Reaching the Nations

Togo

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area:  square km.  Located in West Africa and occupying a small strip of land between Benin and Ghana, Togo runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the south to Burkina Faso on the north.  Togo is one of the smaller countries in Africa in geographical size, but experiences a wide range of climate as the tropical south gradually transitions to the semi-arid savannahs of the north in the Sahel.  Terrain consists of low elevation plains and flatlands with marshes and lagoons along the coast.  Reduced visibility caused by harmattan winds and occasional droughts are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include deforestation and pollution.  Togo is divided into five administrative regions.

Population: 6,771,993 (July 2011)       

Annual Growth Rate: 2.762% (2011)    

Fertility Rate: 4.69 children born per woman(2011)    

Life Expectancy: 60.19 male, 65.3 female (2011)

Peoples

African: 99%

other: less than 1%

There are over 20 indigenous ethnic groups with most of the population concentrated along the Atlantic Coast and the north-south highway.  The largest of these are the Ewe, Mina and Kabye.  The Ewe and Mina are most prevalent in the south whereas the Kabye reside in northern areas.  The Ewe constitute approximately one-fifth of the population and account for many of Togo's professionals, merchants, and civil servants due to greater European influence in the south during the colonial period.[1] 

Languages: Ewe (14%), Kabye (11%), Gbe dialects (7%), Tem (3%), Gen (3%), Moba (3%), Ikposo (3%), Aja (2%), Nawdm (2%), Gourmanchema (2%), Lama (2%), Ife (2%), Ntcham (2%), Fulani (1%), other or unknown (43.8%).  French is the official language and language of commerce.  English is commonly spoken in the south and long the Ghanaian border.[2]  No indigenous languages have over one million speakers.  There are 13 indigenous languages with over 100,000 speakers.   

Literacy: 60.9% (2003)

History

Many of the African ethnic groups that populate Togo today migrated to the area from neighboring areas, such as the Ewe from the Niger River valley between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.  The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore coastal areas in the fifteenth century, following which various European powers raided native populations to supply the slave trade for the next two centuries, naming the area "The Slave Coast."  Germany established the protectorate of Togoland in present-day Togo in 1884 and maintained rule until 1914 when British and French forces invaded and captured the colony.  Following World War I, France and the United Kingdom shared a League of Nations mandate over Togoland until after World War II when the United Nations appointed both nations to administer Togoland as a UN trust territory.  In 1957, British Togoland united with the Gold Coast to form the nation of Ghana and French Togoland became the independent nation of Togo in 1960 after several years of increasing autonomy.  Political instability followed shortly thereafter, resulting in a coup in 1967 which overthrew the government and culminated in the establishment of a military-led government under Etienne Eyadema which endured until 2005.  General Eyadema granted some democratic freedoms in the early 1990s when  multi-party elections were first held.  A poor human rights record isolated Togo for much of the remainder of the twentieth century.  Greater democratic reforms have been instituted following the death of Genera Eyadema although government leaders face serious challenges revitalizing the economy and confronting accusations of electoral fraud.[3]

Culture 

Wood carvings used for worship and trophies, tribalism, and indigenous religion are traditional cultural practices and beliefs which continue to influence contemporary Togolese culture.  Christianity and Islam have gained many converts in recent years among animists, although many retain customs and practices from traditional religions.  French is the most commonly spoken language and is utilized for interethnic communication.  Cigarette and alcohol consumption rates are low compared to the world average.  Polygamy is common and most prevalent in rural areas.  Half of illiterate women are joined to a polygamous marriage compared to one-third of literate women.[4] 

Economy

GDP per capita: $900 (2010) [1.9% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.428

Corruption Index: 2.4

The economy is based on subsistence and commercial agriculture.  Like neighboring Benin, Togo's largest cash crop is cotton.  Coffee and Cocoa are also major exports.  Togo is the world's fourth largest producer of phosphate, but this resource continues to be underutilized.  Difficulties attracting foreign investment have been ongoing.  Agriculture employs 65% of the labor force and generates 48% of the GDP.  Coffee, cocoa, cotton, yams, cassava, vegetables, sorghum, rice, livestock, and fish are common agricultural products.  Services employ 30% of the labor force and generate 27% of the GDP whereas industry employs 5% of the labor force and generates one-quarter of the GDP.  Phosphate mining, food processing, cement, handicrafts, beverages, and clothing are major industries.  Primary trade partners include China, Germany, India, and Burkina Faso. 

Corruption is perceived as widespread.  Togo is a transshipment point for heroin and cocaine. 

