Africa: Queen Elizabeth II – How the Queen built a post-independence Commonwealth for African nations
Queen Elizabeth II has led the evolution of the Commonwealth into a forum for effective multilateral engagement whose potential to drive enormous socio-economic progress for Africa remains unquestionable and reflects on the Queen’s historic legacy.
- Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s figurehead for seven decades and longest-reigning monarch, has died aged 96.
- The Queen has played a fairly neutral role as head of the Commonwealth, staying away from its main issues.
- Charles, Prince of Wales, became the Queen’s designated successor in 2018 and took office on Thursday following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The end of Queen Elizabeth II’s seven-decade reign
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s figurehead for seven decades and longest-reigning monarch, has died aged 96. After the death of her father, George VI, in February 1952, Elizabeth II ascended the throne. Although the position of Head of State of the Commonwealth is not hereditary, she also took over the position.
At the time of its accession, the Commonwealth consisted of eight nations, including the imperial territories of Canada, Australia, India and Pakistan. Its contemporary form of a club of free and equal members had just taken hold three years earlier, with the signing of the London Declaration.
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When he died on September 9, 2022, the organization had 54 member nations, representing approximately one-third of the world’s population. Nineteen Member States represent Africa. Only Mozambique and Rwanda were not originally part of the British Empire.
The roots of the Commonwealth date back to the Balfour Declaration of 1926, which established British imperial dominions like South Africa as independent communities. The Queen was instrumental in establishing postcolonial unity between Britain and its former colonies, particularly in Africa. This crucial role has now come to an end after his death.
The fight against white minority domination in Africa
The battles against apartheid in South Africa and white minority rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) centered Commonwealth discourse on how to advance human rights among its members from the 1950s. Britain occasionally found itself in conflict with other members during these disputes.
South Africa left the Commonwealth due to its resistance to apartheid in 1961. After apartheid ended in 1994, the nation rejoined the country. However, the Commonwealth did not always act in concert on this issue, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resisting demands from other members in the mid-1980s to impose economic sanctions on South Africa.
Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence from Britain in 1965 sparked another long-running conflict, with Commonwealth countries condemning Rhodesia’s white minority government.
Continued change in Rhodesia divided the Commonwealth. The 1966 Commonwealth Summit in Rhodesia, according to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, was the “worst ever”. Ghana and Tanzania briefly severed ties with the UK in protest at its refusal to accept active intervention. Majority rule in Zimbabwe never materialized until 1980.
The role of Queen Elizabeth II in Africa across the Commonwealth
The Queen has played a fairly neutral role as head of the Commonwealth, staying away from its main issues. She would have anticipated a split from the Commonwealth if apartheid-era South Africa did not receive harsher sanctions.
The London statement made no mention of the position of the head of the Commonwealth. According to historian Philip Murphy, he became a more prominent role “largely through the efforts of the Queen”.
In her capacity, the Queen campaigned to attend CHOGMs when her governments deemed them perhaps too controversial. The Queen skipped just two of those biannual meetings between 1971 and 2015.
Between February 1952 and 2015, the Queen made one last visit abroad. She has visited all Commonwealth countries except two (Cameroon and Rwanda). Ultimately, the Queen made over 200 trips and visits to Commonwealth and UK Overseas Territories. Many of these trips took place against the backdrop of Cold War competition and decolonization tensions, with the aim of supporting the Commonwealth despite its racial and ideological divisions.
Despite the growing number of Commonwealth republics, the Crown’s position as head of the Commonwealth looks secure for another decade. Although the position of Commonwealth head of state is not hereditary, Charles, Prince of Wales became the Queen’s designated successor in 2018 and took office on Thursday following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Commonwealth remains a crucial factor in Africa’s economic growth
The Commonwealth was often seen as toothless and nothing more than a talk show and pump show at its annual meetings during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It provided enormous, if sometimes invisible, help, support and advice to its members, especially those in Africa, and became essential to the economic success of the continent. Over the years, the Commonwealth’s attention has increasingly shifted to economic matters. It was hardly surprising. Many of the African nations that make up the 53 vibrant members had Third World status. Consequently, these nations ceded little or no power within the Commonwealth.
However, along the way, these nations shed their reputation for instability and poverty to become “emerging markets”. Among them, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are not the least. Consequently, during a period when global economic growth essentially stagnated, many Commonwealth economies grew rapidly over the years. African nations cannot claim to be economic giants. However, the aim of the organization, which is represented on all six inhabited continents, is to benefit everyone economically.
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The Commonwealth Economic Model
The Commonwealth as a business model was officially established in 1997. Then the Commonwealth Business Council was founded under the supervision of Queen Elizabeth II. Now, in the midst of a global recession, the world has been combing through to find areas for prospective development. And thirsty eyes turn again to Africa.
Of course, for many generations, the rest of the world revered Africa for its human and natural wealth to the detriment of the continent and its people. So the mention of its enormous mineral endowment, which is still mostly unexplored, and its expanding young population will scare some.
The Commonwealth has often had to defend itself against accusations that it is largely toothless. Unlike comparable organizations, its members do not need to act in a certain way. And its impact does not extend far beyond itself.
Although this is correct, he forgets that what he can do among his members is not without consequence. Being bound by a common past, even if not always pleasant, fosters a spirit of collaboration and understanding, a solid foundation on which to build.
Decisions are made by mutual agreement. As such, there is less risk of bickering and tension that a voting system would cause by forcing members to act against their views.
And the fact that it has no formal charter means that, despite its size, which would otherwise be cumbersome, it is able to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, such as the current global economic upheaval.
The Commonwealth remains important in the third century of its presence for any African country, whether terribly underdeveloped or experiencing enormous growth. In this regard, quality improvement must include knowledge, technical support and help from allies who share their values and goals.
A look into the future with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II’s leadership of the Commonwealth over the past seven decades has remained admirable. She has led the evolution of the institution into a forum for effective multilateral engagement whose potential to generate enormous socio-economic progress remains indisputable and reflects on the Queen’s historic legacy.
Over the years, Britain’s interactions with its former colonies in Africa have grown in diplomacy, aid, trade and economic growth. The Queen has, over the years, remained highly revered and recognized as the head of the Commonwealth. The queen is now rested. His death creates a wave of uncertainty about the future of the organization. The possibility that the status of the British monarch will also disappear is becoming more visible. At this point, the rout of the British monarchy in Africa could be complete.
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