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 Jewel of

The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.

Togo: Once 'Slave Coast,' free sovereignty in 21st century

Togo, officially the Togolese Republic, is a thin sliver of land in Western Africa. From its 32-mile coastline on the Gulf of Guinea, it stretches north approximately 320 miles to Burkina Faso. The capital city, Lomé, is also the largest city and port.

Togo was once part of the area known as the "Slave Coast" in the 17th century. It passed from colonial control—first under Germany at the start of World War I, then was split between France and Britain. Seven years after independence, Lt. Col. Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power and held it for 38 years, making him Africa's longest sitting dictator until he died in 2005.


Togo is a small, thin African nation situated south of the Sahara desert. It borders the Bight of Benin in the south; Ghana lies to the west; Benin to the east; and to the north Togo is bound by Burkina Faso. In the south, it has a short Gulf of Guinea coast, on which the capital Lomé is located. It stretches inland for 360 miles but is only 31 miles wide at the coast and 100 miles at its widest point.

In the north, the land is characterized by a gently rolling savanna. The center of the country is hilly. The southern plateau reaches a coastal plain with extensive lagoons and marshes. The land area is 21,925 square miles, with an average population density of 253 people per square mile. 


The climate is warm and humid on the coast, but drier and slightly cooler in the north. The climate is tropical and humid for seven months, while the dry, desert winds of the Harmattan blow south from November to March, bringing cooler weather though little moisture. Annual temperatures vary between 75 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit in the south and 65 to 100 degrees in the north.

Lake Togo, part of a lagoon separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow coastal strip, is shal- low and popular for water sports. Togo is an Ewe (pronounced Ev'hé) word meaning "lake" or "lagoon." Togo is named after the town of Togoville, where Gustav Nachtigal signed a treaty with Mlapa III in 1884, establishing a German protectorate.

Togo consists of six geographical regions. The coastal region is low-lying, sandy beach backed by the Tokoin plateau, a marsh, and the Lake Togo lagoon. The Tokoin (Ouatchi) plateau extends about 20 miles inland at an elevation of 200-300 feet. To the northeast, a higher tableland is drained by the Mono, Haho, Sio rivers and their tributaries. The Atakora massif stretches diag- onally across Togo from the town of Kpalime northeast.

At different points it is known as the Danyi and Akposso plateau, Fetish massif, Fazao mountain, Tchaoudjo massif, and Kabye mountains. The highest point is the Pic d'Agou at 3,937 feet. North of the mountain range is the Oti plateau, a savanna locale drained by the river of the same name. A higher, semi-arid region extends to the northern border.

Flora and fauna

Savanna-type vegetation is predominant in Togo. On the southern plateaus large trees, including the baobab, are common, but they are rare in the north. The southwestern highland regions are covered with tropical forests, also found along the river valleys. The coastal zone is dotted with mangrove and reed swamps.

Wild animals are not found in great numbers, especially in the southern and central regions. Lions, leopards, and elephants can be seen in the north.

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Lomé, the bustling free-wheeling capital of Togo, West Africa, and home to 1.9 million people, can handle some three million tons of goods annually. This has greatly facilitated the shipping of critical minerals such as phosphates and other major exports like cocoa, coffeecopracotton, and palm products. Lomé is also home to a  deep water port and harbor, completed in 1968.

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Landmarks in Lomé, Togo include the Monument of Independence (above), Par- liament buildings (right), and Palais de Lomé, a monument of art and history (below), which was renovated and restored after more than 20 years of abandonment. The once forbidden place, from which power was exercised, reopened its doors to become the first art and culture center of Togo. This is an opportunity for the Togolese to reconnect with their country's history while giving Togolese values international visibility. Palais  de Lomé is a journey to the heart of the natural, cultural diversity of West Africa

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Togo is a fusion of the old with hope and futuristic aspiration. It is home to the largest solar-energy plant in West Africa. Still, the nation retains its original splendor inherent in the environment, 


In the Keran National Park Forest near Sansanné-Mango in the north, wild animals abound.  Lions, hyenas, leo- pards, elephantsantelopes, donkeys , gazellesbuffaloes, hippopotamuses, wart hogs, monkeys, snakes, and lizards are numerous; crocodiles also abound in the rivers. Bird species include ibisheronspelicansparrots. Fish

caught off the coast include mackerel, bass, sea bream, red snapper, triggerfish, dorado, ray, and sole, while crus- taceans include shrimp and lobster.

