Sekondi Accra

Forty-four-year-old Faure Gnassingbe represents a new generation of leaders in Togo, but one that respects the old style of politics. This should come as no surprise because he succeeded his father as president. After the presidential electoral process was marked by irregularities in March 2010, President Gnassingbe sought to co-opt the main opposition party in order to split and weaken its base. This preserved the Gnassingbe family's and the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT) practical monopoly on political power. The most significant post that the RFT-led government gave to the opposition was the ministry of foreign affairs. In exchange, the government received the tools necessary to govern unimpeded until the next national polls.

In May 2010, the RPT extended an olive branch to Union des Forces du Changement (UFC) when veteran opposition figure and founder of the UFC Gilchrist Olympio signed an agreement for seven UFC members to serve in the cabinet. This created two rival parts of the UFC: one controlled by Olympio and one controlled by Jean-Pierre Fabre. Both the former allies will concentrate on strengthening their bases in 2011 after the division of the opposition camp. The government has recognized Olympio's branch of the UFC, meaning that Fabre will have to build a new party machinery.

Civil society groups and international non-governmental organizations (NGO) criticised President Gnassingbe's tratment of independent-owned media after he sought to sue three papers that published critical articles. In October 2010, however, he decided not to proceed with the suits against La Lanterne, Liberte and Independent Express. Still other papers have been closed because they published articles critical of the president and his family.

On the economic landscape, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) states growth should increase moderately in 2011 to 3.5%, up from 3.3% in 2010. One deficit Togo hopes to correct is that of its current account-the result of strong growth in imports, largely to fund public infrastructure projects. The country recorded a slight increase in clinker exports, but the world economic downturn reduced prices for Togo's principal exports of cotton and phosphates. Togo's cocoa sector, which is an important element of the country's economic diversity, is now under threat from swollen shoot disease. Input subsidies and favorable weather have increased food production, which has helped to control inflation levels. However, the IMF insists that more reforms are needed in the electricity, phosphate and telecommunications sectors.

In the coming year, the plans to increase the economy with bank privitizations and greater investment in the phosphate sector. If all goes according to plan, the government will sell part of its stakes in the Union Togolaise de Banque, Banque Internationale pour l'Afrique-Togo, Banque Togolaise de Developpement and Banque Togolaise pour le Commerce et l'Industrie by the end of 2011. Improvements to the port of Lome are also necessary to enhance the economic benefits brought by transit trade to landlocked parts of West Africa. In 2010, transit trade decreased to levels below those recorded in 2008, but once they rebound they could reach more than more than 2 million tons annually.

The government aims to save more through a constricted fiscal policy, but it will emphasize public investment initiatives to close the gap on a legacy of underinvestment. For this, Togo will largely depend on external assistance, and this dependency should encourage adherence to Bretton Woods style reforms. Pursuit of debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative should reinforce that tendency. Togo should reach the HIPC completion point by early 2011, which should lead to a 90% reduction of Togo's $2.2 billion dollar external debt.


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The U.S. Embassy is located on Boulevard Eyadema, Lome (tel: 228-261-5470/1/2/3). The mailing address is B.P. 852, Lome, Togo (international mail) and AmEmbassy Lome, 2300 Lome Place, Washington, DC 20521-2300 (by diplomatic pouch).
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