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Koffi Djondo – the Togolese entrepreneur, driven by pan-African ideals

Comments (2) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Koffi Djondo

Koffi Djondo is one of Togo’s most successful businessmen, but success for Africa is his ultimate goal.

Koffi Djondo may not be a name that is familiar to a lot of people outside of Togo, but Djondo is a businessman who has had huge influence on Africa’s economic landscape. As the co-founder of EcoBank and Asky Airlines, Djondo has established not just successful businesses, but enterprises that look to foster pan-African principles.

A difficult beginning

Koffi Djondo was born in a small Togolese village on July 4th, 1934. Djondo recalls a childhood characterized by extremely strict parents who eventually separated. Although Djondo does not recall his early years with much fondness, as an only child he developed a sense of self-reliance that he took into his studies.

However, even Djondo’s university education was beset with difficulties due to the politics of Togo at the time. While studying a degree in Accounting at the Institute of Social Sciences, Labor University of Law and Economics of Paris, the Togolese government contacted French authorities to ensure that Djondo was expelled from the university. This was a personal vendetta against the Djondo family, as Koffi’s uncle, Nicolas Djondo, was an outspoken critic of the Togolese regime.

Despite this setback, after a coup in Togo saw regime change, Djondo managed to return to France and complete his education. Djondo began working for the airline UTA, before moving into newly established government roles. In 1964, Djondo was appointed as the executive director of a government body – Family Allowances Fund – where he was responsible for the introduction of a mandatory retirement age and pensions. By 1973, Djondo was chairman of the Economic & Social Council, and only two years later he was elected as the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Togo.

A meeting of minds

As Djondo’s government career progressed, he eventually found himself as the President of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce. It was here that Djondo met his Nigerian business partner, Adeymi Lawson, and the birth of a business dream was realized.

With the help of the entrepreneur, Henry Fajemirokun, Djondo and Lawson created the first pan-African bank, EcoBank, in 1985. The goal was not simply to create a prosperous business, but to create jobs across the continent, and to imbue young Africans with a sense of opportunity and pride.

Koffi Djondo

EcoBank is now present in 33 African nations, employs over 18,000 Africans, and had a turnover of $2.3 billion in 2013. The bank has offices from London to Beijing, and Djondo feels that its success is linked to his ethos of pan-Africanism, explaining, “You can notice that African strength lies in unity; what we can call togetherness… It was this which gave success.”

EcoBank’s spirit of empowering young Africans was something that the men behind it felt was important, as it made employees “feel that their purpose was more than just making money.” The bank’s hiring policy was to find people with a “passion to make a difference in Africa.”

Renewed goals for a new century

Koffi Djondo continued making moves to invest in new ventures as the 21st century began, as he looked to create an airline that matched the philosophy of his African owned bank. His dream led to the creation of Asky Airlines in 2010, and in 2011 its first commercial flights began. While the inaugural flights often had only 10 passengers on them, by 2014 they were flying 8000 passengers a week, with an 80% occupancy rate on their flights.

Asky won the award for the “Best African Company of the Year” at the prestigious African CEO Forum Awards, and the company employs over 250 people. Djondo believes strongly in the need for greater integration between African nations, saying “Integration of the continent is the only way by which Africa will find its safety, through a common regional market.”

Asky is a company founded on the concept of integration, and Djondo sees transport as key to wider African cooperation, explaining, “pan-Africanism and integration starts with people moving…If we want to make business…we have to create the appropriate means to make things move.”

Djondo is held in such reverence by many Togolese that the village of his birth has been renamed Djondo-Condji in his honor. The man himself now lives in a village he built, Djondo Kope, but he is not relaxing in retirement. Djondo plans to expand Asky Airlines, and Ecobank grew 14% in 2014. It’s a busy life for Togo’s most successful octogenarian.

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As the UNMDGs expire, Togo measures its poverty

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics


The National Institute of Statistics and Economic and Demographic Studies (INSEED), Togo’s national poverty statistics tracking organization, recently released their findings for poverty levels in the country for 2015.

Between 25 August and 30 September of 2015, INSEED surveyed 2,400 households to measure the living conditions of the Togolese. The conclusion of the 2015 survey is significant for a variety of reasons, but none more important than the expiration of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (UNMDGs). The UNMDGs were the world’s first data-driven goals meant to end global poverty by 2015 or 2020, depending upon the goal. Drawing upon the eight vastly general UNMDGs, INSEED used broad poverty indicators to measure the status of their citizens: access to basic social services; food safety; education and literacy; subjective poverty and monetary poverty. INSEED’s Technical Director Akoly Gentry said that survey results indicated that economic growth had occurred in Togo, although more than half of the Togolese continue to live in poverty and are subjected to the health, education and employment challenges that stem from continued poverty. The overall conclusion was that, between 2011 and 2015, economic development had reached the poorest of the poor in some way.

