Five things to know about TogoThu, 25 Apr 2024 06:26:32 GMT

Togo goes to the polls on April 29 in legislative and regional elections amid tensions over the contested rule of the same family for more than half a century.Here are five facts about the small West African nation which counts among its most famous figures the football legend Emmanuel Adebayor.- Family dynasty –One family has held power in Togo since 1967, when Gnassingbe Eyadema took over in a military coup, seven years after independence from France.When he died in 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbe was named by the military as his successor, and he has since won three elections that the opposition claimed were marred by irregularities. Earlier this month, lawmakers gave final approval to a constitutional reform switching to a parliamentary system that opposition parties say will allow Gnassingbe to extend his grip on power.- Crazy for English –In 2022, Togo joined the Commonwealth, the English-speaking club of nations headed by King Charles III.At the time, Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey said membership tapped a “craze” for English seen among several former French colonies in Africa looking to build alliances with the English-speaking world.Commonwealth membership for Francophone states is considered a way of pivoting away from France, according to analysts, with the former colony’s influence sometimes blamed for a nation’s economic woes.- Jihadist spillover –Since late 2021, northern Togo has faced growing threats of a spillover from jihadist conflicts across the border with Burkina Faso and Mali.A state of emergency, in place since June 2022, has since been extended for another 12 months in Togo’s northern Savanes region.The government in November reported that more than 30 people had been killed in 2023 in “terrorist” attacks in the country’s north.Benin, Ghana and Ivory Coast — all Togo’s neighbours — also face threats of incursions from jihadist groups that operate in the Sahel and are seeking to move south.- Nana-Benz traders -In their heyday of the 1960s to 1980s, a group of savvy Togolese businesswomen made their fortune in the loincloth trade and stood out for driving around in expensive Mercedes Benz cars.Gaining fame with their wax-printed fabrics and giving a boost to Togo’s economic development, they became known as the “Nanas Benz”, a term combining the cars and the French word “nana” meaning “woman”.In a sign of their enduring appeal, a Togolese musical trio, who pioneer a style of digital voodoo, have called themselves “Nana Benz” and toured Europe in 2023 with songs championing a strong female identity.And young Togolese women known as “nanettes” have also drawn on the heritage of the famous businesswomen, with designs appearing on the catwalk destined both for local and foreign markets.- Deepwater seaport -A major economic powerhouse for the country, Togo’s deepwater seaport in the capital Lome has long been a key source of trade for neighbouring countries in West Africa, including Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.Its traffic increased slightly between 2022 and 2023, reaching the government objective of 30 million tonnes of goods handled.But its role as the leading trade hub in the region faces increased competition from ports in neighbouring countries, notably Ghana and Ivory Coast.