Togo: the heart of West Africa.

Author:Gnassingbe, Faure
Position:TOGO - Dialogue with Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe - Interview
 
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After a period of political and economic stagnation, the West African nation of Togo has bounced back remarkably strongly. The country's young president, Faure Gnassingbe has restored political stability and supervised a series of far-reaching reforms. Using Singapore as a model, the country's economic planners are anticipating a period of sustained growth over the medium term.

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Economic overview

Togo is an elongated finger of land tucked in between Ghana on the east and Benin to the west. It is a small country by West African standards, at only 56,780 sq km, but it occupies a prime strategic position along the Gulf of Guinea. The capital of the country, Lome, also has the only deep sea port on the West African coast and it operates 24 hours a day all year round. There is a free trade zone attached to the port.

Around 75% of the 7 million population is engaged in agriculture, which accounts for 45% of GDP. Phosphate mining, cement manufacture, construction and energy production account for 22% of GDP while the services sector, dominated by commerce and transport, employs about 21% of the population and generates about 33% of GDP.

Economic activity Agriculture and Fisheries 43.9 Construction 3.7 Electricity and water 3.0 Finance and Business 4.3 Government services 7.9 Manufacturing 9.2 Mining and quarrying 4.6 Other Services 7.8 Transport and Communications 5.6 Trade 10 Note: Table made from bar graph. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The most important exports are cement and clinker, which go to the West Africa regional market, followed by cotton. They are processed and marketed by public enterprises.

Economic growth is estimated to be at 4% in 2011; inflation was under 3% in 2010. This growth is underpinned by the agricultural sector's strong performance in 2009/10.

Political overview

For 15 years from 1990, Togo was the victim of a series of political conflicts which almost paralysed economic development - although, despite the instability, the country's strategic location in West Africa, its deep water port at Lome, its free zones and its phosphate, cotton and cement exports enabled the country to deliver a measure of development to its citizens. Nevertheless, important relations with multilateral institutions were severed and the country was virtually cut off from the outside world.

With the passing of the old guard, the deadlock was finally broken a few years ago but the nation could have gone either way. Fortunately for the Togolese, the young generation of leaders has proved itself remarkably pragmatic.

The first major political breakthrough came in 2006 when the main competing parties signed a Comprehensive Political Agreement. A national union government was formed following the agreement and succeeded in organising early legislative elections in October 2007, which marked Togo's return to political normalisation and the creation of a peaceful social climate.

Last year, the country held what was hailed as its first free presidential election. Independent monitors gave the polls the all-dear and Faure Gnassingbe was elected president in March 2010.

The first item on his agenda was to try and complete the process of reconciliation that had brought the country to this positive point. He gave seven of the 30 ministerial positions to the main opposition party, led by Gilchrist Olympio.

A series of sweeping reforms in the economic, political and social spheres followed and positive results came swiftly.

Following a successful completion of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) process, the country's external donors cancelled 82% ($1.8bn) of Togo's debt. The head of the IMF delegation to Togo expressed...

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