Commonwealth Country Information

Europe

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) consists of a group of islands off the western coast of Europe. Great Britain, comprises three countries: England, Scotland and Wales. Ireland, to the west, consists of the UK’s province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Main towns:

England: London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Bradford, Coventry, Nottingham, Kingston upon Hull, Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Southampton, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Derby, Wolverhampton, Norwich, Oxford and Cambridge.

Scotland: Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh

Wales: Cardiff, Swansea

Northern Ireland: Belfast

Transport:

The world’s first passenger steam railway (the Stockton and Darlington Railway) began operation in Britain in 1825. The Channel Tunnel was opened to traffic in 1994, linking London with Paris and Brussels. There are underground railway systems in London and Glasgow. There are about 100 commercially significant ports and several hundred small harbours. London’s international airports are Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and City Airport. Other major international airports are Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

International relations

United Kingdom is a member of the Council of Europe, European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Climate

The climate is mild, cool-temperate and oceanic. Rainfall is generally heaviest between September and January. Air currents across the Atlantic are warmed by the Gulf Stream and make the rainfall unpredictable but also give the country a warmer climate than usual for its latitude. The northerly latitude gives long days in summer and long nights in winter.

Vegetation:

76 per cent of the land area is now cultivated farmland or pasture. Forest areas have doubled since 1919 and represent 12 per cent of the land area, having increased at 0.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Fifteen national parks in England, Wales and Scotland, regional parks and various designated areas help to protect the environment.

Other facts:

Queen Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth and head of state of 16 Commonwealth countries.

The UK hosts in London the HQ of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Foundation, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Commonwealth Business Council, Commonwealth Games Federation, Commonwealth Local Government Forum and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Scholarships and fellowships are awarded by the United Kingdom to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 259

Life expectancy: 80 years

Primary enrolment: 100%

Population: 63,136,000 (2013); England 84%, Scotland eight%, Wales five%, Northern Ireland three% (2011 census)

Language: English (official language); Welsh (an official language in Wales) is spoken by about 19% of people in Wales (2011 census); Scottish Gaelic is spoken in Scotland by some 70,000 people.

Religion: The majority of adherents to a religion are Christians (59.5% in the 2011 census); independent churches and new religious movements increased in the late 20th century. There are substantial communities of Muslims (4.4%), Hindus (1.3%), Sikhs (0.7%), Jews (0.4%) and Buddhists (0.4%). About one-quarter of the population does not profess any religion (25.7% in the 2011 census).

Economy

GNI: US$2,491.2bn

GNI PC: US$39,140

GDP Growth: 0.3% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 3.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: UK Parliament

Head of government: The RT Hon Teresa May, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 31,169,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include meat and milk, and meat and milk products, except those from EU and certain other European countries.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors can drive with a foreign driving licence. Seatbelts are compulsory and drink-driving carries severe penalties. There is a comprehensive transport network throughout the country comprising air, rail, bus and ferry services. Licensed taxis are widely available in all urban areas and are metered. Many towns also have unlicensed taxis, or minicabs, but they are not allowed to pick up customers in the street and must be booked by phone.

Travel health: There are no prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended.

Europe

Malta

The Republic of Malta comprises an archipelago of six islands and islets in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of Sicily and 290 km from the coast of North Africa. The islands are; Malta, Gozo, Comino, Cominotto, Filfla and St Paul’s Island.

Main towns

Valletta, Birkirkara, Mosta, San Pawl il-Bahar, Qormi, Zabbar, Sliema, Naxxar, San Gwann, Zebbug, Fgura, Zejtun, Rabat, Marsascala, Hamrun and Victoria (on Gozo, also known as Rabat, 6,252).

Transport

There is no railway.

Valletta Grand Harbour is the most important of several harbours. A busy free port has been established at Marsaxlokk in the south- east.

The international airport, Gudja International, is 6 km south of Valletta. Helicopter services fly between Malta Island and Gozo.

International relations

Malta is a member of the Council of Europe, European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Low hills and terraced fields occur on the three main islands. There are no rivers, streams or lakes on Malta Island, which has an indented coast on the eastern side with several good natural harbours. Gozo has cliffs and flat-topped hills.

Climate

Mediterranean type: hot and dry in July–September, with cooling sea-breezes. Winters are mild and wet, with warm westerly winds.

Environment

There are very limited natural freshwater resources, and increasing reliance on desalination.

Vegetation

The islands have been short of water and the soil is not deep. Mediterranean scrub is the natural vegetation.

Wildlife

There are small mammals, such as hedgehogs, the least weasel and shrews; resident birds include Sardinian warblers, Manx and Cory’s shearwaters and the blue rock thrush.

Other facts

Malta is to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2015.

The Commonwealth Network of Information Technology for Development (COMNET-IT) has its secretariat in Valletta.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 259

Life expectancy: 80 years

Primary enrolment: 100%

Population: 63,136,000 (2013); England 84%, Scotland eight%, Wales five%, Northern Ireland three% (2011 census)

Language: Official languages are Maltese and English. Italian is widely spoken

Religion: Virtually all Christians (Roman Catholics).

