Neglected Tropical Diseases in TogoNeglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) tend to prosper in underserved regions, where water quality, sanitation and access to health services are inadequate. NTDs mostly affect the poor and excessively women and children. In Togo, NTDs affect all 40 districts, and about 6 million people have been at risk of contracting at least one illness.

Efforts to Eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases in Togo

Togo eradicated four diseases within 11 years; from 2011 to 2022. It eliminated dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) in 2011, elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis) in 2017, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in 2020 and trachoma in May 2022. The Togolese Ministry of Health has been working with Health and Development International and USAID to end these diseases. Effective measures included:

  • Mass drug administration (MDA) via door-to-door drug distribution,
  • Building awareness about NTDs and treatment via village criers or religious leaders,
  • Training health care workers; and
  • Ensuring adequate drug supply

Additionally, many partnerships and funding have contributed to the success of Togo’s control and elimination of these NTDs. USAID has provided funding for more than nine years through Health & Development International (HDI) and assistance from Family Health International (FHI360). Some other donors are the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Mectizan Donation Program, Sightsavers, The Task Force for Global Health, UNICEF and WHO. The U.S. also provides additional support by enacting a bill called “End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act,” in 2019. This piece of legislation ensures further aid and research efforts to End NTDs in the most vulnerable places across the globe.

Positive Impact on Poverty Reduction

The elimination of these four NTDs indicates significant progress toward healthier life not only for the Togolese but for the poor in the world. Most of NTDs involve considerable suffering and disability. They prevent children from going to school and adults from being able to work. Then the cycle of poverty never ends.

For example, guinea worm disease which usually causes pain and blisters in people’s legs has a long recovery period after surgery. Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic infection, transmitted via bites of an infected mosquito. It affects human lymphatic vessels and causes severe swelling of arms, legs and scrotum. This makes a person unable to ambulate or join church due to disfigurement. If someone is infected with trachoma, they are at risk for vision loss. Repeated infection can severely scar the inside of the eyelid and result in constant pain and light intolerance. If people do not receive treatment, it leads to blindness. Now, the poor, including the Togolese, have more hope to live without going through the pain, stigma, social isolation and disability caused by these diseases.

Final Thoughts

It is exciting that Togo becomes the first country in the world to eliminate four Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This achievement not only improves the well-being of citizens across the country but also lightens the burden on public health. Still, there are other NTDs that pose significant health risks in Togo and other low-income countries. A few of the diseases are onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. Hopefully, with Togo’s continued effort to tackle NTDS, coupled with support from international agencies like USAID, these diseases can also be eliminated sooner rather than later.

– Naomi Kang
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in TogoBetween Ghana and Benin lies Togo, a small country in West Africa, composed of 41 different ethnic groups. With a current population of 8.8 million, it is estimated that nearly half of Togo’s population falls below 18 years of age. Unfortunately, Togo is also known as a major hub for human trafficking operations, as a source, transit and destination for victims.

Human Trafficking in Togo

Tragically, the western border of the Plateau region is often used by traffickers because it provides easy access to major transportation routes between Lomé and Accra. Reports indicate that most Togolese trafficking victims are children who become subjected to either forced labor or prostitution. NGOs and government officials report that devissime markets, meaning ‘small girls markets’ or ‘child markets’ exist in Lomé and elsewhere in the country.

The trafficking networks in Togo are predominantly community-based and organized loosely by local actors. Often, the traffickers visit rural areas in the north and central regions of Togo. They usually target impoverished families in need of money. Reports indicate that the traffickers promise the parents employment for the children and offer an advanced payment. Then, they transport the minors to Lomé, where the children become immersed in forced labor and sex markets. COVID-19 travel restrictions economically hindered Togolese families in the service and retail sectors, leaving them even more vulnerable to exploitation. As a result, the majority of trafficking victims are children from economically disadvantaged families.

Fighting Human Trafficking in Togo

In recognizing the prevalence of human trafficking across the globe, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, establishing guidelines and anti-trafficking policies in order to prevent trafficking, protect trafficking victims and prosecute traffickers. Togo is ranked on the Tier 2 watchlist because the government does not meet the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.

