Togo – China: Development plans amid questionable record

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China has promised to fund agriculture, health care and education in Togo as Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited the West African nation to sign a deal for a six million euro grant.

The Chinese envoy who was hosted by Togolese Foreign Minister Elliott Ohinho is on an African tour and is set to aid a country which has for years been the target of criticism over its human rights record and political governance.

China has financed a significant number of projects in Togo, including construction of the country’s largest stadium. A new engagement in Togo would be in the form of funding agriculture, healthcare and education.

Mr. Yang visited the tomb of the country’s former dictator who ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years until his death in 2005, to pay respect to the long-serving leader whose son is now president.

Diplomatic relations between Togo and China were renewed when Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe visited China in 2006. A renewal that has been reciprocated by the visit of China’s foreign minister Yang.

“In recent years, especially since the state visit by Mr. Gnassingbe to China in 2006, relations between the two countries have moved on an accelerated course of development, marked by unfailing mutual political trust,” Yang told reporters, speaking through a translator.

Mr. Yang held talks with Gnassingbe in the city of Kara and visited a Chinese-built hospital.

Togo is endowed with phosphates and cotton even though it is among the poorest nations in West Africa. However, China, which has invested heavily in Africa as it seeks to fulfill its growing need for natural resources, is looking to exploit resource opportunities in Togo.

Gnassingbe who is excited to receive funding from China was installed by the Togolese military as president in 2005. But following intense local and international pressure he stepped aside and called elections. According to the United Nations, hundreds died challenging his victory in those polls.

Togo however remains among the world’s poorest countries. Isolation has further aggravated its weak economy. It continues to face international pressure to hold credible parliamentary elections and improve its human rights record.

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