Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Togo: Four months after pledges to help rebuild Togo - show us the money

Donors are returning to communities like this one in northern Togo's Savannah region (file photo).

Four months after international donors pledged US$12 million to help rebuild Togo – a country emerging from 15 years of donor sanctions – residents in the capital Lomé say they are still waiting to the see the impact of resumed funding.

In response to widespread accusations of rigged elections and human rights abuses in Togo throughout the 1990s, the country’s biggest donors cut back or pulled out. The country lost more than 60 percent of donor funds from 1990 to 2005, according to the UN.

Only after government reforms that culminated in the 2007 legislative election, widely accepted as free and fair, are donors resuming full support.

Jewellery vendor Francoise Adabadji, 35, told IRIN she had heard about the “much-touted donor return,” but is still waiting to see the impact. “Life is still expensive. We do not see any concrete impact from their return. Where is the money? We really don’t see it here in the market.”

She told IRIN that when people have money, she and vendors feel the benefits immediately. “But if people are not getting paid, it is hard for us to make our living.”

More than 90 percent of families in the north and 77 percent in central Togo did not make enough to cover basic needs in 2006, according to the government.

Trickle down

The head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Togo, Rosine Coulibaly, told IRIN donors are re-engaging even if the impact is not obvious. “Contrary to concerns that donors are still sitting on the sidelines, they are actually investing, forgiving debt and launching projects.”

The World Bank is finalising a $13-million loan to the government to strengthen its financial sector, crippled by the government’s inability to pay for commercial services it contracted. The government owes $60 million to private companies, according to a recent international audit conducted for the government.

“It is a vicious circle,” said a World Bank employee working on Togo’s loan who requested anonymity. “Banks rely on government funds, but the government is in debt to private companies.” Most of Togo’s banks are government-owned and -operated. The World Bank project aims to work with the government to restructure its banks to jump-start the private sector.

In addition to financial problems, UNDP’s Coulibaly said the government faces a shortage of qualified workers after donor cutbacks shuttered training institutions. “The country has lost 30 percent of its human resources . This is an enormous challenge for the country.” The UN is working with the government to improve training, she told IRIN.


The director of the National Association of Farmers, Charité Attikpo, said the agriculture sector and its workers were neglected during the country’s “crisis”, which is how residents often refer to the period of donor sanctions. “In Kpélé [120km northwest of Lomé], we cultivate rice and really need tractors and grain huskers to improve rice production.”

The government plans to hold a donor meeting on 30 January to discuss its three-year request for $120 million to improve the grain, cocoa and cereal sectors.

But Attikpo said bigger harvests alone do not guarantee bigger earnings. “We also need better roads so that we can bring rice from our fields to the markets.”

Youths, health

Edgar Buagbe, a second-year law student at the University of Lomé, told IRIN youths are worried about health and employment. “Every youth should have a job and access to health care,” said Buagbe.

More than 30 percent of the working-age population was unemployed in 2006, mostly youths, according to the government.

Buagbe added that free basic health care should be a top government priority. “I see so many deaths, especially those caused by traffic accidents, because people don’t have enough money to pay for care.”

The average life expectancy in Togo in 2006 was 57 years, but people lost eight years to disease and debilitating accidents, leaving 45 “healthy years”, according to the World Health Organization.

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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