Unfortunately, Togo’s government has not updated its anti-trafficking National Action Plan NAP since 2008. However, in 2020, Togolese officials finalized Togo’s five-year NAP on child labor which partially addresses human trafficking in Togo. Furthermore, the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S Department of State cites that Togolese authorities have prosecuted and convicted more traffickers than in previous years. Togo’s government has also continued an awareness-raising campaign and established a national anti-trafficking committee to coordinate efforts.

Providing Support to Victims

La Conscience, a humanitarian organization, located outside Togo’s capital city of Lomé in Ahépé Kpowla aims to protect human trafficking victims and prevent trafficking from occurring through an integrated service delivery approach. La Conscience provides housing, psychosocial services, educational and financial support and reintegration programs for young human trafficking victims. In order to ensure enrollment in school, La Conscience organizes mobile court hearings with local leaders and judges to obtain birth certificates. The organization also works closely with police and border officers to rescue children that are trafficked. To date, La Conscience’s consistent efforts have helped more than 40,000 people.

The Togolese government’s efforts to combat human trafficking along with nonprofit organizations’ efforts paint a prosperous picture for a future end to human trafficking in Togo.

– Sophie Caldwell
Photo: Flickr

MobileAid in Togo
MobileAid in Togo, also known as the Novissi initiative, is reimaging poverty reduction. A transnational collaboration brought this technology to Togo during the pandemic, and MobileAid in Togo is making such a difference that it could be a model for other countries.

The Problem

The COVID-19 pandemic was disastrous for Togo’s economy. Even prior to the pandemic, more than half of the country’s population lived in poverty. The government of Togo wanted to provide support to its neediest citizens, but conducting door-to-door surveys to do this was not effective and not safe healthwise during the pandemic. Even targeting the poorest cantons (counties) reached only a third of the neediest.

The Transnational Solution

The government of Togo and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at Berkeley University as well as the non-profit organization GiveDirectly worked together to create an efficient system to prioritize aid to those living on less than $1.25 per day. Through international collaboration, the team developed a program using satellite imagery, as well as cellphone metadata to reliably detect levels of wealth to target the neediest Togolese.

CEGA calls the concept, “MobileAid,” and in Togo it is also known as Novissi. Novissi translates to “solidarity” in the indigenous Ewe language.

GiveDirectly is an NGO that organizes mutual aid programs in the United States and around the globe. Its mission statement states, “We believe people living in poverty deserve the dignity to choose for themselves how best to improve their lives – cash enables that choice.”

How MobileAid/Novissi Works

The MobleAid/Novissi program uses ariel imaging to create ‘poverty maps,’ using indicators such as roofing material, the density of houses and the quality of road infrastructure. AI algorithms utilize phone records to identify those living in extreme poverty.

Recipients are invited to self-enroll in the program to receive direct cash payments through their mobile phones. In Togo, 85% of households have access to a cellphone. The MobileAid format provides recipients with aid rapidly and seamlessly. This includes poor rural recipients in need of aid who often fall through the cracks of other state social protection programs. Women receive larger payments due to their status as caretakers.

The Results

In the first three months online, the government of Togo distributed $22 million to 600,000 people. One recipient in Togo reported using aid for food, his children’s school fees and his business which was struggling due to the pandemic. After the initial launch, GiveDirectly pledged another $10 million to the initiative spread amongst 138,000 recipients.

Cina Lawson, Togolese Minister of Digital Economy and Transformation welcomed the innovative program, saying that “We have an institute of statistics that can make a survey on the ground … but we need a quick and effective way to have a poverty map.” She appreciated that Novissi increased the scope of those reached.

Recently, CEGA and GiveDirectly received a $1.2 million grant from the Inclusive Growth and Recovery Challenge. Lauren Russel, CEGA director of operations said that “The grant should allow for the project to be scaled and evaluated even further, with the hope that the methods might be well-suited for adoption by other low- and middle-income countries.”

Other Challenges

Vaccine inequality is extending the personal and economic suffering of COVID-19 in the Global South. Mobile technology can provide aid to countries that the pandemic hit hard. This infrastructure is necessary for future relief, with looming economic hardship not far out of sight. Togolese registered for vaccines through mobile technology.

Many countries in the Global South are suffering from the disproportionate effects of increased environmental challenges. Togo’s economy relies on rainfed agricultural and livestock production. According to World Bank, Togo ranks 135 out of 181 countries at risk of climate abnormalities. Nearly 5 million people live in Togo’s rural areas and are severely susceptible to droughts, floods as well as other environmental disasters. Togolese farmers endure the double burden of pandemics and rapid global heating. Mobile technology could potentially support these farmers through climate emergencies.