Economy

GNI: US$8.9bn

GNI PC: US$20,980

GDP Growth: 1.4% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.0% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Malta

Independence: 21 September 1964

Head of government: The Hon Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 1,582,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some fresh food.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to hire a car are required to have an international driving permit. A helicopter service connects Malta and Gozo; also a ferry service which takes around 15 minutes. Taxis are white and visitors are advised to agree a price before travelling. There are good bus services in Valletta and Victoria (Gozo).

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include hepatitis B.

Europe

Cyprus

Cyprus is an oval-shaped island with ‘pan-handle’ north-east peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean. Its closest mainland neighbours are Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

Main towns

Nicosia (Lefkosia, capital), Limassol, Paphos, Larnaca, Famagusta, Kyrenia, Morphou and Lefka.

Transport

There is a good road network in the Republic, with motorways between Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos and the Famagusta area. Cyprus has no railway. Major ports are at Larnaca and Limassol. Nicosia airport was closed in 1974. There are international airport is 5 km south of Larnaca, and 15 km east of Paphos.

International relations

Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe, European Union, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The Troodos Mountains rise to 1,951 metres at Mt Olympus. The Kyrenia Mountains (also known as the Pentadaktylos range), along the north coast, rise to 1,024 metres and are mainly limestone. Most water sources are in the south – all major rivers originate in the Troodos and flow east, south or west. Many rivers dry up in the summer. There are sandy beaches on the south of the island and some rocky coastline in the north.

Climate

Mediterranean type. Hot dry summers (June to September) and mild wet winters (November to March).

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are limited water resources – due to lack of rain in the summer and pollution of the island’s largest aquifer by sea water; water pollution by sewage and industrial wastes; coastal degradation; and loss of wildlife habitats due to urbanisation.

Vegetation

Mediterranean scrub, succulents and pine woods, adapted to the dry summers. Forest covers 19 per cent of the land area. The mountains are forested and less than 15 per cent of the land is arable and permanently cropped.

Wildlife

The only large wild animal is the agrino, a species of wild sheep, which is now protected. Snakes, once so abundant as to give the island its old name Ophiussa (‘abode of snakes’), are now comparatively rare.

Other facts

It is one of only three Commonwealth member countries located in Europe, all of which are island states and members of the European Union.

Cyprus has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the Commonwealth: 997 infants survive every 1,000 births.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 123

Life expectancy: 80 years

Primary enrolment: 98%

Population: 1,141,000 (2013); 67 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 1.7 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 11 per 1,000 people (19 in 1970); life expectancy 80 years (71 in 1970).

Language: Official languages are Greek and Turkish. English is widely spoken; German and French spoken in tourist centres.

Religion: Most Greek Cypriots belong to the autocephalous Cypriot Orthodox Church; most Turkish Cypriots are Sunni Muslims. There are small religious groups of Maronites, Armenians, Roman Catholics and Anglicans.

Economy

GNI: US$21.5bn

GNI PC: US$25,210

GDP Growth: -1.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.6% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: House of Representatives

Independence: 16 August 1960

Head of government: HE Nicos Anastasiades, President

Traveller Information

There were 2,405,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some food and some plant material.

Travel within the country: Driving is on the left. Heavy fines are imposed on those driving without a seatbelt or riding a motorbike without a helmet. There are also fines for those caught driving while using a mobile phone or under the influence of alcohol.

Bus services connect towns and villages. Taxis run 24 hours a day between the main towns. Fares are regulated by the government and all taxis have meters.

Travel health: There are no prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended.

Pacific

Australia

The term ‘Australia’ is derived from Terra Australis, the name given to a southern landmass whose existence geographers deduced before it was discovered. Papua New Guinea and New Zealand are Australia’s closest neighbours. To the south lie the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

The Commonwealth of Australia is a Federation with six states – New South Wales (state capital Sydney), Victoria (Melbourne), Queensland (Brisbane), South Australia (Adelaide), Western Australia (Perth) and Tasmania (Hobart) – and two territories, Northern Territory (capital Darwin) and the Australian Capital Territory, where the federal capital, Canberra, is situated.

Main towns

Canberra (capital), Sydney, Melbourne (Victoria), Brisbane (Queensland), Perth, Adelaide, Gold Coast – Tweed Heads, Newcastle, Hobart and Darwin.

Transport

Australian road design is known for the long, straight roads in rural areas. The country has 25,800 km of coastline and many deep-water harbours. International airports are at Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Hobart, Townsville and Cairns.

International relations

Australia is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Climate

The Tropic of Capricorn almost bisects the continent. The subtropical areas north of this line have summer rainfall and dry winters. South of the Tropic, the rest of the continent and Tasmania are temperate. Most coastal areas have some rainfall, whereas drought and bushfires are a serious problem in a large tract of central Australia.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are soil erosion and desertification; loss of the natural habitat of many animal and plant species due to agriculture and industrial production; and damage to the Great Barrier Reef due to increased shipping and tourism.

