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The West African nations of Togo and Gabon joined the Commonwealth of Nations this week, the latest countries with no colonial ties to the United Kingdom to join the 54-nation group in a snub to France, Agence France-Presse reported.
The primarily English-speaking club headed by British Queen Elizabeth II welcomed the two Francophone countries during the final day of its leadership summit in Rwanda. The two African nations are the first to join the Commonwealth since Rwanda in 2009.
The enlargement of the organization comes as its purpose and relevance are being questioned: Some of its current members are proposing to leave and others such as Bermuda have done so. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the addition of new members demonstrates that the organization is still alive and flourishing.
Meanwhile, analysts noted how former French colonies have expressed interest in joining the global club to pivot away from France. In Togo, they said the membership would prove popular as French influence in the country has often been blamed for its economic woes.
Gabon and Togo are also expected to benefit from an association that could see a $2 trillion spike in trade by 2030, according to Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, critics of the move say it calls into question the Commonwealth’s explicit commitment to good governance and democracy as key pillars. Both countries have been essentially governed by a single family since the 1960s.