Looking Forward

Transnational collaboration and innovation are expanding the possibilities of aid in Togo. With colleagues from Berkeley to Lomé, the MobileAid initiative is tackling poverty reduction and empowering Togolese citizens through direct action. Funding these social innovative programs is critical for expanding the impact and scope of aid distribution. Vaccine inequality and global heating will exacerbate human and economic casualties. MobileAid is a strong new tool for fighting poverty and protecting the world’s most vulnerable populations against future global disasters.

– Samson Heyer
Photo: Flickr

Data Center in LoméIn July 2021, the African country of Togo took another step in its efforts of digital transformation and economic progress as it opened Togo’s first data center in the capital city of Lomé. The construction of the data center in Lomé began three years ago and was funded by a loan from the World Bank and the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Project. The facility is part of the government’s plan for economic development and digital advancement. As Togo attempts to cement itself as a West African hub, Togo has risen about 50 spots in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report in the last couple of years.

Poverty and Economic Development in Togo

Togo has made strides in growth leading up to 2020, but even pre-pandemic, past poverty levels were still high. More than half of the population has been living under the poverty line for years prior to the pandemic, according to the World Bank. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation have lent the government a hand in improving conditions for its people by putting resources into the financial, energy, transportation and manufacturing sectors, which played a major role in Togo’s jump from 137th to 97th place in the Doing Business 2020 report.

Digital Transformation of Togo’s Economy

With investments into Togo’s digital economy and infrastructure, the country plans to grow in its wholesale broadband market and cheapen service costs for its people. The government aims for a complete structural reformation of the Togolese economy. In the hopes of job creation and modernization of key institutions, Togo’s data center was constructed as a part of the long-term investment into digital technology.

Hawa Cissé Wagué, the World Bank resident representative for Togo, tells the World Bank that the pandemic has displayed the necessity of increasing Togo’s digital infrastructure in order to improve services and economic productivity. So far, Togo’s data center and its development have mildly restored its reputation and its future looks bright as foreign investment ramps up with a number of prominent banks in the region choosing to operate and do business within Togo.

Impact of the Data Center in Lomé

The secure, quality and reliable nature of the advanced technology makes the investment into the data center significant in the long run for the Togolese economy. The locally stationed data center will directly impact the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities within the facility itself but it will also have a ripple effect and extend throughout the country, according to government plans. Distributed data centers offer lower transaction costs as well as convenience when it comes to digital regulations. The centers also come with lower geopolitical risks and are safer for data storage.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Community Development Programs in Togo
Togo, a country located in West Africa, has a population of more than 8.2 million. Since 1998, the country has created many community development programs. Its first Agence d’Appui aux Initiatives de Base (AGAIB), which is a Grassroots Initiative Support Agency, was in the Maritime region. AGAIBs aims to help communities develop more income-generating activities and community infrastructures. In 2001, four more AGAIBS began. Since then, the country has continued establishing different community development programs that target impoverished populations. Here is some information about community development programs in Togo.

Poverty in Togo

The United Nations considers Togo one of the Least Developed Countries (LCD) and a Low Income Food Deficit Country (LIFDC). It is one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2018, more than 50% of the population was living below the poverty line. The government’s National Development Plan for 2018-2022 has aimed to promote social and infrastructure services to reduce poverty and improve the overall quality of life. Although the country has high poverty rates, its economy has continued to grow.

Togo’s Economic Development

In the past five years, Togo’s gross domestic product (GDP) has averaged 5.5% growth. The country’s government has created public investment programs to help alleviate demand. Agricultural production and trade have also contributed to this GDP growth. Agriculture makes up 40% of the GDP and more than 60% of employment in Togo. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic momentum could slow as a result of trade tensions and the threat of security. However, its economy still performed well in 2019 with an estimated GDP growth rate of 5.3%. Economists predict that Togo’s GDP growth rate declined to 1% in 2020. Despite this stunt in economic growth, the government and other global partnerships have helped Togo fund different community development programs to reduce poverty rates.