Wildlife

Many indigenous animal species are unique to the continent. The most distinctive are the marsupials, of which there are 120 species from the kangaroo to the tiny desert mouse, and the monotremes, the rare order of mammals which lay eggs, such as the duck-billed platypus and the echidna. There are also several species of flightless birds – the emu and the cassowary

Other facts

Australia was a founder member of the Commonwealth in 1931 when its independence was recognised under the Statute of Westminster.

It is one of 28 island nations in the association; the mainland of Australia is the largest island in the world.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 3

Life expectancy: 82 years

Primary enrolment: 97% (2013)

Population: 23,343,000 (2013)

Language: English, the official language, is spoken at home by 78.5 per cent of the population. The largest other home languages are Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic and Mandarin (2006 census).

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 26 per cent, Anglicans 19 per cent), small minorities of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews (2006 census).

Economy

GNI: US$1,524.3bn

GNI PC: US$65,520

GDP Growth: 2.4% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.5% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament of Australia

Head of government: The Rt Hon Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 6,381,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs:

Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. Visitors must declare all food, plant material and animal products on arrival in Australia to ensure they are free of pests and diseases; any items that pose pest and disease risks will be destroyed.

Travel within the country:

Driving is on the left. Visitors may drive on a national licence for a maximum of three months, although an international driving permit is needed by all those whose official language is not English. Drink-driving is illegal and the wearing of seatbelts is mandatory.

There are good cross-country coach services, although flying is the most common way of travelling around the country. Rail travel is slow and expensive. There is a twice-weekly train service that travels from Sydney to Perth and takes three days. Another service links Adelaide with Perth and runs weekly in each direction; journey time is two nights. Reservations are essential on all longd istance train services.

Urban transport services are good and there are suburban rail networks in the state capitals; Melbourne and Adelaide also have tram systems. Taxis are widely available and are metered.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever (Queensland), Japanese encephalitis and Ross River virus (Western Australia).

Pacific

Fiji

The Republic of Fiji lies north of Auckland, New Zealand, and north-east of Sydney, Australia. It consists of about 300 islands (100 inhabited) and 540 islets, spread over three million sq km and has 1,130 km of coastline.

It is surrounded by the island groups of Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, Tonga, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The largest islands are Viti Levu (‘Great Fiji’), Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Kadavu.

Main towns

Suva (capital - comprising Nasinu and Lami), Nausori, Lautoka, Nadi and Ba on Viti Levu; and Labasa on Vanua Levu.

Transport

The road network is vulnerable to flooding and hurricane damage. A coastal road encircles Viti Levu, linked by smaller roads to the villages of the interior. Lautoka is the main port; others are Suva, Levuka and Savusavu. Ferry services operate between the larger islands. The main international airport is in western Viti Levu, at Nadi. Nausori, near Suva, is the hub for inter-island flights, and receives some international services. Most islands have airports or landing strips.

International relations

Fiji is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Non-Aligned Movement, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Much of Fiji is volcanic in origin, with the larger islands featuring heavily populated coastal plains and uninhabited mountainous interiors. Many of the smaller islands have coral reefs. The highest point is Mt Tomanivi on Viti Levu. The main rivers are the Sigatoka, Rewa and Ba on Viti Levu and the Dreketi on Vanua Levu; their deltas contain most of the country’s arable land.

Climate

The climate is tropical and oceanic. Day temperatures range from 20 to 29°C and humidity is high. The rainy season is November to March, though there is rain during June–September. On average, the country is affected by a hurricane every other year.

Vegetation

The distribution of the rainfall is the determining factor in the country’s vegetation. Dense forests and coastal mangrove swamps are found in the east and grasslands in the west. Forest covers 56 per cent of the land area.

Wildlife

Fiji is home to six species of bat, including four fruit bats (flying-foxes), and the Polynesian rat. There are more than 100 species of birds and several snakes and lizards, including the recently discovered crested iguana. Fiji’s waters contain turtles, sharks, eels and prawns.

Other facts

The Commonwealth Local Government Forum has its Pacific regional office in Suva, where it works to promote and strengthen democratic local government and encourage the exchange of good practice in the Pacific region.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 48

Life expectancy: 70 years

Primary enrolment: 97% (2012)

Population: 875,000 (2012)

Language: The official language is English, but Fijian, of which there are more than 300 dialects, is widely spoken. A single dialect, Bauan, is used in the media. Hindi is the main language of the Indian population, although it is now distinct from that spoken in mainland India. English, Fijian and Hindi are all taught in schools and most of the population is at least bilingual.

Religion: Christians 65 per cent (Methodists 35 per cent, Roman Catholics nine per cent, Assembly of God six per cent, Seventh Day Adventists four per cent), Hindus 28 per cent, Muslims six per cent, small number of Sikhs (2007 census).

