Despite the global financial meltdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West African country Togo is perhaps the unique example having recorded significant growth and protecting jobs.
According to the statistics available from International Labor Organization (ILO) the country bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north has recorded an average 77% employment rate over the past eight years against 64% in sub-Saharan Africa.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Togo’s Public Service and Labour Minister Gilbert Bawara said the growth rate has helped the country to protect jobs. In many other countries, the meltdown led to retrenchment and thereby loss of millions of jobs.
“The private and informal sectors are the main providers of jobs in Togo. Few young people are salaried. The informal sector offers a large recruitment chain,” explained Kera Hodabalo, head of the youth committee of the National Confederation of Workers of Togo.
The minister said the picture was rosier than mentioned in the statistics as they are not being updated periodically. He said besides the informal sector other labor absorbing sectors are not mentioned in the statistics.
“There are jobs created that are unknown to official statistics or sometimes job losses that may occur are not recorded,” he said.
Bawara attributed his country’s positive outlook to government policy which has prioritized employment and the well-being of the youth.
Strategic development plan
He said the national strategic development plan drafted in 2019 has helped in spurring investments, economic activities, job creation as well as providing access to basic social services.
Further, the minister said the mining and agricultural sectors, besides the advantageous position of Togo which has a deep-water port have also helped in job creation.
He said after the outbreak of COVID-19 that also led to lockdowns, the government offered relief or moratorium in tax collections and announced a national solidarity and recovery plan worth more than seven billion dollars.
“Estimates on the growth rate placed the country around 0.4%-0.8% of growth for the year 2020. But we have recorded a growth rate of nearly 2%. This means that despite the crisis and the negative impact of a pandemic, we have shown remarkable resilience,” he said.
The minister admitted that the pandemic did hit national and international traffic that hit trade and commerce activities.
“Many of our citizens who used to trade across the Atlantic had to stop because of the restrictions. The importation of raw materials and inputs is restricted for some businesses that operate with raw materials that are not necessarily available locally,” he added.
Bawara said despite such restrictions, the government ensured that companies can have a certain amount of facility and flexibility to source and export. He said besides ensuring the economic activity continues to move, the government also worked to address health issues and ensure minimal deaths and infections.
According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the country with a population of 8 million, has recorded 12,931 COVID-19 infections with 123 deaths. It has also administered 160,000 vaccine doses.