Togo, officially the Togolese Republic, is a small state in West Africa. It borders Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It overlooks the Gulf of Guinea to the south for a short distance (only 56 km) and the capital Lomé is located on that stretch of coast. Its political parabola, from independence from France in 1960 to the present day, is similar to most West African countries that experienced decolonisation in those years. After having assumed a democratic constitutional structure - based on a presidential political system - the country soon plunged into a military-style dictatorial regime, led by Colonel Étienne Gnassingbé Eyadéma (in office from 1967 until his death in 2005). During his authoritarian regency, undermined by several attempted coups and popular uprisings, the country experienced progressive democratic concessions, which, however, turned out to be only a façade.
Since 1993, the authoritarian and repressive policy adopted by the president has also found firm opposition from the USA and the European Union, which have broken off diplomatic relations with Togo and suspended direct aid. Faure Gnassingbé, who was appointed to the presidency on the death of his father Étienne, has slowly set up a policy of a return to democracy and transparency, albeit clouded by accusations of selling arms to Angolan rebels in exchange for diamonds. The certification, by international observers, of the fairness of the elections held in 2007 and 2010 (in which Faure Gnassingbé was re-elected), restored Togo's trust of the international community and the support of financial institutions. In December 2010, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank decided to phase out 80% of the national public debt.
At the regional level, Togo plays a leading political role within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), especially since the recovery of relations with Ghana and Burkina Faso, which had been strained over ethnic rivalries until the first half of the 2000s. The Togolese economic structure is still backward. Reforms aim at developing some of the country's key sectors, first and foremost the energy sector, in order to become less and less dependent on timber. In 2010, a project for a hydroelectric power plant was launched and an agreement was signed with the Italian company Eni for the exploration of the seabed, which is estimated to contain large oil reserves. [Enciclopedia Treccani]