Community Development Programs Fight Poverty Through Microprojects

A microproject is a small-scale project that looks to improve a specific aspect of life for a targeted population. Togo’s Projet de Développement Communautaire (PDC), which began in 2008, is working to improve access to social services for impoverished populations through microprojects in various communities. Its goal was to fund 350 micro-projects in different sectors, like education and health. This project also sought to develop more income-generating activities. PDC was very successful and many consider it Togo’s first big community development program since 1998. After the 2008 global food crisis, PDC provided solutions, specifically agricultural tools, to help alleviate starvation and improve food security. This community project also provided funding to 233 groups to partake in various economic activities in different impoverished communities. The project officially ended in 2013, but still impacts the country today.

Emphasis on Education

PDC helped fund a school feeding program. In 2018, this project reached 85,000 primary school children in 308 schools. One year later, the project increased its availability by 5%, reaching 91,000 children in 314 schools in 2019. Other community development projects have created school canteen programs. These programs not only employ more citizens but also allow for impoverished children to get an education. At least 36,000 children receive benefits from this program. As a result, dropout rates in primary and secondary education have decreased. Although they focus specifically on education, education-community development projects work to reduce poverty in Togo since increasing education allows for more future economic opportunities.

An Expanded Version of PDC

The Community Development and Social Safety Nets Project (PDCplus) formed in 2012, four years after the initial PDC began. Togo’s government and the World Bank help fund this project that works to improve the social and economic situations of impoverished populations in the country. Its strategy, known as the strategy for accelerated growth and the promotion of employment (SCAPE), worked to increase community participation and involvement in the program’s microprojects.

PDCplus completed its mission in 2017. In total, it created 346 micro-projects to improve social infrastructures, 208 micro-projects to develop more income-generating activities, 305 schools with school canteen programs and 196 school buildings. PDCplus was successful like its predecessor PDC, showing how Togo’s community development programs continue to work to reduce poverty rates in the country. The government has continued developing new projects that are similar to PDC and PDCplus due to their successes. As a result, the country has made progress toward mitigating its poverty levels through similar programs.

The Involvement of Impoverished Communities

These community development programs seek to increase citizen participation, specifically through microprojects that provide training for community members. The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Theresa Davidson, a professor and Sociology Program Director at Samford University. She mainly focused on how participation in these programs could impact how effective they are: “If community development is a process that is led by the people there, it will likely be more effective […] because they know what they need.”

These impoverished populations know how these projects will impact their community. Projects like PDC and PDCplus are so impactful in alleviating poverty since its microprojects worked within these communities and relied on their participation. The active involvement of communities with PDC helped make these community development programs so successful in reducing poverty rates. New projects that the government has created need to continue community participation in order to be as successful as its predecessors.

There are many nonprofit organizations in Togo that seek to expand on the progress that these community development programs made. One nonprofit, Education Leadership Community Development, known as EDULCOD Togo, works to improve quality and accessibility to education for impoverished populations. The mission of this organization echoes outcomes from PDC and PDCplus.

This West African country has created many community development programs. PDC and PDCplus have been its most successful projects. These programs range from microprojects aimed at improving social infrastructure and involvement to improving accessible education and feeding programs. Although it ended more than a decade ago, Togo’s government is continuing to enact similar projects to improve its economy. Overall, the community development programs are reducing poverty rates in Togo.

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Pixabay

Novissi GiveDirectly Togo, a West African country home to 8 million people, wants to put money into the pockets of its most vulnerable citizens in order to alleviate some of the economic burdens of COVID-19. The most impoverished Togolese people, however, are often the most difficult to locate as they tend to live in remote areas and have little or no record of income. To address this issue, the government of Togo partnered with researchers at the University of California and the U.S. charity called GiveDirectly. The team is using artificial intelligence to identify pockets of extreme poverty within its borders. The program called Novissi GiveDirectly intends to stabilize the economy by uplifting those most in need.

The Initial Novissi Program

“Novissi” translates to “solidarity” in one of the local languages of Ewe. The initial Novissi program already distributed $22 million via mobile money payments to 600,000 citizens who live in urban areas. Voting registration provided the state with information about a citizen’s financial status and the state used this information to determine eligibility. Then, payment was sent via mobile devices. However, this same methodology could not be applied to the many Togolese who live outside the cities and identify as informal workers. The government wanted to target people in rural areas living on less than $1.25 per day without the means to put themselves on the government’s radar. Presented with this challenge, a second phase of the program emerged: Novissi GiveDirectly.