Faiths

Christian: 48%

indigenous beliefs: 33%

Muslim: 14%

none: 5%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  1,896,158

Seventh Day Adventists  11,271  39  

Jehovah's Witnesses  16,300  253

Latter-day Saints  1,034  5

Religion

A university study in 2004 found that Christians constitute approximately half of the population and generally reside in southern areas.  28% of Togolese are Catholic whereas 10% are Protestant and 10% identify with other Christian denominations.  Muslims comprise 14% of the population and generally reside in northern areas.  Indigenous beliefs and practices are often incorporated into Islam and Christianity.  Those practicing indigenous beliefs account for one-third of the population.  Members of differing religious groups frequently intermarry.[5]

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government.  Political parties are not permitted to be based on religion, ethnic group ,or region.  Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam are state religions.  Religious groups are required to register as associations and are entitled to the same rights as state religions, including duty-free status for importing materials for humanitarian and development projects.  To register a religious group must submit a summary if its finances, a site map and site use agreement, names and addresses of administrative leaders, the group leader's diploma, and a statement on its doctrines and statues. There have been no instances of rejected applications in recent years.  Religious instruction is not provided in public schools, but Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic schools are common.  There have been no reported instances of societal abuse of religious freedom.[6]

Largest Cities

Urban: 43%

Lomé, Sokodé, Kara, Atakpamé, Kpalimé, Dapaong, Tsévié, Notsé, Aného, Bassar.

Cities listed in bold have no LDS congregations.

One of the ten largest cities has an LDS congregation.  40% of the national population resides in the ten most populous cities.

LDS History

In July 1997, the LDS Church established its first member group in Lome with 25 members.  Most members appeared to had joined the Church abroad or were introduced locally by friends and family.  In 1999, Togo came under the jurisdiction of the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission, a senior missionary couple was assigned to begin missionary work, and the first branch was organized.[7]  Seminary and institute commenced that same year.  Togo was assigned to the Ghana Cape Coast Mission in 2005[8] and reassigned to the Ghana Accra Mission in 2007.[9]  In 2008, Togo was reassigned to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Mission and in 2011 was included in the newly organized Benin Cotonou Mission.[10] 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 1,246 (2010)

There were 117 Latter-day Saints in 2000, increasing to 361 in 2002, 504 in 2004, 575 in 2006, and 793 in 2008.  Annual membership growth rates during the 2000s ranged from a high of 90% in 2002 to a low of 6% in 2005.  Membership increased 30% in 2009.  In 2010, one in 5,435 was LDS.

Congregational Growth

Wards: 0 Branches: 6

A second branch was organized in 2006 (Tokoin) followed by a third branch in 2008 (Hedzranawoe), a fourth branch in late 2009 (Be-Kpota), a fifth branch in 2010 (Ablogame), and a sixth branch in 2011 (Doumassesse).  In 2010, the Lome Branch was renamed the Souzanetime Branch.  The Lome Togo District was organized in late 2009 and includes all six branches at present.

Activity and Retention

173 were enrolled in seminary and institute during the 2009-2010 school year.  During the spring of 2009, missionaries reported that the smallest branch was the Hedzranawoe Branch, with sacrament attendance of between 50 and 60 people a week.  Sacrament attendance for the Lome and Tokoin Branches averaged around 110 and 130 respectively during this period.  Nationwide active membership is estimated at 400, or 35-40% of total church membership.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: French

All LDS scriptures and most church materials are available in French.  The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith is available in Ewe, Fon, and Fulani.  Gospel Principles is available in Ewe and Fulani. 

Meetinghouses

Branches meet in renovated building and rented spaces.

Health and Safety

The risk for infectious diseases is very high.  Common diseases include typhoid fever, hepatitis A, bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, malaria, yellow fever, schistosomiasis, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, and influenza.  HIV/AIDS infects 3.2% of the population.

Humanitarian and Development Work

LDS humanitarian and development work has been limited to a single Measles initiative project.[11]  Full-time missionaries fulfill weekly service hours in their areas. 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

 

Religious Freedom

The LDS Church benefits from full religious freedom and experiences no restrictions regarding proselytism, worship, or assembly.  There have been no reported instances of societal abuse of religious freedom targeting Latter-day Saints.  Foreign missionaries serve without restrictions.

Cultural Issues

Low literacy rates and poverty are challenges which limited local member self-sufficiency in leadership and economic self reliance but also provide opportunities for LDS humanitarian and development projects which can meet these needs in the general population and also raise public awareness of the Church, provide finding opportunities for full-time missionaries, and offer opportunities for local members to introduce friends and family in need to services provided by the Church.  Clean water projects, wheelchair donations, education assistance, employment workshops, and medical care are potential development and humanitarian activities which have yet to be explored by the LDS Church in Togo.  The common practice of polygamy in rural areas and in some cities outside of Lome creates a major barrier for LDS mission outreach as those engaged in a polygamous relationship who desire to join the Church must first end these relations in divorce and then be interviewed by a member of the mission presidency to be considered for baptism.  

