Several years ago, some friends brought me to a meeting with some senior officials in the Ministry of Tourism. I was able to interview them and I used some of the information that they were kind enough to share with me for a book called Tourism in Africa (which in reality deals exclusively with the developmental dividends of tourism in Tanzania and Togo).

In the course of that meeting with the government officials I noted that it was a tragedy to see that some of the historical hotels in Lome’ -Hotel 2 Fevrier, Hotel de la paix and the Tropicana- looked more similar to ancient Roman ruins than to functioning hotels.

They told me that they had plans for both the Hotel 2 Fevrier that has now reopened and that they also had plans for the Hotel de la Paix (which, if I am not mistaken, must be on sale or at least was on sale up to not so long ago), and that they were not sure what to do with the Tropicana. I was not sure either.

In the course of our, lovely, conversations I brought to their attention the fact that when Europeans retire, they do not always get a pension or, when they do, do not always get a terribly high pension. So they cannot live well in their own country and the cannot afford to go, with a retirement visa, to Singapore (which requires or at least required then retirees to have a pension of at least 6000 dollars a month) or, for that matter, to Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

My suggestion was that if you do not require retirees to have the kind of ‘high’ income/pension that they are expected to have to retire in one of the South (East) Asian countries listed above, you have a wide market of retirees who could come and spend the winter here, who could generate a massive income for the government, who could boost consumption and, with it, the economic performance of the country.

The GNI per capita of Togo in 2012 was of 470 dollars, the population was of roughly 6.9 million people, so the GNI was 324300000 dollars.

Bring in some European retirees, who can enjoy a warmer climate, and a higher quality of life than they could afford back home where the cost of living is much higher, and this immediately contributes to local economy. It makes a massive contribution to the local economy.

It brings more revenue to the government as it issues more visas, it brings more money to the airport, and it boosts consumption.

If only 10000 Europeans retirees had spent 10 dollars per day for six month in 2013, that alone would have represented a 0.5 per cent increase in the Togolese economy. Any increase either in the number of retirees or in the dollars spent per day would have led to an even faster economic growth. So much so twenty thousand retirees spending 20 dollars per day for six month would have singlehandedly increased the Togolese economy by more than2 per cent in a year. And that money would have created employment, would have paid salaries, and more and better paid workers would have, in their turn, contributed to a faster economic growth.

Togo, then decided that the idea was not terribly interesting. But the idea remains interesting for all those developing countries that need to diversify their economies, not because we say so, but more importantly because every year hundreds of thousands of European retirees leave their home countries in search of a place where they’d more happily enjoy their retirement age.

The numbers are staggering and African countries would make a terrible mistake if they failed to grab this opportunity.


riccardo pelizzo