Novissi GiveDirectly

In Togo, Novissi GiveDirectly utilizes satellite imagery, mobile data and artificial intelligence as a poverty solution. Satellites capture photos from every square kilometer of the country, giving insight into villages’ local infrastructure, the housing materials used and even the size of land plots.

Mobile data also provides researchers with a major clue in the search for those carrying the biggest financial burdens. In general, impoverished people use cellphones less often, receive more calls than they make and have lower mobile money balances. Artificial intelligence then analyzes the mountains of data to identify who is eligible to receive aid from the program by estimating an individual’s wealth. Registration is as simple as a Togolese citizen dialing #855 to register for the program.

The Impact on Locals

Eric Dossekpli is a 49-year-old farmer whose livelihood has experienced a direct impact from COVID-19. His market goods were not selling because people were not buying due to the financial distress of the pandemic. This left him without an income and unable to afford fertilizer to continue growing crops.

When Dossekpli heard about Novissi GiveDirectly, he immediately registered. Once Novissi GiveDirectly confirmed his eligibility, he received an instant mobile payment of $13. Novissi GiveDirectly gives $13 to men and $15 to women every month for five months. Women receive more money due to their roles as caregivers. The money received meant he could pay for his children’s tuition and afford food. “I can’t imagine how I was going to live if not for this money. All I can say is thanks,” said Dossekpli.

The Road Ahead

What makes the program unique is that it operates using data that is already available. This makes it quick and comprehensive, two characteristics that are critical during a crisis. The program aims to distribute $10 million to 114,000 Togolese people over a period of a few months. The Novissi GiveDirectly model is currently being considered for Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Though Novissi GiveDirectly has emerged in response to a crisis, one cannot help but consider the potential benefits of such targeted investments long-term. If $13 can pay for the education of four Togolese children during a global pandemic, a sustained investment of this nature could boost an entire economy, allowing everybody to reap the rewards.

Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Togo
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is female circumcision — a ritualistic practice that occurs in several countries as a rite of passage leading to womanhood where someone removes the external genitalia of a female. Africa, Asia and the Middle East are where FGM is most prevalent. More than 200 million women today have gone through this procedure. This article, in particular, will focus on female genital mutilation in Togo.

About Togo

Togo, a West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea, comprises at least 30 ethnic groups, most being immigrants from other parts of Western Africa. The majority of its population lives in small villages throughout rural areas. For the purpose of economic planning, the country has five regions — Maritime, Plateaux, Centrale, Kara and Savanes.

Togo gained independence from France in 1960. Following this, rifts between the country’s leaders and the rise of coups have left the people to fend for themselves. This has resulted in immense poverty. The year 2009 brought the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. The goal of this commission was to investigate the political violence in the country from 1958 to 2005. The group published its final report in 2012. This report included numerous recommendations such as reforming the electoral system, the judiciary, and military and security forces.

Currently, Togo has an elected president. A 70% majority vote declared Faure Gnassingbé the winner.

Togo Women and FGM Practice

Women in Togo have dealt with inequality for years. Recently, they have gained more opportunities and improvements in equality. Women in Togo have become more involved in politics as well. However, these women tend to have ruling tribal family backgrounds or be successful businesswomen. Women in Togo have also received a much more developed education, and literacy rates have increased. These improvements bring knowledge and awareness of the outlining health problems from FGM. Support for the abandonment of FGM is higher among women whose mothers are more educated.

A percentage of women in Togo still support the practice of genital cutting. Therefore, they remain adamant about their daughters going through with it. Women are the primary guardians of this puberty rite which ties closely to women’s status and power. The use of anesthesia is not common during the procedure.

In Togo, female genital mutilation is highest in Centrale. In fact, 13.5% of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced it. Savanes is the second-highest region with 7.6%. FGM is lowest in the southern Maritime and Plateaux regions with less than 2%. The most common type of FGM that people in Togo practice is the cutting and removal of flesh.

The most common age range for female genital mutilation in Togo is 4 to 14. However, infants and women preparing for marriage can also experience FGM. Sometimes, FGM occurs in women who are pregnant with their first child or who have just given birth. According to a survey from 28 Too Many, 73% of Togo women, aged 15 to 49, have heard of FGM; of these, 94.5% believe the practice must end.

