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Francophone States Look to the Commonwealth For Greener Pastures

Gabon and Togo are Francophone countries that actively tried to join the bloc of 54 nations. The Commonwealth’s titular head is Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles represented his mother at the summit in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. The admission of the two new members was a highlight of the summit. The meeting, which closed on Saturday, also raised more than $4 billion in pledges toward the fight against malaria and other tropical diseases. Togo’s decision to join the Commonwealth will help it develop closer ties with English-speaking countries, opening up new horizons outside of France’s sphere of influence in West Africa, the Togolese foreign minister said. With a population of about eight million and an economy heavily reliant on agriculture and phosphate mining, Togo is a long thin country on the West African coast, sandwiched between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east. The summit took place place at an uncertain time for the British monarchy as well as the Commonwealth, whose relevance is sometimes questioned. Even as the Commonwealth appears attractive to prospective members, some existing member nations are discussing whether to remove the queen as their head of state. Elizabeth is the head of state of 14 Commonwealth realms, but Barbados cut ties with the monarchy in November. Several other Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, say they plan to follow suit.