With internships focusing mainly on volunteering, social work, and health care services, Togo offers more than the usual business-related placements so common in more developed countries. While working in this former German, British, and French colony, interns may get the opportunity to visit Tamberma Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its takienta (tower houses made of mud and straw), or go on a safari in the rare national parks and reserves. Togo's strongest draw, however, isn't an event, a place, or some weird topographical feature, but its people, who are widely considered charming and friendly.
Geography & Demographics
Togo is located in West Africa on a narrow stretch of land bordered to the north by Burkina Faso, to the west by Ghana, and Benin to the east. Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa with a total land area of less than 60,000 square kilometers.
The country has about 6.2 million people, most of whom live in rural villages and on farms. The rest of the population, around 35 percent, live in Togo's cities, including 850,000 in the capital of Lomé, 95,000 in Sokodé, and 94,000 in Kara. Twenty one ethnic groups comprise the population, the biggest of which are the Ewe and the Kabiyé.
Despite being colonized by Germany, Britain, and France, Togo's population has remained largely adherent to indigenous beliefs, including the oft-maligned Voodoo. Less than a third of the population are Christians and only 20 percent consider themselves Muslims.
Togo is a tropical country with high humidity. Temperatures range between 25 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius, particularly in the north where the climate is drier. The south experiences two seasons of rain, first from April to July and then from September to November. The best time to visit Togo is between November and March, when dry desert winds bring cooler weather.
Food & Culture
Togo is not just ethnically varied, it is also linguistically diverse. At least 39 languages are spoken in Togo, including the official language French and several indigenous languages, like Ewe, Mina, and Kabiyé. French is the language of commerce and education in the country, a leftover from past colonial rule.
The official currency of Togo is the CFA Franc, specifically the West African CFA Franc, which is the common currency in seven other nations, including Mali, Senegal, and Benin. The West African CFA Franc, which replaced the French West African Franc in 1945, is of equal value to the Central African Franc used in neighboring countries.
Togolese cuisine is simple, and heavily influenced by food from other African nations, France, and Germany. Staple foods include maize, rice, cassava, and yam. Maize, however, remains at the top of the list as it is the most commonly consumed food. Fish is the Togolese peoples main source of protein, although bush meat, or meat from various African bush animals, is quickly gaining popularity. The local cuisine is dependent on sauces and paté, usually made from fish, eggplant, or tomato. It is common to see roadside food stands that selling foods such as omelettes, brochette, and corn on the cob.
While in Togo, interns will most definitely encounter local music, including the Togolese national anthem Salut á toi, pays de nos aîeux, or Land of Our Forefathers. Music is a big part of the local culture and Togo has produced a number of internationally renowned entertainers, including King Mensah, Bella Bellow, and Jimi Hope. King Mensah, sometimes called by"The Golden Voice of Togo," records and promotes his songs and albums throughout France. His songs, recorded in a variety of languages, including French, Ewe, and Mina, focus on religion and social issues. Bella Bellow, on the other hand, created an international career for herself by jumping in to a recording studio and pumping out multiple albums.
Interning in Togo
Togo offers a range of intern abroad programs that cater to different interests, including Agriculture, Education, and Healthcare. About half of the population live below the international poverty line of $1.25 USD a day, which is why most programs offer placements in Social Work, Community Development, and Nutrition, which focus on helping the poor in both urban and rural areas, like in the cities of Lomé and Kpalimé. Finding paid internships in Togo, is therefore, like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Most intern programs in Togo provide accommodations with local families to maximize immersion in the culture. While living with a host family, interns get the chance to learn the local lingo by conversing with members of family, and or course get the privilege of sampling homemade Togolese cuisine. Aside from housing, programs sometimes provide participants with food, excursions, and supplemental language instruction.