Togo – Time for change

Many decades ago, between the 16th and the 18th century Togo and its surrounding regions were known as “the slave coast” as Europeans would visit the region in search of slaves. Fast track through decades, Togo has been independent for about 60 years now since it gained independency on the April 27th, 1960. The Togolese Republic as it was formerly known as is a small West African country only 21,925 sq mi with an average density of 253 people per square mile. It extends south to the Bight of Benin and is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso, Benin to the east, and Ghana on the west. Contrasting the geography of the centre of the country, mostly hills, the north is mostly rolling savanna and the south is both savanna and woodland plateau. A more interesting fact is Togo is located very close to the equator and thus, experiences tropical hot and humid climate in the central regions and the south and dry, arid weather towards the north.

While many languages are spoken in Togo, mainly those of the Gbe family, French is its official language. People with indigenous beliefs make up the largest religious group, but Christians and Muslims also make up a significant minority. Greetings are elaborated in Togo with it being very important to say hello to everyone when coming and going. More so if you want to greet somebody in Togo, you should shake their hand a say a verbal “Hello” in French (Bonjour), Ewe (Woezo-lo!), Kabiye (Alafia-we) or another tribal language. When it comes to food, it is seen as rude to smell food that has been cooked for you for any reason. It is rude to ask what it is you are eating as well. Togo is much a starving country, and a meal cooked for you in the country is a big deal. So, you are to eat it without asking any questions and while you at if the meat is served, break the bones and suck the marrow. Not doing so is seen as wasteful to the Togolese. However, since independence, Togo has struggled to build a stable country and economy with the Eyadema family at the helm for decades. Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema succeeded his father, who died in 2005 after ruling the country with an iron fist for 38 years but in recent years hundreds have died that challenged his victories at the polls.

Togo’s economy is small and depends on subsistence and commercial agriculture. Phosphate mining used to be the primary industrial activity, but due to increased foreign competition, and the collapse of world phosphate prices, Togo has been relying more on the export of cement and clinker to nearby countries. Several setbacks in the early 1990’s such as strikes and political unrest hurt economic growth by shrinking the tax base and disrupting the economy to a point that education in Togo was compulsory only for six years mainly because of teacher shortages and poor infrastructure.

On the Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 1.69$ – CFA franc (R 0,50) and the price of litre petrol is 1. 25$ – CFA franc (R 0,38). The inflation rate for consumer prices in Togo moved over the past 40 years between -3.5% and 39.2%. For 2019, an inflation rate of 0.7% was calculated and was recorded at -0.40% in June of this year (2020).

Togo has received validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) for having eliminated human African trypanosomiasis or “sleeping sickness” as a public health problem, becoming the first country in Africa to reach this milestone. Togo’s achievement comes after more than two decades of sustained political commitment. The wish of the Togolese people is that the same sustained political commitment can be made to their election crisis. According to the 2019 corruption perceptions index, Togo is among the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 130 out of 180 with only North Korea’s ruling dynasty that has held executive power for longer. The overall feeling is that it is time for a change. But all the opposition parties can hope to oust this regime is a post-electoral crisis. And that, sadly, could lead to fresh bloodshed and more suffering for the Togolese people.