CSOs, hand-selected by the government, and members of the public administration. The self-evaluation directed by the national APRM commission is still in progress. Platform members reviewed the Togo state report in the period between May and August 2018; the results are pending.
The administration has the support of the international donor community for its efforts. In September 2011, a new defense partnership between France and Togo came into force, which replaced the outdated secret military assistance agreements of the Eyadéma era. Apart from the traditional partners, such as France, Germany and the United States, China and India also supported the country with development aid during the review period (see Q7.1). Aid from the new Asian global players is usually not tied to political conditions. In addition to the revitalization of bilateral cooperation, international organizations like the IMF, World Bank, the BOAD and the European Union are also reinforcing their assistance in order to promote good government, democratization and growth in Togo. The first IMF financed three-year Extended Credit Facility (ECF), which had replaced the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, expired in 2011. A new ECF was delayed until January 2017 when a staff-level agreement with the government, subject to approval by IMF management and the Executive Board for a three-year ECF at SDR 176 million (about $238 million), or 120% of Togo’s quota in the IMF, was negotiated. In June 2018, the implementation of the second ECF was evaluated as “broadly satisfactory.” The full Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) was implemented in 2014.
The presidential elections of 2010 and 2015 as well as the legislative elections of 2013 and 2018, passed by largely peacefully, and were considered basically democratic by African peers. This was in stark contrast to the previous 2005 presidential election, with its aftermath of bloody political persecution. Apparently, the Gnassingbé regime had learned from the past. The regime was eager to boost the legitimacy of its irregularly acquired power through peaceful and largely free elections and modernization of the ruling party. Moreover, it scored both in international perception and vis-à-vis the electorate with the implementation of an ambitious infrastructure program, the privatization of banks and the mining sector and the development of Lomé as an economic and financial hub for the whole West African sub-region. Nevertheless, Faure Gnassingbé and his party (RPT/UNIR) successfully employed the same “divide and rule” policy that his father Eyadéma used for decades to weaken the opposition movement, both by legal and extra-legal means. However, his power is contested by hardliners from his own ranks. The international donor community, in the first place the EU, the IMF, France and the U.S., supported the government’s commitment to modernize and consolidate public finances by continuing to provide substantial aid. Nevertheless, they were less concerned with democratization than with regional stability and the growing terrorist threat of Islamism in the Sahel region (Mali) and Nigeria and Togo’s support in combating it. In general, the transition process remains volatile and might easily be reversed when pressure is put on the president, (e.g., by hardliners in the military or within the ruling party).
Togo is still suffering from an underutilization of assets and other opportunities that could be used by the government. The new reform processes, assisted by the international donor community, notably the Bretton Woods institutions, have improved an efficiency-oriented governance approach in some areas, (e.g., in public administration and finance as well as infrastructure rehabilitation). Examples include a new 64-megawatt, multi-fuel Kékéli power plant (Kékéli meaning “aurora” in the Mina language) in the port area of Lomé connected to the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP). The concession agreement for the construction, financing and operating of the plant was signed by the president and the general director of the pan-African industrial group Eranove that has managed similar projects in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal since 1996. Other major investments by the state included the new telecommunications network, road rehabilitation, a new international airport and the extension of the deep-water harbor as major hub of West African transit and maritime traffic. However, it will take some time before the structural reforms have an impact, and continuing aid will be crucial to promote the process. Donor confidence remains the most important resource in providing an initial push toward development in Togo.
A key sector remains education. Whereas most children are now attending school, there are not enough teachers to teach them, despite the high numbers of potential teaching personnel in the country (see Q12.2). Most qualified Togolese teachers, waiting for an opportunity to work in their own country again, are still abroad because the former government, suspicious of educators, drove them away.
The commitment of the government to democratization and consolidation of public finances vis-à-vis the donor community conflicts with the determination of the president and his followers to remain in power whatever the cost. Coordination between the presidency and the prime minister’s office, which had not always been smooth, improved with the nomination of Komi Klassou, renowned as a loyalist of the ruling elite, who remained in office from his nomination in May 2015 until his dismissal due to disappointing results in the legislative elections on December 20, 2018.