Conducting the Survey: Why Now?

With the expiration of the majority of the UNMDGs came the birth of the UN’s latest broad development goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Where there were once 8 MDGs, there are now 17 SDGs, and in order to give a strong baseline for Togo’s SDG targets, the survey was necessary.

59% of the Togolese are 25 years old or under: continued economic development is imperative for a generation that never knew the harsh reign of colonialism and have grown up in a world where they are well aware of the wealth of the outside world. In surveying the levels of poverty of a diverse set of households around the country, INSEED was able to gather a comprehensive set of data with which to inform their development plans.

Access to Basic Social Services

Many households in the developing world do not have access to what are considered basic necessities in the western world, including electricity and improved drinking water. The proportion of households now using electricity as their main mode of lighting is 48.3%, up 9.1 percentage points since 2011. As the use of electricity has increased, the use of other/traditional modes of lighting has decreased. The use of oil lamps, the cause of many house fires and childhood burns, declined from 23.5% in 2011 to 3.1% in 2015. This alone is a massive achievement for Togo.

In countries where tap water is not fit for consumption or available at all, citizens must rely upon bottled or bagged water. In 2011, 55.9% of Togolese were utilizing drinking water, a figure that has improved to 61.8% in 2015. The availability of improved drinking water is a major component of development: clean water promotes good health and hygiene, prevents waterborne illnesses such as cholera and giardia, and prevents unnecessary deaths.

Food Safety

In the developed world, bananas and oranges are available 365 days a year, regardless of the growing season. For the billions of people living in the developed world, access to calories is not guaranteed due to famines. Famines are, of course, not a natural disaster: they occur when food management, transportation and storage systems fail. In 2011, nearly half of the population had difficulty finding food. The survey revealed that now, in 2015, one-third (33.1%) of the population has difficulty accessing adequate nutrition. These are institutional failures endemic in impoverished countries. Whether it is the physical unavailability of food or the inability of an individual to find enough capital to obtain food, one third of Togo’s population is not considered food secure. In an era where obesity threatens to overshadow cardiac disease as a leading cause of death in the western world, this is unacceptable.

Health Indicators

Health is closely linked to food and clean water access. Be it illness from contaminated water, uncooked or unclean meat or pesticide covered vegetables, these two are inextricably linked. 23.9%, or nearly one quarter, of Togolese surveyed reporting being ill within the past four weeks, up from 20.6% at the last survey. Illness was not clearly defined, and thus is an entirely subjective indicator. According to the CIA World Factbook, Togo’s risk of disease is “very high”: malaria, dengue and yellow fever are a threat particularly during rainy seasons when mosquitoes thrive; typhoid and hepatitis A as well as meningococcal meningitis are also listed as high risk diseases. The physician density is 0.05 physicians per 1,000 people–since the average size of a Togolese household is not listed, this statistic cannot be extrapolated to the survey group. It is safe to say that, at best, there may have been one doctor available to the entire group.

Education and Literacy

66.2% of the population over the age of 15 is literate according to INSEED’s survey results–according to the CIA World Factbook, 78.3% of males over 15 and just 55% of women over 15 are literate, showing gross education discrepancies between genders. Overall enrollment rates in primary and secondary schools (which does not measure attendance) improved from 81.8% to 84.8% and 41.0% to 49.2%, respectively.

Employment, Subjective Poverty and Monetary Poverty

The reported unemployment rate declined from 6.5% to 3.4% while the underemployment rate, or the percentage of people who are employed (usually through the selling of their crops at market) but who consider their employment situation insufficient for any number of reasons, rose from 22.8% to 24.9%.

The percentage of households who consider themselves to be poor in comparison to those around them fell from 81.4% to 61.7%. This does not necessarily mean that nearly 20% of the population became less poor, but that they perceive themselves as more equal to their peers.

The incidence of poverty as measured by international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and UN, fell from 58.7% to 55.1% in 2015. The GINI inequality co-efficient, meaning the proportion of people who own wealth in the country, was reported as 38 (although this is not recorded by the World Bank)–a score of 0 means a country has perfect equality, and a score of 100 means the country has perfect inequality (one person would own all of the wealth). By comparison, the United States has a GINI co-efficient of 41.1. Thus, the lower a score, the more equal the society.

The incidence of poverty increased from 28.5% to 34.8% in the Greater Lome region, as well as in some rural areas.

To Go Forward

Poverty is difficult to measure. Standards were created by the very countries that are partially to blame for the stunted development of enormous swaths of the world. The existing modes of development, where a country is given a loan full of conditionality (that often cut social programs), accompanied with crippling loan repayment rates, clearly does not work.

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