National Outreach

24% of the national population resides in Lome, the only city with an LDS presence.  The Togolese population residing outside of Lome remains entirely unreached by LDS mission efforts.  Many areas of Lome are lesser-reached due to distance from church meetinghouses and LDS outreach commencing in some communities only within the past couple years. 

With widespread religious freedom and a highly receptive population to LDS mission efforts, Togo presents excellent opportunities for expanding national outreach in currently unreached locations.  Delays in opening additional congregations in Lome and the continued lack of outreach outside elsewhere in Togo is largely attributed to limited LDS mission resources dedicated to the region, the plateauing of LDS missionary manpower worldwide, and the several changes since 2000 with mission boundaries involving Togo and Benin.  Past missions which administered Togo have included three or more nations within their boundaries and most mission resources were dedicated to the nation in which the mission was based.  It is likely that information about local membership and leadership in Togo has not been properly passed on to succeeding or newly transferred missionaries, mission presidents, and regional leaders.  Togo's geographic separation from missions it has pertained to over the years has likely resulted in inadequate training and emphasis placed on the retention of converts.  Furthermore when Togo was under the jurisdiction of missions in Ghana, missionaries would have to learn French and local African languages if transferred to the country.  This would complicate mission presidency members travelling to Togo and providing training and assistance if they did not know French or African languages spoken in the Lome area. 

The allocation of mission resources to Togo will likely increase in the coming years following the creation of the Benin Cotonou Mission in 2011 and improves prospects for establishing additional mission outreach centers outside of Lome. 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Overall Togo experiences moderate rates of member activity and convert retention largely due to commensurate increases in congregations and full-time missionaries assigned and high receptivity to the LDS Church by the indigenous population in Lome.  Inactivity issues have largely been attributed to distance from church meetinghouses and language barriers.  The Lome Branch had over 500 members on its records in 2005 and many of these members likely did not attend church meetings regularly or at all.  Significant improvement was made between 2005 and 2010 as the number of congregations increased to five and the average number of members per congregation fell from over 500 to 249.  Missionaries report that efforts to address inactivity challenges have primarily focused on opening additional congregations closer to the homes of members, but no English-language congregations have been established for English-speaking Nigerians who primary originate from Abia State.  Consequently English-speakers comprehension of church meetings is limited and language barriers frustrate opportunities to fellowship with French-speaking members, which have reduced nationwide member activity rates.  There may be additional challenges maintaining member activity rates for youth and young adults as evidenced by the number of members enrolled in seminary and institute declining between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years from 259 to 173.  The opening of additional congregations staffed by local members, maintaining high standards for convert baptisms, emphasizing seminary and institute attendance, and enlisting local members in reactivation efforts may facilitate the continuation of the trend of congregational increase since 2006.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

Ethnic conflict in Togo has been concentrated between the Ewe and other ethnic groups.  LDS missionaries have not reported that ethnic integration issues have carried over the LDS congregations, likely due to geography separating many of these ethnic groups.  Potential for ethnic integration challenges exists and deserves careful observation by church leaders and stress by local and mission leaders to emphasize the unity of local members notwithstanding ethnic rivalries or historical incompatibilities. 

Language Issues

Low literacy rates create serious challenges for developing self-sustaining local leadership but provide the opportunity of extending LDS literacy classes designed to meet illiteracy needs among members and nonmembers.  Literacy programs can be an effective finding and retention approach.  The Church is currently unprepared to meet the needs demanded by the high degree of linguistic diversity as most local languages have no LDS materials available and the few languages with translations of materials have only one or two LDS resources.  Church meetings and missionary work are usually conducted in French and English due to these challenges, which provides unity among differing ethnic groups within the same congregations.  Language-specific congregations may be organized if the number of active members speaking differing languages warrants it and if qualified leadership is available.  An English-speaking congregation to meet the needs of Nigerian members in Lome appears likely in the near future.  Languages in the greatest need of LDS scriptures and a wide selection of basic proselytism materials include Ewe, Kabye, and Gbe.      

Missionary Service

There were nearly twenty LDS missionaries assigned to Togo in March 2011, including a senior missionary couple.  Togolese members have served full-time missions in increasing numbers, but appear unable to staff their local missionary needs.  Continued emphasis on seminary and institute attendance and mission preparation may lead to greater numbers of local members serving missions and over the medium term generate a body of experienced, returned missionaries to provide additional leadership manpower to expand national outreach.