Because the president apparently still lacks sustainable control of the ANR and the military, he is at pains to restructure the security services’ high command. In mid-October 2018, he replaced the head of the ANR, Colonel Koulemaga Kassawa with Colonel Ali Esso Tchakpélé. Tchakpélé is a Kabyé from Kara, educated at the officer training school (Efofat) in Pya (a village near Kara), the homeland and spiritual center of the Gnassingbé clan. Thus, Faure Gnassingbé has continued the policy of his father Eyadéma, securing key positions in the security services for trusted persons who are only from the same ethnic group and regional origin. He still manages defense portfolio himself, for fear of coup attempts.
Though steps in the right direction have been made, these have been outweighed by high levels of corruption and criminal practices (drug-trafficking, capital flight and money laundering) at all levels, including members of the current administration.
Corruption is a serious problem in Togo. The high level of illicit financial flows (IFF) which strongly correlates with money laundering has attracted the concern of the international donor community. Togo had the highest level of FFI in relation to its GDP throughout the 2006 to 2012 time period, when Togo’s IFF averaged 76.3% of GDP (2008 – 2013; World Bank 2016) and reached $1,526 billion (i.e., CFA 763 billion. These IFF came mainly from the following sources: commercial tax evasion, trafficking of bills in international trade and abusive transfer prices, criminal activities such as drug dealing, illegal transactions of weapons, smuggling, active corruption and the collusion of corrupt civil servants. In comparison, IFF represented almost 500% of tax revenues. This ranks Togo second in the world in corruption, according to the international NGO Global Financial Integrity (2018).
A national anti-corruption commission (Commission nationale de lutte contre la corruption et le sabotage économique – CNLCSE) was created in 2001. However, it lacks the political will to combat corruption effectively. The Criminal Code, adopted in 2015, strengthened anti-corruption measures, as did a new law on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, adopted in 2018. The latter law aims at making Togo’s legislation conform with WAEMU norms and FATF (Financial Action Task Force) standards.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (Haute Autorité de Prévention et de Lutte contre la Corruption et les Infractions Assimilées, HAPLUCIA), tasked to prevent and investigate corruption, became operational in 2017. Yet, at least concerning expenditure management, Togo’s score on perceived control of corruption was still below the average of its fellow WAEMU members in 2017, although performance appears to have improved in recent years, according to the IMF.
Following the political upheaval in the aftermath of the contested 2005 presidential elections, the donor community demanded a national dialog in order to overcome the enduring political cleavages among the government, the opposition and civil society, which resulted in the Global Political Accord (GPA) of 2006. However, this was implemented only half-heartedly and finally declared obsolete by the government in 2014. The delayed implementation of major GPA reforms remained a point of contention. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Commission Vérité, Justice et Réconciliation, CVJR) delivered its report on human rights violations in April 2012. Other important measures meant to guarantee fair and free elections, including local elections, delayed time and again since 1987, and again postponed in December 2018, together with the constitutional referendum, are still a major point of contention. Representatives of the Christian churches appealed repeatedly to the political class to reopen discussions on contentious institutional and constitutional reforms. Thus, overall consensus on transformation goals remains fragile.
On September 18, 2017, the Bishops Conference of Togo urged the government to carry out reforms requested by the people in accordance with the 1992 constitution, which had been revised by the late General Eyadéma in favor of the Gnassingbé regime in 2002. The Episcopal Conference also denounced the wave of repression and “the excessive use of force against fellow citizens, sometimes even in their homes.” Beyond this, it urged the army to adopt a republican attitude of political neutrality in accordance with the constitution and advised the regime to refrain from inciting ethnic hatred in the media and on social networks. One year later, on November 22, 2018, the Bishops Conference expressed their concerns again and warned that organizing the upcoming legislative elections (December 20, 2018) without prior reforms could result in renewed violence.
