The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries. It is often referred to as the British Commonwealth as most of its members were once colonies of the British Empire, subservient to the United Kingdom. Today, however, all members of the Commonwealth, including the UK, have equal standing. Together, the members of the Commonwealth have an estimated population of 2.5 billion. There are Commonwealth countries all over the world, including the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Some of the association’s members still have the British monarch as their symbolic head of state, while others have opted to become republics.
Commonwealth Countries of the Americas
The three Commonwealth countries on the continents of North and South America are Canada, Belize, and Guyana. Canada is the largest of all the Commonwealth countries and the second largest country in the world by area. It is also the most populous of all the Commonwealth countries in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of more than 38 million.
Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America. It is also the least populous of the Commonwealth countries in the Americas, with a population of less than 407,000. In the past, most of the people in Belize were of English and African descent, with the African population mainly descended from slaves brought to the country when it was part of the British Empire. Now, however, more than half of the people of Belize are of Latino and Mestizo descent.
Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America. It has an estimated population of 791,000. Guyana is also the only Commonwealth country in the Americas that is a republic, as both Canada and Belize are constitutional monarchies with a governor-general representing the British monarch as the ceremonial head of state. Throughout its history, Guyana has been beset by ethnic tensions between the Indo-Guyanese population (Guyanese of South Asian descent) and the Afro-Guyanese population (Guyanese of African descent).
Commonwealth Countries of the Caribbean
The Commonwealth boasts ten members in the Caribbean. The largest and most populous of the Caribbean Commonwealth countries is Jamaica, which has a population of nearly 3 million. The least populous Commonwealth country in the Caribbean is St. Kitts and Nevis, in which just 53,000 (est.) people live. Like most Caribbean countries, those of the Commonwealth are very popular among international tourists because of their many beaches, luxurious resorts, and vibrant cultural scenes. Many if not most of the people who live in the Caribbean Commonwealth countries are of African descent, though there is also a large community of people in Trinidad and Tobago who are of South Asian origin. At present, all the Caribbean Commonwealth countries except Trinidad and Tobago have the British Monarch as their ceremonial head of state, though Barbados is also due to become a republic in November 2021.
Commonwealth Countries of Europe
The Commonwealth has three members in Europe: The United Kingdom, Malta, and Cyprus. The United Kingdom, of course, was the mother country of the British Empire. At its height, the empire had territory in every part of the world, which is why people used to say that “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” Today, the empire that the UK once possessed is all but gone, aside from a few colonies consisting mostly of small islands. Nevertheless, the UK remains one of the world’s great powers. It is one of the five members of the United Nations Security Council and one of a handful of countries around the world that has a nuclear arsenal. The UK was once a member of the European Union, but left the political and economic alliance in 2020. The population of the UK is now estimated at 68 million.
The other two Commonwealth members in Europe, Malta and Cyprus, are located in the Mediterranean Sea. Cyprus became independent in 1960, while Malta achieved independence in 1964. Both countries are republics and members of the European Union. Cyprus has been a conflict flashpoint since 1974, when it became a divided island. The northern part of the island is now controlled by the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, while the south is controlled by the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus.
Commonwealth Countries of Africa
Africa is home to 19 Commonwealth countries. Five member states are located in Southern Africa, six in Eastern Africa, four in Western Africa, and four in Middle Africa. The largest and most populous Commonwealth country in Africa is Nigeria, which has a population of roughly 212 million. In contrast, the Seychelles, in which just 99,000 people live, is the smallest and least populous. Commonwealth member states Mozambique and Rwanda are distinguished by the fact that unlike most Commonwealth countries, they were never British colonies. Most of the Commonwealth countries in Africa are republics, though Lesotho and Eswatini have their own monarchies.
Commonwealth Countries of Asia
There are eight countries in Asia that are members of the Commonwealth. The largest and most populous of these members is India. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, India is the second most populous country in the world. Its neighbor, Pakistan, has an estimated population of 226 million, making it the second most populous country in the Commonwealth. India and Pakistan have been in conflict with each other since they both achieved independence in 1947. Bangladesh, which was formerly East Pakistan, also boasts a large population of approximately 166 million. The populations of the other Asian Commonwealth countries pale in comparison.
Southeast Asian Commonwealth members, Singapore and Malaysia, have seen rapid economic growth in the past few decades. The latter shares the island of Borneo with both Indonesia and fellow Commonwealth member Brunei Darussalam, which is the least populous of all the Asian Commonwealth states. The smallest Commonwealth state in Asia is the Maldives, an archipelago of tiny islands in the Indian Ocean, not too far from India and Sri Lanka.
Commonwealth Countries of Oceania
Eleven countries in Oceania are members of the Commonwealth. The largest and most populous is Australia, followed by Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. The remaining Commonwealth members consist of many tiny islands, some of which are so tiny that rising sea levels threaten to wipe them off the map. The smallest and least populous member of the Commonwealth is the tiny country of Nauru, in which just under 11,000 people reside.