Economy

GNI: US$3.9bn

GNI PC: US$4,430

GDP Growth: 1.9% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 4.8% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 10 October 1970

Head of government: The Hon Josaia Voreqe, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 658,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some fresh food.

Travel within the country: Driving is on the left. The minimum age for car hire is 21 and seatbelts in the front seats are compulsory. A national or international driving permit and third- party insurance are required.

There are regular bus services around the islands. Taxis and minibuses bearing yellow registration plates are authorised by the Land Transport Authority.

Air shuttle services operate around the islands. Ferries serve the larger islands.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.

Pacific

Kiribati

Kiribati (pronounced ‘Kirabas’) spreads across the central Pacific, with most other Commonwealth Pacific island countries lying to its south. Its 33 islands are scattered across 5.2 million sq km of ocean. There are three groups of islands: 17 Gilbert Islands, eight Line Islands and eight Phoenix Islands. Kiritimati (formerly Christmas Island) is the world’s biggest coral atoll. Kiritimati in the east is about 3,780 km from Banaba in the west.

Main towns

The main centre and capital is Tarawa, comprising Bairiki, Bonriki and Buariki. Government offices are in Tarawa South at Betio, Bairiki and Bikenibeu. Other populated areas include Taburao, Temaraia, Butaritari island and Utiroa.

Transport

Causeways and bridges link north and south Tarawa, plus several other islands. There are about 3,000 vehicles, nearly 75 per cent of them motor cycles. The principal port is at Betio Islet, Tarawa. International airports are at Bonriki on Tarawa and at Kiritimati, and all inhabited islands have airports.

International relations

Kiribati is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum and United Nations.

Topography

Kiribati is composed of coral atolls on a submerged volcanic chain. Most islands have coastal lagoons. There are no hills or streams. The UN’s 1989 report on the ‘greenhouse effect’ listed Kiribati as an endangered country in the event of a rise in sea level during the 21st century.

Climate

Varies from maritime equatorial to tropical in the north and south. There is little temperature variation and humidity is constant at 70–90 per cent. From November to April, there are occasional heavy rains, and strong to gale force winds. In 1997, Kiritimati was devastated by El Niño, which brought heavy rainfall, a half-metre rise in sea level and extensive flooding. Some 40 per cent of the coral was killed and the 14 million bird population deserted the island.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are limited natural freshwater resources, and heavy pollution of the south Tarawa lagoon, due to population growth around the lagoon and practices such as open-pit dumping.

Vegetation

Poor soil limits agricultural potential. Coconuts cover most islands. Forest covers 15% of the land area.

Wildlife

Many varieties of sea birds visit the islands, including terns, shearwaters and skuas.

Did you know

In 2012 the cabinet approved a plan to purchase 6,000 acres of land in Fiji in case rising sea levels force the permanent evacuation of Kiribati citizens.

Former President Sir Ieremia Tabai was appointed to the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, which presented its recommendations for reform in the Commonwealth to Commonwealth leaders at CHOGM in Australia in October 2011.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 124

Life expectancy: 69 years

Population: 102,000 (2013)

Language: I-Kiribati is the national language, English the official language though not generally used outside the capital.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 55 per cent, Protestants 36 per cent, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists; 2005 census). There is a small Baha’i minority.

Economy

GNI: US$253m

GNI PC: US$2,620

GDP Growth: 1.5% p.a. 2008–13

Inflation: 0.5% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Maneaba ni Maungatabu (Parliament)

Independence: 12 July 1979

Head of government: HE Mr Anote Tong, President

Traveller Information

There were 5,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include animal products, plants and plant products.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Car hire is available on Tarawa and Christmas Island only, and an international driving permit is required.

Scheduled services fly to the other islands from Tarawa. There are several passenger ferries between the smaller islands. Minibuses operate on main islands, taxis only on Tarawa.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.

Pacific

Nauru

Nauru is a small oval-shaped island in the western Pacific Ocean.

Main towns

Yaren, Aiwo, Denigomodu, Uaboe, Anabar, Ijuw and Meneng. Nauru has no capital; government offices are in Yaren.

Transport

A sealed road 19 km long circles the island. Other roads run inland to Buada District and the phosphate areas. A 5 km railway serves the phosphate workings and carries the phosphate to the dryers preparatory to loading on ships.

The airport is in the south-west of the island. The national airline, Our Airline, offers services to Guam, Fiji, and Brisbane and Melbourne in Australia.

International relations

Nauru is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum and United Nations.

Topography

Phosphate mining in the central plateau has left a barren terrain of jagged coral pinnacles, up to 15 metres high. A century of mining has stripped four-fifths of the land area. The island is surrounded by a coral reef. The island has a fertile coastal strip 150–300 metres wide. Coral cliffs surround the central plateau.