In view of growing popular pressure, the UNIR majority in parliament adopted on September 19, 2017 a law proposal to review the 1992 constitution (see Q2.1). However, that proposal excluded decisive points of contention with the opposition, on the matter of introducing a retroactive presidential term limit in order to end the 50-year rule of the Gnassingbé regime immediately. However, the government majority did not obtain the required quorum (four-fifths of the deputies of the National Assembly) because the opposition boycotted the vote. Therefore, the head of state proposed to a constitutional referendum on the law to be held on 16 December 2018, but it was postponed indefinitely.
The majority (e.g., the ruling party and most of the opposition) agree on the country’s need to regain economic strength, a view shaped by the severe hardships experienced by many Togolese in everyday life. Political change, demanded by many, is seen as an instrument for achieving urgently needed social and economic development. On the one hand, daily hardships may lead to serious social strife. On the other hand, citizens appear willing to support any government that shows genuine concern for the problems of the majority. In general, the government, ruling party, opposition parties and CSOs are dedicated to the basic principles of a market economy. As a transit economy, Togo depends on open markets and transnational trade, notably within ECOWAS, and with the markets in neighboring Ghana and Nigeria. However, because a large part of this trade is informal (including smuggling), the recognition of official rules and regulations on taxation, tax evasion, money laundering and capital flight is rather weak. Apart from this, there are divergent views within the ruling elite on the need to protect infant industries and commercial agriculture from unfair foreign trade policies, (e.g., within the framework of the controversial EU-West African Economic Partnership Agreements, EPAs).
The RPT/UNIR’s purely anti-democratic elements are no longer as important as they had been before the presidential elections of 2010 and 2015, despite repressing enduring, large-scale, anti-government demonstrations in 2017 and 2018. The reactionary political forces are still strong enough, however, to endanger any serious attempt by President Faure Gnassingbé to further democratization or devolve power. President Faure Gnassingbé’s imprisoned half-brother, Kpatcha, might play an important role in this respect. Kpatcha and some within the military and RPT/UNIR leadership know about the disadvantages they will have to face in the event of political change. Divisions within the ruling elite (i.e., the Gnassingbé clan, the RPT/UNIR and the security services) became apparent once more, during the modernization of the ruling party in 2012 as well as by the refusal of the UNIR majority in parliament to vote in favor of a draft law on changes of the constitution introduced by its own government in June 2014. In addition, democratic principles, as well as a culture of transparency and accountability, are not fully respected among the new elites of Togo, including the opposition.
The largely peaceful big anti-government demonstrations of 2017 and 2018, although still repressed by the police, showed nevertheless that the government had improved its conflict management skills in comparison to the 2005 protests, that were violently repressed and during which security forces killed over 800 people. Although hundreds of thousands of protesters went to the streets and some protesters were killed, the demonstrations did not become out of control as in the past. Besides this, the Gnassingbé clan and its followers continue to pursue a policy of creating or stimulating conflicts if those seem necessary to maintaining their authoritarian power.
There are no consistent policies in place to systematically address emerging conflicts in the country. Nevertheless, there have been some positive steps taken. Beside the nationwide capacity-building of CSOs promoted by the APRM initiative, the administration recognized, for example, the environmental problems arising from nomads and their cattle herds during transhumant migration. This often leads to problems with settled farmers, whose agricultural production is endangered. Due to the oppressive and corrupt nature of the previous regime, which affected almost every institution in the country, there are few non-governmental actors that are powerful enough to mediate in actual or future conflicts, with the notable exception of the CVJR and the Catholic Church. In general, the NGOs that specialize in conflict prevention and management are not yet strong enough to play a decisive role. Approaches designed to prevent institutional crises can be found also in UNDP-backed conflict prevention programs, (e.g., concerning the training and deployment of national election observers and mediators). In addition, a few trade unions, NGOs, religious organizations and media outlets created transnational partnerships for conflict prevention, like the West African Network for Education & Peace (WANEP-Togo) and the Togolese section of WPP-Africa (Women Peacemakers Program – Africa).
