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Togo: Political and Socio-Economic Development (2015 – 2017)

Kohnert, Dirk (2017): Togo: Political and Socio-Economic Development (2015 – 2017). Forthcoming in: Bertelsmann Transformation Index - BTI 2018. Political Management in International Comparison. Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Foundation (1 October 2018): pp. 1-43.

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The presidential elections of 25 April 2015 resulted in a victory for the incumbent, Faure Gnassingbé. Thus, he secured his third five-year term, consolidating the Gnassingbé-clan’s grip on power. The latter have ruled the country since 1967. In view of the ruling party’s absolute parliamentary majority, further meaningful constitutional and electoral reforms that would have been required for free and fair elections have been postponed indefinitely. Overriding concerns for stability in West Africa in view of the growing threat from Islamist terrorist organizations, combined with Togo’s role as contributor of soldiers meant that the international community largely ignored the government’s indefinite postponement of democratic reforms and local elections. However, the simmering discontent of hardliners within the security forces and the ruling party remained evident. The opposition tried unsuccessfully to overcome internal divisions between its moderate and radical wings. An alliance of opposition parties and civil society groups organized frequently peaceful demonstrations in opposition to the regime, which were violently suppressed. Yet, the human rights record of the government has improved but remains poor. A tense political climate persisted due to the presidential elections in April 2015, and the apparent determination of the president to stay in power for a third and possible a fourth term whatever the cost. Despite undeniable improvements to the framework and appearance of the regime’s key institutions during the review period, democracy remains far from complete. However, the international community, notably Togo’s African peers, the AU and ECOWAS, as well as the Bretton-Woods Institutions, China and the European Union (EU), followed a ‘laissez faire’ approach in the interests of regional stability and their national interests in dealing with Togo. Economic growth remained stable at about 5% per annum. Public investment in infrastructure (e.g. roads, harbor) and increases in agricultural productivity, notably of export crops, had been the key drivers of economic growth. However, growth remains vulnerable to external shocks and the climate and has not been inclusive. Positive growth was overshadowed by increasing inter-personal and regional inequality as well as an increase in extreme poverty. Moreover, money laundering and illegal money transfers grew alarmingly. The business climate improved considerably nevertheless. Though the World Bank still defines Togo as low income, fragile stat, the government aims to achieve the status of a developing economy.

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