Climate

The climate is tropical, with sea breezes. North-east trade winds blow from March to October. Day temperatures range from 24 to 34°C; average humidity is 80 per cent. Rainfall is erratic and often heavy. The monsoon season is November to February. With the destruction of the forested areas on the plateau land to enable phosphate mining, climate changes have been noted with extensive dry periods. If global warming causes sea level to rise, the habitable low-lying land areas will be at risk from tidal surges and flooding.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are devastation of some 90 per cent of the island by intensive phosphate mining during most of the 20th century, and collection of limited rainwater for water supply.

Vegetation

The only presently fertile areas are the narrow coastal belt, where there are coconut palms, pandanus trees and indigenous hardwoods such as the tomano, and the land surrounding Buada lagoon, where bananas, pineapples and some vegetables are grown.

Wildlife

Many indigenous birds have disappeared or become rare, owing to destruction of their habitat, notably the noddy, or black tern. Frigate birds have traditionally been caught and tamed.

Did you know

With populations of about 10,000, Nauru and Tuvalu are the smallest Commonwealth member countries. They are also two of the world’s smallest democracies.

Nauru was admitted as the 187th member state of the United Nations in September 1999.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 476

Life expectancy: 66 years (est.)

Population: 10,000 (2013)

Language: Nauruan and English are spoken, but English, the official language, is the usual written language.

Religion: Mainly Christians (predominantly Protestants).

Economy

GNI: US$103m

GNI PC: US$10,277

GDP Growth: 7.1% p.a. 2009–12

Inflation: 3.7% p.a. 2009–12

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Nauru

Independence: 31 January 1968

Head of government: HE Baron Waqa

Traveller Information

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Cars can be hired with a foreign driving licence. Nauru has a free public bus service and taxis are available. There is no passenger rail service on the island.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.

Pacific

New Zealand

New Zealand’s Maori name is Aotearoa, meaning ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’. A well-watered and fertile mountainous island country in the South Pacific, New Zealand consists of two large islands (North Island and South Island), Stewart Island and a number of offshore islands.

Main towns

Wellington (capital; greater Wellington includes Lower Hutt, Porirua and Upper Hutt, Auckland (greater Auckland includes Manukau, North Shore and Waitakere), Christchurch, Waitakere, Hamilton, Tauranga, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Hastings, Nelson, Napier, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Whangarei and Invercargill.

Transport

There are 13 major commercial ports, including those in Whangarei (shipping oil products), Tauranga (timber and newsprint) and Bluff (alumina and aluminium) as well as container ports in Auckland, Wellington, Lyttleton and Dunedin.

There are international airports in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Dunedin.

International relations

New Zealand is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

New Zealand being in the ‘Pacific ring of fire’, volcanic activity has shaped the landscape. Earthquakes are common, and volcanic eruptions occur in the North Island and offshore to the Kermadec Islands. Its Rotorua area, a much-visited tourist attraction, has boiling mud pools and geysers. The South Island is very mountainous; there are at least 223 peaks over 2,300 metres above sea level and 360 glaciers. There are numerous lakes and many rivers, and the country has a long coastline (15,130 km) in relation to its area.

Climate

The weather tends to be changeable. Winds can be very strong, sometimes damaging buildings and trees. Rain, sometimes very heavy, occurs throughout the year. Cold southerly winds bring snow in winter, sometimes in spring. At Wellington, yearly average rainfall is 1,270 mm, average January temperature is 13–20°C, and July temperature 6–11°C.

Vegetation

Forest covers 31 per cent of the land area. A great range of flora, from subtropical rainforest to alpine. Many species are unique to New Zealand. Arable land comprises two per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

Fauna are often also unique because of geographical isolation, and include such flightless birds as the kiwi, kakapo and weka, and a great diversity of seabirds, as well as 400 kinds of marine fish and many sea-mammals including 32 whale species.

Other facts

New Zealand was a founder member of the Commonwealth in 1931 when its independence was recognised under the Statute of Westminster.

Sir Don McKinnon of New Zealand was Commonwealth Secretary-General 2000–08.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 17

Life expectancy: 81 years

Primary enrolment: 98%

Population: 4,506,000 (2013)

Language: English and Maori are the official languages and many information documents are also translated into Polynesian.

Religion: Some 60 per cent of people adhere to a religion: Christians 44 per cent (Roman Catholics 12 per cent, Anglicans 11 per cent, Presbyterians/Congregational/Reformed eight per cent, Methodists two per cent); Hindus two per cent; and Buddhists 1.4 per cent (2013 census).

Economy

GNI: US$185.8bn

GNI PC: US$41,556

GDP Growth: 2.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.2% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: New Zealand Parliament

Head of government: The Hon John Key, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 2,473,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include ivory and marine mammal artefacts, for example of turtle shell or whalebone; and some plant species, for example certain orchids. All food; plants and plant material; animals and animal products; and golf clubs must be declared on arrival.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Drivers and passengers are legally required to wear seatbelts at all times.

New Zealand has a modern and efficient transport network including comprehensive air and train services covering North and South Islands.

Travel health: There are no prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended.