Laws Against FGM

Law No. 98-016, dated November 17, 1998, is the main law relating to female genital mutilation in Togo. This law does not address FGM that health professionals carry out or cross-border FGM procedures. According to the September 2018 Togo law report from 28 Too Many, “Law No. 98-016 bans all forms of female genital mutilation in Togo and defines FGM as the total or partial ablation of the external genital organs of infant girls, young girls or women and/or all other operations concerning these organs.” In November 2015, Togo unveiled a new penal code further criminalizing the practice of FGM.

However, Togo citizens have rarely enforced these established laws. In addition, a limited number of known court cases on the issue have occurred. This is due to the fact most cases had happened in rural areas where there is limited awareness of the law, or “traditional customs often took precedence over the legal system among certain ethnic groups,” according to the report.

Strategies

The year 2016 saw the establishment of a national communication strategy to target traditional practices of FGM. This strategy included the support of the humanitarian aid organization, UNICEF. The strategy targets local community and religious leaders and partners with grassroots organizations to achieve commitments to end the practice. The strategy also educates women on their rights and provides alternative sources of income opportunities for former traditional FGM practitioners.

Many are still highly concerned regarding what to do about female genital mutilation in Togo. The practice, still viewed as a rite of passage for women, continues in rural areas. Several have voiced the urgency for the government to enforce the legislation and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Just like in many other countries today, female genital mutilation is still a massive threat in Togo. Its women are in danger of physical and mental health issues from the procedure. More strategies are ideal, and proper execution of the laws that Togo has put in place will help the women in the country.

– Thomas Williams
Photo: Flickr

Togo’s Evolving GovernmentThe year 2020 brought many different changes to the country of Togo. Because Togo is located in West Africa, its economic sector heavily relies on agriculture. However, drought and wildfires have unfortunately made a grave impact on this sector. Due to a disputed presidential election, Togo has received a substantial amount of refugees from the Ivory Coast seeking safety from political backlash and violence. With the addition of the COVID-19 outbreak, the country now finds itself in a very tight position. On the brighter side, the country recently elected its first female prime minister, who aims to take immediate economic action. This historic event occurred at a crucial time as Togo’s evolving government recently made a substantial investment in crop refining and mineral excavation.

Political Violence in the Ivory Coast

Political violence has plagued many different regions throughout recent history and Southern Africa is no exception. On November 9, 2020, Côte d’Ivoire held its presidential election and Alassane Ouattara won for a third term in a row.

However, the public rejected the results. Before the election, President Ouattara publicly stated that he would not seek reelection after previously serving two consecutive terms. In response, social pressure quickly mounted and heavy acts of violence began to spark.

This led to the deaths of more than a dozen citizens and several civilians faced injuries. Out of concern for their safety, thousands of Ivorian citizens made a mass exodus into nearby countries by seeking asylum. One of these nations is Togo. Of the hundreds of refugees who have come to Togo, most are women and children. With added strife from the pandemic, neighboring countries have been gracious in allowing their borders to remain unclosed. Additionally, there is an expected food shortage looming due to COVID-19, making the situation even more dire. With more citizens expected to arrive daily, authorities are trying to establish and put into place imperative emergency plans.

Togo’s First Female Prime Minister

As the Ivory Coast held its annual presidential election, Togo held its election 711 kilometers to the east. The political outcomes of each of these elections had polarizing results. The 60-year-old country of Togo made history as Togo appointed Victoire Tomegah Dogbé as the first female prime minister. Dogbé is not new to the world of politics and has built an admirable reputation in the Togolese government. She has a strong track record of working in numerous areas for the current President of Togo.

Perhaps one of Dogbé’s most important characteristics is that she understands the struggles of those in poverty. She has put in time with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has strong ties with youth employment creation and poverty reduction efforts. Dogbé’s landmark victory has been long overdue since social resentment has been building toward Togo’s re-elected President Faure Gnassingbé. Gnassingbé held the presidential title since 2005 and has faced severe criticism for his failure to repair the country’s damaged economy. He faces backlash for alleged acts of political corruption and social brutality. Many are eager to see the positive difference that Dogbé’s reform policies will ideally bring to the country. Citizens expect her to use hands-on strategies to help combat the country’s severe lack of equal opportunity.