Leadership

Sustainable local leadership in sufficient numbers to justify the organization of multiple congregations and a district did not occur until the late 2000s notwithstanding the LDS Church in Togo had over 500 members in the mid-2000s meeting in one congregation.  The organization of four additional branches by 2010 indicates advancements in meeting local leadership development issues and increasing convert retention rates notwithstanding past member activity and local leadership challenges.  Increasing the number of full-time missionaries assigned commensurate to increases in the number of active members and congregations has safeguarded against full-time missionaries undertaking local administrative and leadership responsibilities.  The reassignment of non-Ivorian missionaries serving in Cote d'Ivoire to Benin and Togo in late 2010 and early 2011 and the organization of the Benin Cotonou Mission in 2011 will likely increase the number of full-time missionaries assigned to Togo and may disrupt local leadership development.  Full-time missionaries report that additional missionaries will be utilized to facilitate the opening of additional congregations rather than be assigned to congregations with one or two missionary companionships, which would lessen the possibility of full-time missionaries reducing the self reliance of established branches. 

Temple

Togo is assigned to the Accra Ghana Temple district.  Crossing the international boundary is a challenge for many to travel to the temple although members in Togo benefit from closer proximity to a temple than most members in Africa.  Temple trips appear to be held irregularly and in small groups.  There are no realistic prospect for a temple closer to Togo for the foreseeable future.

Comparative Growth

The LDS Church in Togo experienced some of the most rapid membership and congregational growth in Africa during the 2000s among countries with fewer than 2,000 members as membership increased tenfold and the number of branches increased from one to five.  The Church organized its first districts in six African nations during the 2000s, one of which was in Togo; other countries that had their first districts organized include Ethiopia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia.  The percentage of the population reached by the LDS Church, member activity rates, and the percentage of members enrolled in seminary or institute during the 2009-2010 school year in Togo (17%) is comparable to most West African nations. 

Missionary-minded Christian groups report moderate to rapid church growth in Togo.  Adventist membership more than doubled during the 2000s although Adventist congregations increased only by 30%.[12]  Jehovah's Witnesses reported 15,173 active members in 246 congregations in 2008.  Many Christian groups have operated in Togo longer than the LDS Church, have relied on local members to perform proselytism activities to increase membership, and have a presence throughout the country whereas Latter-day Saints highly rely on full-time missionaries to proselyte and baptize new converts and continue to operate only in Lome.

Future Prospects

The outlook for future LDS Church growth in Togo is favorable due to fair convert retention rates in recent years, increasing numbers of local priesthood leaders, high rates of receptivity, consistent congregational growth, and the creation of a single mission to administer Togo and Benin in 2011.  Additional congregations in the Lome area will likely be organized in the near future as additional numbers of missionaries are assigned.  Currently unreached cities may open to missionary work over the medium term, especially though within close proximity to Lome and which have multiple members.  Togo may become its own LDS mission one day if greater numbers of local members serve missions and if warranted by steady, sustained growth in Benin and Togo.


[1]  "Background Note: Togo," Bureau of African Affairs, 14 March 2011.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5430.htm

[2]  "Background Note: Togo," Bureau of African Affairs, 14 March 2011.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5430.htm

[3]  "Background Note: Togo," Bureau of African Affairs, 14 March 2011.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5430.htm

[4]  "Togo," Social Institutions and Gender Index, retrieved 7 April 2011.  http://www.genderindex.org/country/Togo

[5]  "Togo," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148726.htm

[6]  "Togo," International Religious Freedom Report 2010, 17 November 2010.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148726.htm

[7]  "Togo," Country Profile, 18 October 2010.  http://newsroom.lds.org/country/togo

[8]  Stahle, Shaun.  "Missions created on opposite sides of Africa," LDS Church News, 11 June 2005.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/47427/Missions-created-on-opposite-sides-of-Africa.html

[9]  "New missions bring total to 347 New missions," LDS Church News, 10 February 2007.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/50112/New-missions-bring-total-to-347-New-missions.html

[10]  "New boundaries announced for several missions," LDS Church News, 19 February 2011.  http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/60512/New-boundaries-announced-for-several-missions.html

[11]  "Projects -  Togo," Humanitarian Activities Worldwide, retrieved 7 April 2011.  http://www.providentliving.org/project/0,13501,4607-1-2008-115,00.html

[12]  "Togo Mission (1989-Present)," www.adventiststatistics,org, retrieved 7 April 2011.  http://www.adventiststatistics.org/view_Summary.asp?FieldInstID=1552882