Pacific

Papua New Guinea

The Independent State of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific shares a land-border with Indonesia; its other near neighbours are Australia and Solomon Islands. Papua New Guinea includes the eastern half of the world’s second biggest island, New Guinea. The rest of the country is made up of about 600 small islands.

Main towns

Port Moresby (capital), Lae, Arawa, Mount Hagen, Madang, Wewak, Goroka, Kimbe, Daru, Vanimo, Alotau, Kundiawa, Popondetta, Kavieng, Bulolo, Mendi, Kokopo, Wau and Rabaul.

Transport

Port Moresby is perhaps the only capital city that is not linked by road with the rest of the country. There is no railway.

Principal ports are Alotau, Port Moresby, and Lae, Madang and Wewak, Rabaul, Kieta and Momote. As there are relatively few roads, river transport is important, for both freight and passengers, and particularly on the River Sepik.

The international airport is Port Moresby at Jackson Field, 11 km from the city. Domestic air services run to all centres of population and industry.

International relations

Papua New Guinea is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Non- Aligned Movement, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The centre of the main island is a rugged mountainous ridge, with several wide valleys, and foothills north and south. The rivers Sepik and Ramu drain the foothills to the north, and the rivers Fly, Kikori and Purari those in the south. There are active volcanoes along the north coast, and some volcanoes and warm pools in the south-east islands.

Climate

Tropical monsoon type, hot and humid all year, though somewhat cooler in the highlands. Rainfall is chiefly from December to March. High mountains receive occasional frost, even snow.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are rainforest deforestation as a result of growing commercial demand for tropical timber; pollution from mining projects; and severe drought.

Wildlife

Papua New Guinea also has many unusual species of insect including the world’s largest species of butterfly, the Queen Alexandra birdwing, and brilliant green scarab beetles which are used for jewellery. Indigenous marsupials include tree kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, cuscus and spiny anteaters. Dugongs live in the waters near the coast.

Other facts

The country has some 5,150 km of coastline; only 13 per cent of people live in urban areas, the lowest proportion in the Commonwealth.

Papua New Guinea has more than 800 indigenous languages, thought to be more than any other country in the world.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 16

Life expectancy: 62 years

Population: 7,321,000 (2013)

Language: The official language is English, but Tok Pisin (an English-based Creole) is more widely used, and Hiri Motu is spoken around Port Moresby; there are over 800 indigenous languages.

Religion: Christians 90 per cent (predominantly Protestants), though Christian beliefs often coexist with traditional beliefs.

Economy

GNI: US$14.6bn

GNI PC: US$2,010

GDP Growth: 7.2% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 5.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: National Parliament of Papua New Guinea

Independence: 16 September 1975

Head of government: The Rt Hon Peter Charles Paire O'Neill

Traveller Information

There were 164,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid for at least 12 months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include animal products that are not canned and all animals and plants from countries other than Australia and New Zealand.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left. A foreign driving licence can be used.

Scheduled flights connect Port Moresby with main towns and islands. Taxis are available in the main urban areas and, although taxis are metered, fares should be agreed in advance.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria and typhoid.

Pacific

Samoa

The name Samoa means ‘Sacred Centre of the Universe’. Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) is an archipelago of nine islands at the centre of the south-west Pacific island groups, surrounded by Tokelau, American Samoa, Tonga, and Wallis and Futuna. The nine islands of Samoa are Apolima, Manono, Fanuatapu, Namu’a, Nuutele, Nuulua, Nuusafee, Savai’i and Upolu. Five of the islands are uninhabited.

Main towns

Apia (capital), Vaitele, Faleasiu, Vailele and Leauvaa on Upolu; Safotu, Sapulu and Gataivai on Savai’i.

Transport

Apia on Upolu is the international port. There is a ferry service between Upolu and Savai’i, and weekly services to Pago Pago in American Samoa. The international airport, at Faleolo can take Boeing 747s, but Samoa, like other Pacific island countries, is remote from world centres and too small for commercial airlines to run frequent flights.

International relations

Samoa is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization. At the Eighth World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva in December 2011, Samoa’s terms of entry were adopted and the country became a full member on 10 May 2012.

Topography

The islands are formed of volcanic rock, but none of the volcanoes have been active since 1911. Coral reefs surround much of the coastline and there is plentiful fresh water in the lakes and rivers. In September 2009 a violent earthquake caused a huge tsunami, which devastated coastal regions of the islands, killing at least 129 people and destroying hundreds of houses.

Climate

Tropical maritime. Hot and rainy from December to April and cooler, with trade winds, from May to November. Samoa is prone to hurricanes and cyclones which sometimes cause devastation.

Vegetation

Dense tropical forest and woodlands cover 60% of the land area.

Wildlife

Animal life is restricted to several species of bats and lizards and 53 species of birds. Birdlife includes the rare tooth-billed pigeon, thought to be a living link with prehistoric tooth-billed birds. Due to over-hunting, all species of native pigeons and doves are approaching extinction.