The present government seems to be much more open to civil society participation than any previous government. The inefficient use of civil society organizations’ capacities is sometimes more due to the weakness of the NGOs’ administration and membership structure than to the government’s reluctance to engage with them. Enhanced dialog between CSOs and government is becoming a reality within the APRM initiative. The APRM initiative is composed of 37 CSOs, in addition to members of the public administration. However, the CSOs are hand-selected by the government, which means that more critical parts of civil society tend to be excluded.
The government remains reluctant to implement the recommendations of the CVJR because high-ranking members of the government, military and administration continue to benefit from impunity. The CVJR was established in May 2009 to investigate human rights violations from 1958 to the bloody persecutions of 2005. It submitted its final report in April 2012. The most important recommendations included reparation, public documentation of human rights violations, symbolic reconciliation (e.g., public condonation by perpetrators, monuments, memorial days) and criminal prosecution of perpetrators. The commission demanded that the government publish a white paper stating how it intends to implement the recommendations of the CVJR and suggested two institutions for monitoring and evaluation. Apart from publishing a white paper (2014) on the implementation of the CVJR’s recommendations, considered to be the precondition for the eventual payment of reparation and establishment of a High Commission on Reconciliation (HCR) in 2013 the government applied mainly delaying tactics. A High Commissioner’s Office for Reconciliation (Haut Commissariat à la réconciliation et le renforcement de l’unité nationale, HCRRUN) installed in March 2015 was meant to speed up the implementation of the recommendations, assisted by a CSO-platform (Plateforme citoyenne justice et vérité, PCJV). However, effective functioning was delayed again by transferring contested issues to national discussion groups in July 2016. Nationwide “purification ceremonies” organized by the government in allusion to customary religious practices in July 2017 in order to “exorcise the evil” (i.e., to appease the victims of gross human rights violations committed in the period from 1958 to 2005) had little effect.
Togo counts among the largest beneficiaries of international aid (see Q7.1). Starting in the late 1970s, international aid dependency increased considerably. Its highest amount over the past 55 years was 17.64% in 2009, while its lowest amount was 0.09% in 1960. Resumption of aid and substantial support from donors to the Togolese government started in 2007 after the largely free legislative elections. The numerous activities and cooperation programs such as the ECF, PRGF, SCAPE and HIPC completion point were connected to the progress made in political transformation. However, support from donors was not always used efficiently and transparently. The increasing influence of Asian countries, notably China and India, among international aid donors allows Togo to re-adopt a see-saw policy, which it had practiced during the Cold War, of playing competing major donor countries against one another.
Apart from aid, remittances from Togo’s diaspora (estimated at two million people) play a significant role in development. Remittances soared steadily from $34 million in 2000 to $337 million in 2010 to $402 million in 2017.
International actors appear increasingly trusting of the current government, despite large anti-government demonstrations that have been ongoing since 2017. The donor community misjudged these demonstrations as an indicator of increased freedom of expression. Traditional partners, such as France, Germany and the United States, and new partners, such as China and India supported the country with development aid during the review period. In addition to the revitalization of bilateral cooperation, international organizations like the IMF, World Bank, the West African Development Bank and the European Union are also reinforcing their assistance in order to promote good governance, democratization and inclusive economic growth in Togo.
Given security concerns in the region, international donors increasingly trust – or want to trust – the Togolese government. The military cooperation agreement between Togo and France from 2010 is a case in point. However, in May 2017, France, the biggest supplier of arms to Togo, was reluctant to process a delivery of five French Gazelle military helicopters to Lomé in view of the ongoing political crisis.
Togo continued to participate in peacekeeping missions of the AU and ECOWAS with about 1,400 soldiers and policemen, especially in Mali.
Togo is a member of all relevant regional, African and international organizations, notably of ECOWAS and WAEMU in the West African sub-region. Togo remained a reliable and significant contributor to peacekeeping missions in the sub-region. From May 15 to May 18, 2018, Togo participated in a joint anti-terror operation of 2,902 security forces from Burkina Faso, Benin, Ghana and Togo against banditry and trans-border criminality in the border region. Altogether 200 persons were arrested, most of them in Togo. At the 51st ordinary ECOWAS summit, held early June 2017 in Liberia, the Togolese head of state was elected the new chairperson for one year.
