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African Journey - Part 5

Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso


Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation whose economy depends heavily on agriculture. The climate is generally tropical and provides good growing seasons. The coast of Togo in the Gulf of Guinea is only 56 km and consists of lagoons with sandy beaches. Mining generated over 33% of GDP in 2012 and Togo has the fourth largest phosphate deposits in the world. Its main international import partners are France, Holland and Germany.

As mentioned, to the south Togo has 56 km of coastline along the Bight of Benin of the Gulf of Guinea in the North Atlantic Ocean. Togo stretches 579 km (360 mi) north from the Gulf making it nearly 10 times longer than its own coastline. At its widest point it is only 160 km east to west.


Benin, a narrow, north-south strip of land in West Africa, is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east, and the Bight of Benin to the south. The distance from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south is about 650 km. Although the coastline measures 121 km, the country measures about 325 km at its widest point.

Benin is another of Africa’s small nations. It has a tropical climate and is once again highly dependent on agriculture. Benin is also a large exporter of cotton and palm oil. The majority of Benin's population lives in the south. The population is young, with a life expectancy of 62 years.

Burkino Faso

Burkina Faso, meaning Land of the Honest Men, has a primarily tropical climate with two very distinct seasons. In the rainy season, the country receives between 60 and 90 cm of rainfall; and in the dry season, the harmattan – a hot dry wind from the Sahara – blows. The rainy season lasts approximately four months, May/June through September, and is shorter in the north of the country. Burkina Faso is home to a wide range of wildlife and has a larger number of elephants than many countries in West Africa. Lions, leopards and buffalo can also be found here.

Burkina Faso depends on adequate rainfall - irregular patterns of rainfall, poor soil, and the lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure contribute to the economy’s vulnerability to external shocks. About 80% of the population is engaged in subsistence farming and cotton is the main crop. The country has few natural resources and a weak industrial base. Cotton and gold are Burkina Faso’s key exports ...The country has seen an upswing in gold exploration, production, and exports.

While Burkina Faso’s economy has recently resumed positive growth, the country’s fragile security situation could put these gains at risk. Political insecurity in neighboring Mali, unreliable energy supplies, and poor transportation links pose long-term challenges. There are 15,000 kilometres of roads in Burkina Faso, of which only 2,500 kilometres are paved.

Our Technical Training team provided training to a UN Agency in Burkina Faso a few years back and the images related to that event give an indication of the type of conditions one can expect to find there.

Whilst the trip from Lome to Cotonou is only 150 km, from Cotonou to Ouagadougou is over 1000 km and a much more demanding drive.

The Fortuner model is the ideal vehicle for this part of our African Journey. It is a vehicle with sufficient off-road capability whilst at the same time providing a great level of comfort and finishing touches so that medium length journeys can be enjoyed.

Air bags, central locking, high mount stop lamp and ABS are all standard. 7 seat capacity with easy to handle tumbling and folding 2nd and 3rd row seats providing flexibility and versatility for your changing needs.

The main roads on this section of our odyssey are relatively good and, in any case, with the correct accessories and equipment the Fortuner is versatile enough to extricate itself from tricky situations. We can count on its Toyota heritage of reliability as well as the strong turbo-diesel engine which provides excellent power and acceleration.

We would definitely recommend the fitting of a SmartBar. Manufactured from environmentally friendly, recyclable polyethylene, contoured to replace the factory front bumper and wrap neatly around the front end of the vehicle. It also Incorporates a tapered channel replacing the original bumper to enhance the approach and departure angles as well as being engineered for the installation of accessories such as winches, driving lights and communication aerials. It also includes a raised centre section which allows for the fitting of large driving lights.

One important aspect of vehicle maintenance and management which has not yet been touched upon during our African Journey but which gives many organisations cause for concern is the sometimes erratic availability of genuine Toyota spare parts especially in remote areas of the countries which we have highlighted so far. This is why we recommend that when we supply vehicles that customers seriously consider taking a spare parts package as well. Typically this will be packed so that it can be shipped inside the vehicle thus saving on freight costs as well as ensuring that key GENUINE spare parts are available to carry out the servicing and maintenance of each vehicle. Regular maintenance is an essential part of vehicle longevity. The packages that we provide include essential parts required for normal servicing requirements and can be tailored to the precise needs of each organisation.

Join us next month when we head east to travel through South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.