Other facts

On 29 December 2011 Samoa advanced the clock by one day, moving to the west of the international date line, so as to be in the same time zone as its main trading partners such as Australia and New Zealand.

Samoans enjoy a life expectancy of 73 years.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 67

Life expectancy: 73 years

Primary enrolment: 95%

Population: 190,000 (2013)

Language: Samoan is the official language; English is used in administration and commerce and is widely spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Congregationalists 32 per cent, Roman Catholics 19 per cent, Latter-day Saints 15 per cent, Methodists 14 per cent; 2011 census).

Economy

GNI: US$665m

GNI PC: US$3,430

GDP Growth: 0.2% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 3.0% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Samoa

Independence: 1 January 1962

Head of government: The Hon Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 116,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left (since September 2009). Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit.

Daily flights and a ferry service operate between the two main islands. Buses cover most of the islands, though there are no timetables. Taxis are available, but are not metered, and fares should be agreed in advance of travel.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.

Pacific

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands, an archipelago in the south-west Pacific, consists of a double chain of rocky islands and some small coral islands. The major islands are Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Santa Isabel, New Georgia, Malaita and Makira (or San Cristobal). The country comprises the capital territory of Honiara and nine provinces, namely Central (provincial capital Tulagi), Choiseul (Taro Island), Guadalcanal (Honiara), Isabel (Buala), Makira and Ulawa (Kirakira), Malaita (Auki), Rennell and Bellona (Tigoa), Temotu (Lata), Western (Gizo).

Main towns

Honiara (capital) on Guadalcanal, Auki on Malaita, Munda on New Georgia, Gizo on Gizo in the New Georgia Islands, Uruuru on Malaita, Buala on Santa Isabel, Yandina on Mbanika in the Russell Islands, Kirakira on Makira, Tulagi on Nggela Sule, Taro Island, Lata on Ndeni in the Santa Cruz Islands and Tigoa on Rennell and Bellona.

Transport

The terrain is mountainous and there is heavy rainfall making road conditions unpredictable. The international ports are Honiara and Yandina. Ferries ply between the islands. The international airport is at Henderson Field.

International relations

Solomon Islands is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The islands are remarkable for their steep rugged mountains. There are also several atolls and reef islands, plus several dormant and two active volcanoes. The rivers are fast-flowing and not navigable.

Climate

Equatorial; hot and humid. During the rainy season (November to April), there are fierce tropical storms.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation, soil erosion, and that much of the surrounding coral reef is dead or dying.

Vegetation

Forest covers 79% of the land, with dense tropical rainforest occurring on most islands. Parts of the coast are swampy, supporting extensive mangrove forests. Elsewhere, the coast is dominated by coconut palms.

Wildlife

Indigenous mammals are small and include opossums, bats and mice. There are crocodiles in the mangrove swamps and sea turtles nest on the shores from November to February. Birdlife includes many species of parrot and incubator bird.

Other facts

The Commonwealth Youth Programme Pacific Centre is based in Honiara; it promotes youth development in 14 Pacific countries with a total population of some 31 million. Some 79% of Solomon Islands is covered by forest, though this area declined at 0.2% p.a. 1990–2010.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 20

Life expectancy: 68 years

Primary enrolment: 93%

Population: 561,000 (2013)

Language: The official language is English; an English-based Creole, Pidgin, is the most widely spoken language. There are more than 80 indigenous languages.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Church of Melanesia 32 per cent, Roman Catholics 20 per cent, South Seas Evangelicals 17 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 12 per cent, United Church ten per cent; 2009 census).

Economy

GNI: US$960m

GNI PC: US$1,610

GDP Growth: 4.2% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 5.3% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: National Parliament

Independence: 7 July 1978

Head of government: The Hon Manasseh Damukana Sogavare, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 24,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include fresh fruit and vegetables, except from New Zealand.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors can drive with a foreign driving licence. Scheduled and charter flights and ferries provide transport between the principal islands. The other islands are serviced by motorised ‘canoes’. Taxis are available in Auki and Honiara; fares should be agreed before travel.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria and typhoid.



Pacific

Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga, known as ‘The Friendly Islands’, lies in the central south-west Pacific, surrounded by Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Cook Islands and, to the south, New Zealand. The islands contain some of the deepest waters of the South Pacific. The main island sub-groups are Tongatapu, Vava’u and Ha’apai. The largest island is Tongatapu.

Main towns

Nuku’alofa (capital), Mu’a, Tofoa–Koloua, Haveloloto and Vaini on Tongatapu; Neiafu on Vava’u; Pangai on Lifuka in the Ha’apai group of islands; and Ohonua on Eua.

Transport

78% of roads are surfaced with compacted coral. The two main ports are at Nuku’alofa and Neiafu, and have shipping connections with Australia and Europe. Ferries run between the islands.