In November 2017, Faure Gnassingbé announced that the AU and ECOWAS would be prepared to mediate to put an end to Togo’s crisis. The opposition agreed. However, political actors disagreed on the dialog’s nature, format, objectives and prerequisites. The stalemate continued until shortly before the legislative elections in December 2018. At the end of December, the ECOWAS during its 54th session convening heads of states in Abuja officially terminated its facilitating mandate.
Most attempts to mediate in Togolese crisis failed because the mediators proposed by ECOWAS apparently were not neutral. The first effort by the U.N. special representative for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas from Ghana, was refused by the opposition because he was apparently close to the Gnassingbé family. During his tenure as general secretary of ECOWAS (2002 – 2009), Chambas was suspected of being one of the architects of the bloody and undemocratic enthronization of Faure Gnassingbé as Togolese head of state and heir to his father Eyadéma in 2005. The Togolese opposition filed an action against Ibn Chambas at the U.N. Ethics Office on September 29, 2017. There was similar mistrust of another mediator, the minister of foreign affairs of Niger, Aïchatou Mindaoudou, who was meant to lead a mediation mission of the OIF in Lomé from October 10 to October 13, 2017. This was postponed indefinitely. A third mediation effort by the president of the AU, Guinean President Alpha Condé in mid-October 2017 in Lomé was postponed as well, in view of the bloody repression of anti-government demonstrations on October 18 and 19, 2017. At the end of October 2017, Patrice Talon, the president of Benin, and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara tried also to mediate in the Togolese crisis in vain. The Nigeria leader Muhammadu Buhari warned in November that the political instability in Togo could have regional consequences.
Between March 17 and March 21,2018, African leaders held an extraordinary summit in Kigali (Rwanda) to create an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA / ZLECA, in French). Togo signed all the agreements. These envisage creating a free market out of the 55 African states with populations of more than one billion inhabitants.
Like most sub-Saharan African countries, Togo faces several substantial challenges, including a lack of good governance, volatile economic growth, exposure to external economic shocks, rising food costs, erratic energy prices and major environmental risks. But there are key issues the country should address if it is to reach a level of development on par with that achieved by more successful West African countries (e.g., Benin and Ghana).
In view of the turmoil after the large-scale, anti-government protests in September 2017 and December 2018, Togo’s government should not stop its democratization efforts, in order to win the trust and confidence of its own population and the international community. Democratic and institutional reforms implemented in recent years are not sufficient to gain the confidence of the vast majority of the people, at least concerning the major issue of content, retroactive limitation of the president’s mandate and political change. Many Togolese citizens and observers remain skeptical as to whether these reforms reflect a genuine attempt by the Gnassingbé regime to promote democracy in Togo.
The transition process will not succeed if the government remains under pressure from hardliners within the ruling party and security services. Therefore, it is imperative to guarantee the strict political neutrality of the security forces, notably the military, intelligence service and gendarmerie.
The government should transparently pursue national reconciliation, democratization and sustainable economic development on the basis of internationally accepted principles of good governance. In particular, it needs to organize free and fair local elections in 2019, which have been postponed time and again since 1987.
In order to overcome some of Togo’s endemic development problems (i.e., over-centralized decision-making processes, undemocratic dominance of the ruling party, the distance between the ruling elite and political realities and regionalism), decentralization should be enhanced. The government must stop obstructing the further devolution of power and resources, which is required by the constitution and necessary to bolster local autonomy. In addition, the devolution of power and resources should be accompanied by support for civil society organizations at the local and national levels.
Concerning economics, structural reform of the banking, and phosphate and cotton sectors is crucial. Donors should make additional efforts to support this process. The fight against corruption, money laundering, capital flight and embezzlement of public funds in Togo’s public administration constitutes another significant step on the road to democratization. Last, it is important to support the process of regional integration in West Africa. Any attempts to undermine political initiatives of regional integration (e.g., by special arrangements within the current negotiations on EU-West African EPAs) should be prevented. Greater economic and political integration would benefit all stakeholders. In addition, peacekeeping initiatives and observation measures in the West African region should be promoted.