Togo: Faure Gnassingbé hits the gas!

Saturday, 21 December 2019 12:53
Togo: Faure Gnassingbé hits the gas!

(Togo First) - Togo has been piling up successes for the past two years. Among these is Lomé’s port becoming West Africa’s leading port, beating Lagos’; or the country’s amazing leap, up 59 places, in the Doing Business rankings. Investors from Europe, Asia, the US, have put their trust in this economy’s future. Its parliament has adopted, at unanimity, a new constitution. These are achievements lauded by the IMF, the World Bank, and the PNUD...Looking at the tremendous shifts, one may wonder what grace had touched President Faure Gnassingbé, enabling him to turn a nation that was highly criticized in the past into a model of governance and growth? 

On August 19, 2017, the Pan-African National Party (PNP) called for protests against an arbitrary ruling of Faure Gnassingbé. However, conflicts arose after protesters in Lomé failed to respect initially agreed itineraries. Official data reported two dead and many wounded amid the tensions. 

Ending “the Gnassingbé dynasty.” That was the objective of the protests which lasted weeks, with frequent conflicts. The International Community is stirred up and western media are making the headlines, adding without distinction the years of rule of the actual leader to his father’s.  

As civil peace is threatened, Faure Gnassingbé agrees to mediation by the Presidents of Guinea and Ghana, Alpha Condé and Nana Akufo-Addo. The two leaders successfully restore a national dialogue, enabling the ECOWAS to draw a plan to end the crisis. This plan proved to be successful as two years later, the country seems to have fully recovered, with its economy being more dynamic than ever, in all its 60 years of independence. Still, Faure Gnassingbé had to overcome many obstacles to achieve such feats. 

1Faure Gnassingbé lance les travaux des ponts Koumongou et Kara 1

Faure Gnassingbé had to overcome many obstacles to achieve such feats. 

Faure Gnassingbé was born on June 6, 1966. He was only seven months when his dad, at the time Lieutenant-colonel Eyadema Gnassingbé, came into power. The youth would then have a very strict upbringing, attending a protestant junior high school and later the French military senior high school. He is brilliant. After graduating with honors, he continues his studies in Finance Management at the University of Paris-Dauphine. He then gets an MBA at the George Washington University, U.S. At 33 years, he becomes deputy, and four years later a minister. So far, so good. 

In February 2005, his father dies, leaving behind an exhausted economy. Lenders have been turning their backs on the country, for the previous 12 years. Truth is, throughout his 38 years of governance, the late Eyadema Gnassingbé ruled Togo with an iron hand. Opposing him would not have been the smartest move. However, the “Father of the Nation” as he was known did loosen his grip near the end of his rule, amending the press code and freeing nearly 500 political prisoners; a change of heart which failed to satisfy Brussels. The latter demanded an electoral code that would be accepted by the opposition.

Afterward, the army picked young Faure to take his father’s place. He, therefore, resigned as a minister and runs for the presidency, with the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) party, the ruling party since 1969.

A dire challenge awaited him as the treasury was depleted, the country could no longer count on the support of the IMF or the World Bank, arrears were piled, social services and infrastructure were in a poor state, and the military was strongly established. All things considered, this was not the best of legacies…

Faure Gnassingbé was elected with 60% of the votes, an outcome vehemently opposed by the opposition. Many conflicts followed killing, according to the UN, 400 to 500 people and displacing around 40,000. Regardless, the international community validates the elections, while demanding democratic progress. Two years later, in 2007, the country organized legislative elections deemed pluralist and transparent by the European Union (EU). That year, which was described as “historical for Togo” by the French newspaper “Le Monde,” the UFC, the party of the opposition, had 21 deputies joining the parliament. Lenders then start returning, France first. The EU restarts financing the economy which, slightly and slowly, begins its recovery. The State even cleared its debts to cotton farmers who had lost all hope of getting back what was owed them.

The following year, the country got €212 million in debt relief from the World Bank. The Paris Club (Club de Paris) also cleared a ridiculous debt of €273 million the country had contracted. And though the young leader was making a good impression, the battle was far from won...

2Visite de travail en Côte dIvoire

The young leader was making a good impression.

