Commonwealth Forges New Relevance among its African Members

A voluntary association of 53 independent countries, most of which are former British colonies, the Commonwealth has long been seen by its 19 African member states as a useful, if occasionally anachronistic, forum for global multilateral cooperation. Yet in recent years the Commonwealth has arguably been overshadowed in Africa by continental and regional associations such as the African Union and ECOWAS, as well as the rise of dynamic multilateral clubs explicitly focused on wealth creation, dealmaking and rapid economic development, including the BRICS and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Under the leadership of secretary general Baroness Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth is attempting to recast itself as a global champion of free trade and economic opportunity in an era where African member states look to multilateralism as a ticket to multi-billion dollar infrastructure deals.  Baroness Scotland says that Africa’s “profound shift” towards finally implementing the Continental Free Trade Area – a years-long process she likens to Waiting for Godot – will be crucial to maintaining momentum.


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