Officially the Togolese Republic, this country in western Africa has little written history before the late 15th century.
Tribes settled along the coast in the pre-colonial era, and by the 15th century the Portuguese arrived and built forts in the neighboring countries of Ghana and Benin. Due to the lack of natural harbours, the region of Togo was overlooked.
In the 16th century the slave trade began in this part of Africa, and for the next two hundred years this coastal region was a major trading center for Europeans in search of slaves. In 1905, Togo became the German colony of Togoland, but after Germany was defeated during World War I, British and French factions soon administered this land.
Togo became an autonomous republic within the French Union in 1959, then a year later, French Togoland achieved independence from France. In 1967, following a successful military coup, Gnassingbe Eyadema was named president, and he continued his command well into the 21st century. At the time of his death in 2005, after serving as president for 38 years, Eyadema became the longest-serving leader in modern African history. Shortly thereafter, his son Faure Gnassingbe was elected president.
Togo’s economy is based primarily on commercial and subsistence agriculture, providing employment for 65% of the work force. Cotton, coffee and cocoa together generate about 40% of export earnings.
French is the official language of Togo and is the language of commerce. The many indigenous African languages spoken by Togolese include: Gbe languages such as Ewe and Mina (the two major West African languages in the south), Kabiyé (in the north), as well as Kotokoli or Tem, Aja, Akessele, Bassar, Losso, and others. According to the CIA Factbook, approximately 29% of the population is Christian, 20% are Muslim, and 51% hold indigenous beliefs.