Caribbean nations, Belize, Guyana and Canada in the Americas and a dozen countries in Africa. It comprises almost 50 nations, many of which are rather small islands, with about 20 per cent of the world’s population.
The Commonwealth is not primarily a community based the English language, nor do all English speaking countries participate – for example, neither the United States nor Ireland are members. Indeed it is comprised by two sets of countries is rather different circumstances: the “lands of settlement” such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and former colonies from which the British largely departed upon independence, such as India and the countries of Africa and the Caribbean. Cultural relations are dominated by economic considerations as a raison d’être. Andrew Walker has described it as “a voluntary association of countries whose histories were intertwined for a period and therefore have certain things in common.”xviii Britain, somewhat less casual about it than Walker suggests, sought to retain through the structure of the Commonwealth the nineteenth century relationship of “complimentarity,” with the colonial economies supplying raw materials and labor intensive products to the industrialized “workshop of the world” at the center of the Imperial structure. As other sources of both types of goods became available to both sides of the relationship at lower prices, as economic development began to accelerate in some of the previously colonized economies, and as Britain’s position in the global economy began to slide and new strategic thinking became required the traditional relationship was decreasingly tenable. Indeed, as Britain came to see membership in the European Economic Community as necessary for its economic well-being Imperial Preferences (privileged access to member markets by other Commonwealth members) and other aspects of the Commonwealth structure became a hindrance that could not be sustained.
The primary activities of the Commonwealth are now limited to consultation of government ministers and delegations on specific problems such as rural development, agricultural production, health, the condition of women, youth employment and the environment. There are also programs for technological development and scholarships for students to pursue their studies in British universities. Indeed a listing of Commonwealth institutions issued in 1985 identified twenty pages of official organizations, and another seventy-five pages of unofficial organizations. Their subject matters extend from culture to sport to media and commerce. The most important of these entities, the Commonwealth Secretariat (established in 1965), “facilitates consultations and exchanges of information between member governments,” and similar activities.xix No mention is made of military or defense relations. Thus, while the original conceptualization was along the line of the nineteenth century notion of Imperial Federation, changes in the economic situation of the member countries and in the globalized context in which they function has reduced the importance of the Commonwealth to its members. It is now just another of the many organizational structures to which most of them belong.
The relationship between France and Africa and its other ex-colonies is composed of two elements: those within and those that are not part of it. The former relationships are based primarily on culture and language, including education, research, and communication. They are also multilateral in nature and are nested in a complex of North-North (France, Belgium, Canada, and Switzerland), North-South and South-South (for example, scholarships for African students in educational institutions in Morocco) ties.xx The initiative implemented by France has, as would be