Pre-colonial history

The population of the central mountains is perhaps the oldest in Togo, with recent archaeological research dating the presence of the Tchamba, Bogou, and Bassar people as far back as the ninth century. Northern Mossi king- doms date back to the 13th century. During the period from the 11th through the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions—the Ewé from Nigeria, and Benin and the Mina and Guin from Ghana. Most settled in coastal areas. Other research suggests the Kabye and others were the last to settle in the Kara region coming from Kete-Krachi in Ghana as recently as 250 years ago. For hundreds of years parts of north Togo were under the influence of Islamic kingdoms, such as Umar Tal of the 19th century.


Independence for Togo came in 1960 under Sylvanus Olympio. Olympio was murdered by Lt. Col. Gnassingbe Eyadema, who usurped power on Jan. 13, 1967. Eyadema died in early 2005 after 38 years in power, as Africa's longest sitting dictator. The military's immediate but short-lived installation of his son, Faure Gnassingbe, as president provoked widespread international condemnation. Gnassingbe stood down and called elections that he won two months later. The opposition claimed that the election was fraudulent.

The developments of 2005 led to renewed questions about a commitment to democracy made by Togo in 2004 in a bid to normalize ties with the European Union, which had cut off aid in 1993 over the country's human rights record. According to the UN, approximately 400 people were killed in the political violence surrounding the presi- dential poll and an estimated 40,000 Togolese fled to neighboring countries.


Togo's small economy is heavily dependent on both commercial and subsistence agriculture, which provides employment for 75 percent of the labor force. Cocoacoffee, and cotton together generate about 40 percent of export earnings. Togo is self-sufficient in basic food goods when harvests are normal, with occasional regional supply difficulties. In the industrial sector, phosphate mining is by far the most important activity, although it has suffered from the collapse of world phosphate prices and increased foreign competition. Togo is the world's fifth largest exporter of calcium phosphate.

Togo should record economic growth of 6.1 percent next year, according to government projections. The forecast aligns with the post-COVID recovery started by the country in 2021. Indeed, economic growth in 2021 stood at 5.3 percent, against 1.8 percent in 2020. 

“The 2022 budget, drawn amid economic recovery, provides for a 3.5 points increase in real GDP growth rate, from 1.8 percent in 2020 to 5.3 percent in 2021. This rate is expected to rise to 6.1 percent in 2022 as the govern- ment implements its roadmap projects. Also the inflation rate has been brought under control below the region’s ceiling of 3 percent,” reads a statement from the ministers’ council. The 2022 budget (income and spending) is expected to total $760 billion, with 46 percent allocated to social sectors. While the figure is 15.7 percent up com- pared to the initial $1,521 billion forecast under the finance bill for 2021, it's only 3 percent more compared to the budget package that was approved by the National Assembly, $1,702 billion.

Togo serves as a regional commercial and trade center. The deep waters off Lomé have made it a major regional port. However, the government's decade-long effort, supported by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to implement economic reform measures, encourage foreign investment, and bring revenues in line with expenditures has stalled.

Political unrest jeopardized the reform program, shrank the tax base, and disrupted vital economic activity. Pro- gress depends on increased openness in government financial operations (to accommodate increased social service outlays) and possible downsizing of the military, on which the regime has depended to remain in power. Lack of aid, along with depressed cocoa prices, has caused the GDP to drop. Togo imports most of its products from Ghana, which accounted for 26 percent of Togo's total purchases in 2000. Togo exports mostly to Benin, NigeriaGhana, and Colombia.

Foreign relations

Togo's transition to democracy is stalled. Its democratic institutions remain nascent and fragile. President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who ruled Togo under a one-party system for nearly all of his years in power, died of a heart attack on Feb. 5, 2005. Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament, Fambaré Ouattara Natchaba, should have become president, pending a new election. Natchaba was out of the country en route to Togo on an Air France flight from Paris.

The Togolese army closed the nation's borders, forcing the plane to land in nearby Benin. With an engineered power vacuum, the army announced that Eyadéma's son, Faure Gnassingbé, also known as Faure Eyadéma, who had been the communications minister, would succeed him. The constitution of Togo declared that in event of the president's death, the speaker of Parliament succeeds him with a 60-day window to call new elections.

However, on Feb. 6, 2008, Parliament retroactively changed the constitution, declaring that Faure would hold office for the rest of his father's term, with elections deferred until 2008. The stated justification was that Natchaba was out of the country. The government also removed Natchaba as speaker and replaced him with Faure Gnassingbé, who was sworn in on Feb. 7, 2005, despite the international outcry of the succession of power.

The African Union (AU) described the takeover as a military coup d'état. International pressure also came from the UN. Within Togo, opposition to the takeover culminated in riots in which several hundred died. In the village of Aného, reports of a general civilian uprising followed by a large- scale massacre by government troops went largely unreported.

