3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
In June 2019, the National Assembly adopted a new investment code, which is in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan (PND) and embraces the government’s desire to make the private sector the engine of economic growth.
The Investment Code seeks to make Togo an attractive place for international companies, supporting the development of logistics hubs by offering tax incentives. The incentives are proportional to the size of the investments made and the number of jobs created. At a time when Togo is committed to decentralization, the new investment code provides additional advantages to investments that create jobs outside of major urban centers. The code operationalizes the National Agency for the Promotion of Investments and the Free Zone (API-ZF) which simplifies formalities. The deadline for adjudicating files is now set at 30 days maximum.
As a member of West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Togo participates in zone-wide plans to harmonize and rationalize regulations governing economic activity within the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA – Organisation pour L’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires). OHADA includes sixteen African countries, including Togo, and one of the principal goals is a common charter on investment. Togo directly implements WAEMU and OHADA regulations without requiring an internal ratification process by the National Assembly.
Although the government does not make draft bills and proposed regulations available for public comment, ministries and regulatory agencies in Togo generally give notice of and distribute the text of proposed regulations to relevant stakeholders. Ministries and regulatory agencies also generally request and receive comments on proposed regulations through targeted outreach to business associations and other stakeholders.
Togo is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures . Foreign and national investors can find detailed information on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations including the number of steps, name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time and legal bases justifying the procedures. The site is generally up-to-date and useful.
The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (ARMP) ensures compliance and transparency with respect to government procurements. Each responsible ministry ensures compliance with its regulations which are developed in conformity with international standards and agreements such as WTO or WAEMU norms. Regulations are not reviewed on the basis of scientific or data-driven assessments. The government has not announced any upcoming changes to the regulatory enforcement system.
International Regulatory Considerations
Togo is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is not known if the government notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
For the most part, in economic terms, the Togolese legal and administrative framework is aligned with the community texts of UEMOA, ECOWAS or larger groups.
On the financial side, Togo depends on sub-regional institutions, notably the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) whose head office is in Dakar. The Regional Council for Public Savings and Financial Markets (CREPMF), headquartered in Abidjan, regulates financial markets.
The Togolese insurance market is subject to the rules of the CIMA zone (Inter African Conference of Insurance Markets).
With regard to intellectual property, Togo relies on OAPI (African Intellectual Property Organization).
The main laws and directives of these different legal and administrative areas are available, among others, on the website www.droit-afrique.com under the heading Togo.
More broadly, Togo is a member of the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
At the African level, the country is also party to the Council of the Agreement, the Benin Electric Community (CEB), the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), the Alliance Zone and the Co-operation Zone for Prosperity (ZACOP), and the African Union.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Togo practices a code-based legal system inherited from the French system. The judiciary is recognized as the third power after the executive and the legislative (the press being the 4th) and thus remains independent of the executive branch. Togo, as a member of the OHADA, has a judicial process that is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable like any other civil actions and are adjudicated in the national court system.
A Court of Arbitration and Mediation created in 2011 legally enforces contracts. The main law covering commercial issues is the Investment Code adopted in 2012. In 2013, Togo created three commercial Chambers within the Lomé tribunal with specialized magistrates who have exclusive trial court level jurisdiction over contract enforcement and business disputes.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The Investment Code allows the resolution of investment disputes involving foreigners through: (a) bilateral agreements between Togo and the investor’s government; (b) arbitration procedures agreed to between the interested parties; or (c) through the offices of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States. The OHADA also provides a forum and legal process for resolving legal disputes in 16 African countries.
Togo is a member of UNCTAD’s international network of transparent investment procedures . Foreign and national investors can find detailed information on administrative procedures applicable to investment and income generating operations including the number of steps, name and contact details of the entities and persons in charge of procedures, required documents and conditions, costs, processing time and legal bases justifying the procedures.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (ARMP) ensures compliance and transparency for competition-related concerns.
Expropriation and Compensation
The government can legally expropriate property through a Presidential decree submitted by the cabinet of ministers and signed by the President.