During the 38 years that Faure’s father ruled, a ruling class had been established and they were not willing to give up their privileges or prerogatives. Among them was Faure’s own brother, Kpatcha Gnassingbé. In 2009, tensions between the two siblings rise. On the evening of Easter that year, the President was informed that Kpatcha was preparing a Coup d’Etat. Exposed, the fomenter hides at the U.S embassy. Unfortunately for him, the Americans handed him over to the Togolese justice which condemned him to 20 years’ imprisonment. And while many questioned this turn of events, the message was clear: Everyone got in line. 

This was just one of many roadblocks Faure Gnassingbé would have to overcome. 

First, he focused on healing a country that had suffered decades of clashes. He then establishes the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (CVJR), an entity that listens to victims of political clashes, understands what happened, how it happened, and how to prevent them in the future, thus preserving peace. The CVJR also compensates these victims, cover related medical expenses, and promotes forgiveness and reconciliation. In 2018 alone, it was provided a budget of XOF5 billion to run its operations. The commission has 11 members, each coming from different religious, political, and social families across the country. While it was established by the government, it must be emphasized that it is autonomous. 

The President grappled with a deep-rooted corruption while trying to lay the foundations for a strong economic development. In March 2011, he formed the Togo Presidential Investment Advisory Council, comprising key African and international figures. Among them are the Nigerian mogul Aliko Dangote, Alec Erwin (former South African minister and head of UNCTAD), French Anne Lauvergeon (former head of Areva), German Jürgen Schrempp (ex-chairman of Daimler-Chrysler), Ghanaian Samuel Jonah (ex-chairman of AngloGold Ashanti), and the Nigerian Arnold Ekpe who was Ecobank’s MD at the time the council was formed. 

3FEG Blair canapé

Tony Blair: "Now we have the opportunity to attract investors here. "

From there, things were getting clearer with the conception of a definite strategy. The latter focuses on improving the country’s business climate, modernizing administration, reforming agriculture (PNIASA and MIFA), boosting private investment, providing electricity to as many people as possible, aiding the least favored, and backing business projects of youths and women, in line with a social mandate started in 2015. After pledging to set aside 20% of procurement for young entrepreneurs, the government decides to increase this share to 25%. A move which, according to Lomé, falls under the social component of its national development plan, the PND. 

March 2019. Faure Gnassingbé launches this new plan which was designed with major advising firms but also some competent local youths. The strategy expands over five years and aims to “structurally transform the Togolese economy,” by generating many jobs and wealth. 


“This is not just another plan, nor a theoretical tool.”

The people of Lomé criticized the project since its precursor, the SCAPE, didn’t make a very good impression; it exploded public debt and subsequently pushed the IMF to set some recommendations for the economy to recover. Privatizations, strict reforms: Many fear that old demons will resurface. However, “Tchalevi simple” (simple man), as President Gnassingbé is nicknamed, reassures them: “This is not just another plan, nor a theoretical tool. This, the leader affirms, is an inclusive plan”. 

In the months to follow, Faure Gnassingbé started a roadshow that took him and other officials all around the globe. This is the opportunity for the President to invite investors and businessmen worldwide to support Togo’s growth ambitions. To convince them, he implements a series of reforms, forms diplomatic alliances, well, he goes all out. As a result, the PND is lauded by great economists (Carlos Lopes, Dominique Strauss-Khan, Lionel Zinsou, Benedict Oramah, Ade Ayeyemi, Gilbert Houngbo, Akinwumi Adesina…). However, the private sector must still be convinced, as it is expected to provide 65% of funds needed for the development plan.

To achieve this, Faure wants to give his country the reputation of one where doing business is easiest. He wins this bet and Togo is listed, by Mo Ibrahim, as one of the continent’s top reformers. The country even gained 59 places in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. The next challenge is to improve Togo’s position in Transparency International’s corruption perception index.

5Faure Gnassingbe High Level Meeting on post Ebola Monrovia 12 Avril 2017 b

Today, Togo’s move at the international level is paying off.

Today, Togo’s move at the international level is paying off. Investors from Japan, France, China, Germany, UK, and many others are flocking to the country. Africa’s richest, Aliko Dangote pledges more than $2 billion in industrial investments. Another mogul, Jack Ma, promised to support Togolese entrepreneurs. More and more businesses are being created. Young Togolese are getting more exposure through their initiatives and innovations. Gnassingbé’s development plan is launched. Now all eyes are turned toward the future.

Next year, the country will hold presidential elections. If the Togolese people are charmed by these positive changes, Faure Gnassingbé could very well secure another five-year term to advance Togo.

Dominique Flaux

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