Togo and Gabon are set to join the Commonwealth before the end of the meeting of the member states' Heads of Government on June 26. The two countries will become the latest nations to join despite having no historic ties to Britain.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Marriott Hotel in Kigali joined leaders of 54 countries in the Commonwealth Friday. The traditional commonwealth heads of government dinner took place in Rwanda. The Eastern African country is hosting the 26th block meeting.
In addition to the representatives from the 19 African countries, a Togolese and a Gabonese delegation attended the event.
The two countries are the newest members of the nations’ association. In Gabon's capital residents were hopeful their country would benefit from the membership. Commonwealth member states are home to more than 2 billion people and cooperate on issues such as trade or education.
Nkoghe Assoumou Theophile, a Libreville resident is hopeful his country's admission to the Commonwealth will be beneficial to Gabon's economy. "If we consider African countries, for example, which are members, you see that Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and others embarked on a path of a rather solid development, that's why they're economic models on the continent nowadays."
Robert Dussey, Togo's Foreign minister said he expected Commonwealth membership to deliver new export markets, funding for development projects and opportunities for Togolese citizens to learn English and access new educational and cultural resources.
On the streets of Lomé, some citizens were supportive of the move. Togo's membership bid stands out because the nation traditionally evolved inside France's sphere of influence. Claude Vivor, a Lomé resident believes the membership will change the day-to-day life of citizens: "This membership will have an economic impact on the daily lives of the Togolese people, especially me, because through the Commonwealth's fund for technical cooperation and the association of member countries, it will play a very important role in economic and social progress in the country. This will boost an economic revival because there are economic ties that will be created between the member states."
Some observers say it was too early to know if being part of the Commonwealth will make any difference to the peoples or improve of freedom of expression or access to health, two principles of the Commonwealth charter.
Their admission is due to be formally announced before Sunday, June 26. On that day, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Rwanda will officially end.