The Togolese economy is still largely agrarian. Agricultural land makes up more than 70% of Togo’s land area, while the agricultural sector accounted for 23% of GDP in 2018, according to World Bank data. The sector is also key to many citizens’ livelihoods, with more than 60% of the population employed in small-scale farming.

Larger farming operations are also key to the Togolese economy. Cash crops such as coffee, cocoa and cotton make up about 20% of the country’s export earnings, and growth in the agricultural sector’s output rose from 3.95% in 2010 to 7.7% in 2017, according to its Ministry of Agriculture. 

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To bolster such growth and improve social inclusion, agricultural transformation from production to processing is a central tenet of Togo’s national development plan (PND) 2018-22. It is hoped that the successful development of the agricultural sector will reduce Togo’s significant regional disparities and boost food security. 

Poverty incidence is above 90% in Togo’s bottom three prefectures, which are all located in rural areas, according to the World Bank. This compares with 15% poverty in its top three prefectures, located in its southern Maritime region. “The agricultural sector represents the greatest potential in terms of business opportunities and rapid job and wealth creation, particularly for young people and women,” says Togo’s agricultural minister, Noël Koutera Bataka.

Agropole pilots 

With a hope to foster its agro-processing industry, Togo has a pilot agropole [agricultural growth pole] project in Kara, its second northern-most region. The government has mobilised CFA Fr38bn ($62.5m) for the Kara project, and hopes to develop 10 such agropoles by 2030, including the launch of two further projects in the next three years.    

“The [central] Plateaux region is one of the most interesting for agriculture, particularly given the help from the government’s agricultural risk-sharing initiative,” says Kanka-Malik Natchaba, the head of Togo’s presidential unit for delivering strategic projects.

A mechanism promoting agricultural financing was recently launched in Togo to help both small-scale farmers and larger investors in the agricultural sector. Through the facilitation of agricultural financing, the mechanism aims to share the risk of agricultural operations across Togo. 

Despite the agricultural sector having ample potential due to its favourable climate, “Togo, like its neighbours, is also vulnerable to the vagaries of nature, with specific regards to drought”, says Sandra Johnson, delegate minister in Togo’s coordinator-business climate unit.

Togo is at a high risk of wildfire across all five regions, for example. It is at medium risk of water scarcity across four of its regions, according to natural disaster risk tool ThinkHazard!, while the northern-most Savanes region, which borders Burkina Faso, is at high risk of water scarcity.

Development organisations such as the World Bank and the German corporation for international co-operation, known as GiZ, have long provided support for Togo’s agriculture to boost resilience to such natural shocks.

Phosphate prowess

Beyond agropoles, the PND outlines plans to develop manufacturing and mining poles. Togo has some 60 million metric tonnes of phosphate reserves, which the government hopes to leverage to provide cost-effective fertilisers for its agricultural transformation.

The government’s plans are bearing fruit. Nigeria-based conglomerate Dangote Group announced an investment of $2bn to develop a phosphate processing plant in November 2019, according to greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets. Dangote also joined other investors, including Germany-based HeidelbergCement and Burkina Faso-based CimMetal Group, in opening a new cement manufacturing facility. 

Meanwhile, Canada-based Logistik Unicorp, a producer of corporate and government uniforms, announced plans to open a new manufacturing facility in April 2019. It was Togo’s first foreign investment project in textiles and is expected to create 500 new jobs.