On June 24, Gabon and Togo will be inducted into the Commonwealth. A symbolic act above all. But these two countries rely heavily on their membership in the organization.
At the beginning of the year, Ali Bongo Ondimba announced a “major geopolitical turning point through the need to belong to another multicultural space in a globalized world”. The President of Gabon then mentioned his country's application for membership of the Commonwealth. A process that took time: according to Africa Intelligence, it is on June 24, during the summit of heads of state in Kigali, Rwanda, that Gabon will be inducted, which has been eyeing a place in the British organization since years now.
For Togo, on the other hand, it went much faster. It was on April 22 that the small West African country saw its National Assembly pass a resolution which “expresses its support for Togo's process of joining the Commonwealth”. Because Ali Bongo's approach apparently inspired Faure Gnassingbé. Togo will also be inducted next week.
Two memberships that raise questions: if Togo has a rather original colonial history - a former German protectorate, which became jointly occupied by France and the United Kingdom -, Gabon has little to do with the British Empire. Be that as it may, today these two French-speaking countries have decided to turn to the Commonwealth. If they do not leave the Francophonie, Libreville and Lomé nevertheless send a fairly clear message to Paris: France no longer shines as much as before and they want to open up to the English-speaking world.
Cultural changes in sight?
What benefits will Gabon and Togo derive from their membership, accepted on June 12, to the Commonwealth? In fact, this should not bring anything in terms of economic exchanges or reduction of customs duties. These two memberships are above all symbolic: for the Ivorian political analyst, Sylvain Nguessan, “no French-speaking colony has been able to develop until now, unlike the Anglo-Saxon countries which have been able to take off a little bit”. And if the Commonwealth does not make it possible to establish trade agreements, it will undoubtedly be interesting to see how Gabon and Togo will evolve after their entry into the organization.
The Commonwealth is a market of more than 2 billion consumers. Despite the absence of customs facilities, the English language will allow the two countries to reach other markets. Togo, on the other hand, clearly states that it wants “international recognition of a historico-political renewal”. In terms of politics, this could therefore change the relationship with the two new member countries.
But if there are to be immediate repercussions, they will undoubtedly be cultural: Ali Bongo dreams that English will become one of the most spoken languages in Gabon. He would like the language of Shakespeare to be learned from primary school.