In response, Gnassingbé agreed to hold elections and on Feb. 25, resigned as president but later accepted the nomination for the office in April. On April 24, 2005, Gnassingbé was elected president of Togo, receiving 60 percent of the vote, according to official results. On May 3, 2005, Faure Gnassingbe was sworn in as the new president. Discontent continued, however, with the opposition declaring the voting rigged, claiming the military stole ballot boxes from various polling stations in the south, as well as other election irregularities. The European Union suspended aid in support of the opposition claims, while the AU and the US declared the vote "reasonably fair" and accepted the outcome.

According to Economist Intelligence Unit, an economic and political report, President Gnassingbé, will likely remain in power throughout the 2022-23 forecast period, backed by the army and the security forces, which will contain any public or opposition efforts to remove him. The risk of social unrest will remain high in 2022 as the Gnassingbé Administration uses the coronavirus pandemic to extend a state of emergency.  Accelerating eco- nomic growth will reduce this risk by 2023, however, especially after controls are lifted following a national vac- cination campaign.


Togo adopted the French system of governance, which has three branches of government. Currently, the country has a presidential system of government comprised of three independent branches, namely the executive, the legislative, and the judicial.

Executive: Togo’s executive branch of government is composed of the president, prime minister, and Council of Ministers. The president is elected by eligible citizens of Togo every five years. The president is the chief comman- der of the armed forces in Togo. Additionally, the president has the power to dissolve the country’s parliament. The president also appoints the prime minister, who serves for five years. The prime minister heads the govern- ment of Togo. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by Togo’s prime minister and appointed into office by the president.

Legislative: Togo has a unicameral system of parliament, whereby all legislation is done in one legislative cham-ber, also referred to as the national assembly. The national assembly is comprised of 81 members who are elected as representatives of the 81 constituencies in the country. Members of the national assembly are elected into office every five years. Their primary role is to debate laws, approve the budget and represent their constituencies. Although Togo is a multiparty state, only one party dominates the nation's politics. The opposition parties are suppressed and they lack the freedom of expression.

Judicial: Togo’s judicial system is heavily borrowed from the French. The highest courts in Togo are the supreme court and the constitutional court. The supreme court is headed by the court’s president, who is appointed by Togo’s president. The court is divided into the criminal chamber and the administrative chamber. Togo’s constitu- tional court is comprised of nine judges who are nominated by the National Assembly of Togo. The judges serve for life. Subordinate courts in Togo include the sessions courts, appeal court, court of state security, and the military tribunal.


Hands-on mothering ... to hands-on

mother Earth subsistence agriculture

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The 2020-2021 cotton sea- son was a big blow for Togo, which produced only 67,000 tons of cotton, a considera- ble drop of 43 per cent com- pared to the previous year's 116,000 tons. Factors for the low output include poor qua- lity of cotton seed and floods. The drop in the price of cotton seed has also pushed many farmers to turn to other crops. The government aims to revi- talize this strategic sector through its recent privatiza- tion efforts to make "white gold" a source of income and employment. Togo, in 2021 sold 51 per cent of its stake in its largest cotton producer, the New Cotton Company of Togo to Singaporean ag conglomer- ate Olam International. NSCT aims to grow 135,000 tons in 2022.

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On Feb. 22, Togolese will head to the ballot box to vote in a presidential election. It will be the year's first national election in Africa. Incumbent, President Gnassingbe, is seeking to extend his stay in office despite having already served three terms. 

Gnassingbe will face six other candidates, including longtime rival Jean Pierre Fabre. Fabre, a human rights activist, was nominated as the leader of Togo's main opposition party, National Alliance for Change, late last year. He finished second in the previous two elections and now faces the herculean task of uniting the opposition. Due to a fragmented opposition, Gnassingbe is favored to win, bearing more power than ever. His grip on the country has been bolstered by the reinstatement of presidential term limits by parliament. Under the new law, presidents can serve two five-year terms. Term limits had been scrapped during Gnassingbe Eyadema's near 40-year rule.


However, the new law reset Gnassingbe's term limits, permitting him to remain in office until 2030. Such anti-democratic moves are surprising in West Africa, home to some of the continent's most vibrant democracies. Despite its otherwise strong record of defending democracy in the region, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been unable to exert its influence in Togo.

The 15 members of ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.  The main goal of ECOWAS is to promote economic cooperation among member states in order to raise living standards and promote economic development. ECOWAS has also worked to address some security issues by developing a peacekeeping force for conflicts in the region. ECOWAS established its free trade area in 1990 and adopted a common external tariff in January 2015.

In early 2018, the regional body hosted mediation talks between the government and the opposition. Unfortuna- tely, in spite of these efforts, little has changed on the ground and ECOWAS seems unable to reign in Gnassing- be's authoritarian tendencies. In response to the protests in 2017 and 2018, Gnassingbe unleashed security forces on peaceful protestors resulting in arrests and injuries.