Possibility for Economic Development with Togo’s Evolving Government

There is now a possibility for real substantial economic development. This possibility emerges from the formation of a new investment deal for the agriculture and mineral utilization industry. Togo is currently executing a planned strategy for natural resource development (PND), which began in 2018 and is scheduled to last until 2022.

PND is poised to use the strengths and resources of what comes naturally to the people of Togo: agriculture. Landmass for agriculture and farming accounts for almost three-quarters of Togo’s area and more than half of the people rely on it for sustainable jobs. In April 2020, fDi Intelligence sat down with Togo’s agricultural minister, Noël Koutera Bataka, to discuss further details of the project. Bataka optimistically stated, “the agricultural sector represents the greatest potential in terms of business opportunities and rapid job and wealth creation, particularly for young people and women.” Local farmers will greatly benefit from this economic investment. Evidently, farmers will have many new opportunities to become involved in the agricultural production process.

In the area of mineral excavation, Togo owns slightly less than 60 tons of raw phosphate, a key ingredient for crop nutrition and various electronics. In late 2019, Dangote Group, a company from Nigeria, decided to move forward with putting $2 billion in capital toward the construction of a phosphate refining facility. Other foreign investors have also come on board for new business ventures in the form of a planned cement refinery and organic fabric creation.

Optimism for a Better Future

The new agricultural industry business venture is an ascending step toward equal prosperity for the people of Togo. While there is much still to be reconciled in the social and political areas of Southern Africa, Dogbé’s victory is sure to set a new precedent for gender equality in African politics. As the first female prime minister in Togo’s evolving government, Dogbé has a unique opportunity to demonstrate her humanitarianism by providing assistance and aid to political refugees. This landmark of history will hopefully encourage future girls and women to follow their ambitions.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr 

Accessible Energy in TogoTogo is a country in western Africa that is bordered by Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. Togo’s government is currently working on increasing the rate of access to electricity for its citizens. The country has already made significant progress, advancing from 17% in 2000 to 35% in 2016. However, there are large disparities in electricity access between urban and rural areas. Electricity rates are 87% in urban areas and only 7% in rural areas. Currently, one million households in Togo are without power.

Togo’s government has set ambitious goals to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030. The country cites three main obstacles to this goal. First, Togo has limited experience with independent power producers. Second, there are technical issues concerning the aging infrastructure. Finally, Togo does not have a plan to integrate on-grid and off-grid connection goals yet.

Initiatives Promoting Rural Accessible Energy in Togo

A large part of Togo’s energy project targets improving access to energy in rural areas. Many rural communities are not reachable by the standard electricity grid. Therefore, the government is looking into various off-grid options to support the three million people who are not reachable by the grid.

In 2017, Togo launched an initiative called “CIZO.” This initiative seeks to increase rural electrification to 40% by the year 2022. In order to do this, the government is working with off-grid companies to offer solar power to rural communities. The goal is to build 300 small solar plants across the country and distribute solar kits to 500,000 households. So far, 35,000 households have received solar kits.

Looking Towards a Renewable Future

In addition to solar energy, Togo is invested in creating other sources of renewable and accessible energy for its communities. The country has a goal of reaching 50% energy from renewable sources.

In July 2020, Togo announced that it will begin the construction of a new biogas reference laboratory at the West African Centre for Scientific Services on Climate Change (WASCAL) at the University of Lomé. As stated by Komi Agboka, director of the WASCAL, “the future laboratory will enable Togo’s enormous biomass potential to be further exploited through the development of research capacity and the demonstration of innovative biogas production technologies.”

The construction of this laboratory is part of the larger Programme for the Development of Renewable Energy in Togo (Pdert) which launched on February 27, 2019. This project will assess Togo’s renewable energy resources, develop the storage and distribution of clean energy, and find economically sustainable models.

Togo’s government emphasis on finding renewable energy sources has garnered international attention. Togo’s Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Agency recently won third place in the Ashden 2020 Award for its renewable energy development policy. This is an award given by the British organization Ashden and seeks to highlight countries that show “systemic innovation for energy access.”

Accessible energy in Togo will take many significant steps to achieve, but with the persistence and commitment of both private energy providers and academic institutions, this goal is realistic. Togo’s renewable energy initiatives show that even without the large budgets of developed countries, it is still possible to make meaningful progress towards sustainable and accessible energy.

– Antoinette Fang
Photo: Flickr