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Posted on Monday, 23 November 2015 10:00

Togo Country Profile 2015: Five more for Faure

By The Africa Report

altPresident Faure Gnassingbé is slated to win the March 2015 presidential elections, giving him a third term in office.

While the economy continues to grow, people complain that public services remain poor. In October 2014 the country's two main opposition alliances chose Jean-Pierre Fabre of the Alliance Nationale pour le Changement as its sole candidate for the polls.

Recalling past electoral violence and the unwillingness of the ruling party to accept term limits or a two-round presidential vote, many oppositionists did not rate Fabre's chances.

On the political front, despite the opposition's attempts to push for institutional and constitutional reforms, 2014 was mostly a year of electoral preparations.

Opposition leaders from the Collectif Sauvons le Togo and the Coalition Arc-en-Ciel umbrella groups called for international mediation in the process in order to avoid the tension and conflict of the elections in 2005 and 2010.

They say that President Gnassingbé owes his political position to the constitution that his father, autocrat Gnassingbé Eyadéma, designed without term limits before he died in power.

An agenda for reform was agreed by the regime and the opposition in a global political accord signed in 2006, but several attempts at dialogue between the two sides failed in 2014.

Calls for reform

The opposition groups' leaders argue that interior minister Gilbert Bawara is regularly interfering with the day-to-day running of the Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante.

Fabre regularly calls Togo a dictatorship and has campaigned for reforms of the constitutional court and media regulation agency, institutions that he says support the ruling party.

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The 2015 polls mark the first time that President Gnassingbé will go to the polls under the banner of his own party. In order to sweep away the barons of his father's party, the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais, he founded the Union pour la République in 2012. He is running on his economic record, which he strengthened in his second term of office by increasing spending on roads and electricity projects.

As a consequence of the government's efforts, Togo also rose 15 places in the World Bank's 2015 Doing Business report.

Agriculture, construction and mining are the main sectors contributing to Togo's recent economic growth. The expansion of Lomé's port and international airport are two important projects.

France's Bolloré is investing €450m ($563m) in improvements at the port. The third quay was inaugurated in October 2014 and Bolloré plans to triple the port's capacity to 1.2m containers per year by 2024.

The government is using a $150m loan from China Exim Bank to more than triple passenger and cargo capacity at the airport. Togo's role in the West African transshipment trade has weakened due to the competition provided by its regional rivals.

Privatising state banks

Analysts expect an uptick in activity when the government finally gets around to the privatisation of Banque Togolaise pour le Commerce et l'Industrie and Union Togolaise de Banque. France's Société Générale bank is also working on setting up operations in the country.

Phosphates account for about 20% of Togo's exports, as do cement and clinker. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been calling for reforms to the phosphates sector, in which the state plays a large role.

The IMF criticises vested interests for blocking reform of the energy, mining and telecoms sectors. The government has been due to award a contract to a private consortium to mine carbonate phosphates and set up a fertiliser plant since early 2014 but has yet to do so. The authorities expect that an investment of about $2bn is necessary to get the projects off the ground.

The IMF warns that Togo's growth is not fighting poverty or inequality. It reported in 2014 that around 60% of the country's population live below the poverty line and that growth has strengthened inequalities in recent years. 

Tax collection remains weak and has yet to match the 1990 level of more than 20% of gross domestic product.

The country is far from meeting the Millennium Development Goals on improved access to water sources and infant and maternal mortality.



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