Additionally, the country's national election commission issued a statement recently, stripping the main indepen- dent election observer, the National Consultation of Civil Society of Togo, of its accreditation. This follows the com- mission's refusal to allow the Catholic Church to monitor polling places. Such moves have many worried that the vote will be neither free nor fair and another step away from democracy.

Administrative Divisions

Togo has five main administrative divisions—Savanes, Kara, Centrale, Plateaux, and Maritime. The five admin- istrative units are further sub-divided into 30 prefectures. The prefectures are each led by an appointed prefect. The work of the prefect is limited to administrative duties only. The Togolese system of governance is highly centralized. As a result, all the governance and development matters are handled by the central government.


French is the official language and the language of commerce. The many indigenous languages spoken by Togo- lese include Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south): Kabiyé (or Kabye) and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north); and others. Mina—a mixture of Ewe, French, English, and other lang- uages—is the lingua franca of Lomé, of the coastal zone, and of commerce in general.


About 60 percent of the total population over age 15 is literate; males 75.4 percent and females 46.9 percent. The average life expectancy is a 58 years. A 2005 report notes that almost one in eight Togolese children is sent to work far from home. Under a 2005 law, those responsible for the trafficking of children and their accomplices may receive prison sentences of a month to five years, and fines of $1,000 to $20,000. The law also requires special authorization from a court to take a child not accompanied by its parents or guardian out of the country. Twenty-

five percent of Togo’s population of 8.28 million people live in Lomé, the capital. The city has a population of 1.9 million. Kara, the second largest city has approximately 200,000 inhabitants.


A majority of the Togolese population (51 percent) adhere to indigenous animist beliefs. Christianity is the second largest religious group (29 percent). The remaining 20 percent of Togolese follow Islam.



Togo's culture reflects the influences of its 37 ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, and Kabre. The coastal Ewe receive more education and in general dominate Togolese culture. Ewe stat- uary is characterized by statuettes that illustrate the worship of the twins, the ibéji. Sculptures and hunting trophies were used rather than the more ubiquitous African masks. The wood-carvers of Kloto are famous for their "chains of marriage": two characters are connected by rings drawn from only one piece of wood.

The dyed fabric batiks of the artisanal center of Kloto represent stylized and colored scenes of ancient everyday life. The loincloths used in the ceremonies of the tisserands of Assahoun are famous. Works of the painter Sokey Edorh are inspired by the immense arid extents, swept by the harmattan, where the laterite keeps the prints of men and animals. The plastics technician Paul Ahyi is internationally recognized. He practices "zota," a kind of pyroengraving, and his monumental achievements decorate Lome.

Ethnic tensions are minimal. Togo's ethnic groups continue to mix and intermarry throughout the country. Society is divided along traditional and nontraditional lines. The traditional elite includes kings, paramount chiefs, and vodou priests. The modern elite includes government functionaries, business professionals, and the educated. Poor rural families often send their children to city-dwelling relatives for schooling or employment.

Marriage, family, and kinship

Traditional systems of social organization are significant in the daily lives of Togolese. Kinship systems provide networks for support and are visible during all major life-cycle ceremonies. Marriage practices vary throughout Togo according to the ethnic group, though organized religions and the state have altered the ceremonies of even the most secluded villages. Marriage law requires an appearance before a magistrate, but customary marriages, without state sanction, are still widespread. A bride-wealth, but not a dowry, remains important throughout Togo. Polygyny is officially decreasing, though unofficial relationships persist.

The basic family structure is extended, although nuclear family units are increasingly commonplace, particularly in urban areas. In most cases, the man is the supreme head of the household in all major decisions. In the absence of the husband, the wife's senior brother holds sway. Kinship is largely patrilineal throughout Togo and remains powerful even among Westernized, urban populations. Village and neighborhood chiefs remain integral to local dispute resolution.


Togo's population is challenged by numerous health problems, including parasitic, intestinal, nutritional, venereal, and respiratory diseases. Public health problems are exacerbated by inadequate waste disposal, sewerage, drinking water, and food storage. Life expectancy is declining steeply with the onset of AIDS. Malaria remains the leading cause of illness and death. Other common diseases include schistosomiasis, meningitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and HIV/AIDS. Traditional healing methods and preparations continue to be the most widely used form of health care. Every small town has an herbalist, and one market in Lomé specializes in the sale of  medicinal herbs.


As in much of Africafootball is the most popular sporting pursuit. Until 2006, Togo was very much a minor force in world football, but like fellow West African nations such as SenegalNigeria and Cameroon before them, the Togo- lese national team finally qualified for the World Cup. After their outing as World Cup underdogs, Togo gained support throughout the world.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License