A New Journey Together
The 50-year friendship between the people of China and Togo is enduring as the flowing Mono River and stands firm as the towering peaks of Mount Agou.
On September 19, 1972, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Togo formally established diplomatic relations. Over the past 50 years, under the strategic guidance of the leaders of both countries and the joint efforts of people from all walks of life, the traditional friendship between China and Togo has been deepened and practical cooperation in various fields has been fruitful, benefiting the people of both countries. The bilateral ties have been marked by sincere friendship and solidarity with the two countries making progress hand in hand.
Enduring mutual trust
In October 1971, Togo voted for the People’s Republic of China to resume its legal seat in the United Nations. In September of the following year, China and Togo formally established diplomatic relations. Since then, the two sides have maintained extensive high-level exchanges, and the leaders of the two countries have met many times to point out the direction for the development of bilateral relations. Over the past half century, regardless of the changes in the international environment, the traditional friendship between the two countries has withstood the test of time and hardships.
The two countries have always respected each other and worked together for common goals. They firmly support each other on issues involving their core interests and major concerns and maintain close communication and coordination on major international issues. This has made the bilateral relations a role model of China-Africa relations and South-South cooperation.
In recent years, high-level exchanges between the two countries have increased, with closer political party cooperation and frequent in-depth parliamentary exchanges. These have led the bilateral relations to grow steadily. In September 2018, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé visited China and attended the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The two heads of state reached important consensuses, opening a new phase in the development of China-Togo relations. In 2020, during the most difficult period in China’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, President Gnassingbé sent a letter to President Xi to encourage the Chinese people to fight against COVID-19. After the outbreak of the pandemic in Togo, President Xi also wrote to President Gnassingbé several times to express his support for the fight against the pandemic in Togo.
After 50 years of development, the friendship between China and Togo is now prosperous. Through the test of the pandemic, the mutual trust between the two sides has become more solid. Looking ahead, China and Togo will adopt a broader vision and jointly draw a grand blueprint for the future development of bilateral relations.
China-Togo cooperation has borne fruit. From the coast of the Gulf of Guinea to the northern inland, the parliament building, president office building, administrative center, conference building in Kara, Tomdè Regional Central Hospital and other facilities built with China’s assistance are testimony of the friendship between the two countries. During the FOCAC Beijing Summit in September 2018, China and Togo signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In recent years, the two sides have intensified implementation of the eight major initiatives and nine programs announced at FOCAC meetings and further aligned the BRI with Togo’s national development plans. This has resulted in expanded and deepened cooperation with enriched connotation.
The Lomé Container Terminal built with Chinese investment and operated with Chinese participation is functioning well. The Lomé–Tokoin International Airport and its expansion, as well as the first and second phases of the Lomé Bypass have been built and put into use one after another, which have greatly enhanced Togo’s position as a hub for regional trade and logistics.
China’s agricultural cooperation programs in Togo have helped local farmers increase yield and income. Agricultural product processing companies such as Anié Sugar Complex have boosted local employment and urban and rural development. Projects such as the Kégué Stadium and radio and television facilities have enriched people’s access to sports and recreational activities.
In the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the bilateral trade between China and Togo has maintained growth, with a total trade volume of $3.49 billion in 2021, up 32.87 percent year on year, and China has been Togo’s largest trading partner and one of its main sources of investment for many years. The second session of the Mixed Commission for Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation between China and Togo was successfully held in August 2021, which pointed out the direction for further promoting cooperation between the two countries in the fields of trade and investment.
It is worth mentioning that in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two countries have always stood by each other to overcome the difficulties together. The Chinese Government as well as China’s local governments and private sectors donated a large amount of medical and anti-pandemic supplies to Togo, including hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccine. Video conferences were held where Chinese experts shared their experience in fighting the pandemic with their Togolese colleagues. Support was provided to transform the Lomé Regional Central Hospital built with Chinese assistance into a designated hospital for the treatment of COVID-19. These actions helped protect people’s lives and health. The cooperation in fighting the pandemic represents further deepening of the traditional friendship between China and Togo and is another vivid interpretation of the pragmatic cooperation between the two countries in the new era.
Closer people-to-people ties
The 50-year friendship between the people of the two countries is enduring as the flowing Mono River and stands firm as the towering peaks of Mount Agou. Since 1974, China has sent 461 medical workers in 25 medical aid missions to Togo, who have been treating patients and saving lives in China-aided hospitals and providing voluntary medical services for people in rural areas and disadvantaged groups. China has also donated medical supplies such as anti-malarial drugs and mosquito nets.
The series of activities aiming to consolidate friendship among people in China and Togo have benefited local women, girls, orphans, people with disabilities, low-income people and other socially disadvantaged groups. They are welcomed by the Togolese people and have become an example of how China-Togo friendship is deepened with respect to improving people’s wellbeing.
Over the years, a large number of Togolese students have applied for Chinese government scholarships to study in China, and people from various sectors have been invited to China for short-term training or exchanges. The Chinese language and culture are becoming increasingly popular in Togo, with Togolese proficient in Chinese and familiar with Chinese culture active in various sectors of China-Togo cooperation and exchanges. The Confucius Institute in the University of Lomé, established 13 years ago, has become a window for the Togolese to understand China and an important platform for cultural exchanges between the two countries.
Chinese nationals in Togo are concerned about the local people. For more than 10 years, they have been contributing to the local community by donating supplies, which is a powerful testimony of the people-to-people bonds becoming increasingly tighter.
Looking back at the past half a century, China and Togo have treated each other as equals with mutual respect and trust and have forged a deep fraternal friendship. Standing at the starting point of a new journey, both countries will continue to adhere to the principles of mutual respect and mutual benefit, maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges, deepen the alignment of development strategies, tap into potential for pragmatic cooperation, promote more achievements in various fields of cooperation, and ensure that the friendship between the two countries will be passed on for generations to come.
Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, both sides have been making unremitting efforts to promote key programs such as rural water conservancy, supply of medical equipment and agricultural technical assistance, promote the export of Togo’s quality agricultural products to China, and continue to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Togo, which will bring more tangible benefits to the people of both countries.
I firmly believe that, with the mighty strength pooled by China and Togo, we will push bilateral relations to a new level, build a closer community with a shared future, and open a new chapter of friendship in the new era.
The author is the Chinese Ambassador to Togo.