Only two major expropriations of property have taken place in Togo’s history. The first was the February 1974 nationalization of the then French-owned phosphate mines. The second was the November 2014 nationalization of the Hôtel du 2 Février after it had ceased operations for several years. Shortly after the nationalization of the hotel, Togo announced that it was establishing a commission to determine the fair market amount owed as compensation to the hotel’s Libyan owners/investors. Setting aside the case of the Hôtel du 2 Février as an isolated example, there is little evidence to suggest a trend towards expropriation or “creeping expropriation.” The government designed the 2012 Investment Code to protect against government expropriations. There are some claimants from lands expropriated for recent road construction, however, and the procedure to investigate and resolve those claims is slow.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Togo is not a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Togo is, however, a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention – also known as the Washington Convention), which it ratified in 1967.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Togo does not have Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an investment chapter with the United States.
Togo does not have a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, notwithstanding the two historical examples above. There do not appear to be any investment disputes involving U.S. persons from the past ten years. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The dispute resolution alternative is the Court of Arbitration of Togo (CATO), which conforms to standards as established by the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF). Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards and there are no known State Owned Enterprise investment disputes that have gone to the domestic court system.
The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) worked with the Government of Togo to improve commercial justice through the strengthening of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The aim of the project was to increase the speed and efficiency of settlement of commercial disputes through the procedures used by the CATO.
As a result of the project, 30 new arbitrators and 100 magistrates and professionals received training in mediation/arbitration techniques. Further, the new CATO procedure manual is explicit that the time between filing and judgment shall be a maximum of 6 months as per article 36 of the ruling procedures.
Togo uses the standards set forth under the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). That law states that if bankruptcy occurs, the competent jurisdiction designates an expert that concludes an agreement with creditors and stakeholders (preventive arrangement). The Manager (or managers) can be put under “patrimonial sanctions”, meaning they can be personally liable for the debts of the company. The manager is then forbidden to do business, to manage, administer, or control an enterprise, or hold political or administrative office, for three to ten years. Bankruptcy is criminalized, but generally as a last resort.
According to data collected by the World Bank, insolvency proceedings take three years on average and cost approximately 15 percent of the debtor’s estate, with the most likely outcome being that the company will be sold off in pieces. The average recovery rate is 27.9 cents on the dollar. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 places Togo at 88 of 190 for the “Resolving Insolvency” indicator, well above the Sub-Saharan Africa regional average.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights and interests are enforced, although nearly 80% of court cases are reported to involve land title disputes. Mortgages and liens exist but land titles are precarious and often subject to litigation. Most land does not have a clear title, especially outside of urban areas. The government is attempting to fix this issue through various commissions that will issue recommendations, but it will take years to resolve.
Property transfer has been simplified with the creation of the Guichet Unique Foncier and by reducing registration fee to a flat 35,000 FCFA as opposed to the previous 4% of the market value. Since October 2019, the time for issuing permits averages 5 hours, down from 48 hours a year ago.
An independent complaints mechanism in the Togolese Revenue Office (OTR). OTR has been set up to deal with land complaints. The office gives itself 48 hours to respond to requests.
Since December 10, 2019, all cadastral maps of greater Lomé (2,568 in total) were digitized and are made available in a database. This makes it possible to update the targeted plans; and to carry out studies and validation of files at the “Guichet Foncier Unique”.
In Togo, only Togolese citizens, French citizens, foreign governments, and those granted citizenship by the judiciary are allowed to possess real property. Other foreigners must request permission from the Prime Minister, which is usually granted for investors who will develop the land. Land speculation is discouraged by the government. Property legally purchased that remains unoccupied will not be reverted to other owners under the law; however, in practice, unused land that is not protected will likely be occupied or used by others and potentially subject to lengthy court battles to prove ownership.
Intellectual Property Rights
The regional African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) and National Institute for Industrial Property and Technology (INPIT) are the two agencies that protect IP in Togo. No new IP related laws or regulations have been enacted in the past year. There are no official figures available on how the country tracks and reports on seizures of counterfeit goods. The country may prosecute IPR violations, but there are no known cases.
Togo is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or in the notorious market report. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.