International relations

Tonga is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Of the 172 islands, only 36 are permanently inhabited. The islands to the east are of coral formation. The islands to the west are volcanic. There are active volcanoes on four of the islands, including Tofua Island whose crater is filled with hot water. Falcon, an active volcano under the sea, sends up lava and ash from time to time.

Climate

Hot and humid from January to March; cooler from April to December. Cyclones may occur November to April.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation, damage to coral reefs by excessive coral and shell harvesting, and depletion of sea turtle populations by hunters.

Vegetation

Tongatapu island is flat and covered in small agricultural plantations with coconut trees and other crops. Eua island is hilly and partly forested. The Vava’u Islands are densely wooded. Coconut palms grow along the coastline and cover some of the coral islands.

Wildlife

Tonga was the first South Pacific country to initiate a conservation programme, with a series of marine and forest reserves. The only land mammal indigenous to Tonga is the ‘flying fox’. Birds include the red-breasted musk parrot and the blue-crowned lory, said to be the most beautiful bird of the Pacific.

Other facts

Tonga is a monarchy.

Tongans enjoy life expectancy of some 73 years.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 140

Life expectancy: 73 years

Primary enrolment: 90%

Population: 105,000 (2013)

Language: Tongan and English are official languages.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Wesleyans, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Church of Tonga, Free Church of Tonga).

Economy

GNI: US$479m

GNI PC: US$4,490

GDP Growth: 2.2% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.6% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Parliament of Tonga

Independence: 4 June 1970

Until 2010 the constitution was essentially King George Tupou I’s constitution granted in 1875, under which executive power resided with the monarch.

Head of government: The Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need a driving permit, which can be purchased on presentation of a foreign driving licence at the Police Traffic Department in Nuku’alofa.

Ferry services operate between the islands. Minibuses run throughout Tongatapu. Taxis and chauffeur-driven cars are also available.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

There were 47,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.



Pacific

Tuvalu

Tuvalu, formerly the Ellice Islands, is a group of atolls lying south of Kiribati and north of Fiji. Funafuti is the main island and capital. The other islands are Nanumanga, Nanumea, Niulakita, Niutao, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Vaitupu.

Main towns

Vaiaku (on Funafuti), Asau (on Vaitupu,), Lolua (on Nanumea,), Savave (on Nukufetau,) and Kua (on Niutao,).

Transport

Tuvalu has only a few roads and, before 2002 when tarring was completed, these were made from impacted coral and supplemented by dirt tracks. There is a deep-water lagoon at Funafuti, which ships are able to enter at Nukufetau. The islands are served by a passenger and cargo vessel, based at Funafuti. Ships from Fiji, Australia and New Zealand call at Funafuti. The only airfield is on Funafuti, at the eastern tip of the island. are scheduled flights from Majuro in the Marshall Islands, Tarawa in Kiribati, and Nadi and Suva in Fiji.

International relations

Tuvalu is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum and United Nations.

Topography

Five islands have large lagoons that are enclosed within the coral reef. The remaining four islands are pinnacles of land rising up solid from the seabed. Most people live on the island of Funafuti, on Funafuti Atoll.

Climate

The mean annual temperature is 30°C, with little seasonal variation, though March to October tends to be cooler. Humidity is high. Rainfall is high, averaging 3,535 mm p.a. The wettest season is November to February.

Environment

There are no streams or rivers in the country and ground water is not safe to drink; water needs are met by catchment of rainwater and desalination. Some 40% of the island of Funafuti was severely damaged during World War II and is virtually uninhabitable.

Vegetation

The heavy rainfall provides more luxuriant vegetation than that on neighbouring Kiribati. Coconut palms cover most of the land. Forest covers 33% of the land area

Wildlife

Lizards, turtles and several resident species of birds are the most notable forms of indigenous animal life. Birds include reef herons, white-tailed tropic-birds, terns and noddies.

Other facts

With populations of about 10,000, Tuvalu and Nauru are the smallest Commonwealth member nations. They are also two of the world’s smallest democracies.

Although Tuvalu had already fielded teams at the Commonwealth Games, the country only made its first appearance in an Olympic Games at Beijing in August 2008.

Tuvalu has been able to capitalise on its fortune in having rights to the highly marketable internet domain of ‘.tv’.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 385

Life expectancy: 65 years (est.)

Population: 10,000 (2013)

Language: Tuvaluan and English are official languages. The people of Nui Island speak the language of Kiribati, I-Kiribati.

Religion: Mainly Christians, mostly of the Church of Tuvalu (Ekalesia Tuvalu), autonomous since 1968 and derived from the Congregationalist foundation of the London Missionary Society. There are small Roman Catholic communities on Nanumea and Nui, and some Seventh Day Adventists and Baha’is.

Economy

GNI: US$63m

GNI PC: US$6,630

GDP Growth: 0.5% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 0.3% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament of Tuvalu

Independence: 1 October 1978

Head of government: The Rt Hon Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 1,000 tourist arrivals in 2011.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Plant and animal material must be declared and might be quarantined.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Many Tuvaluans travel on motorcycles and bicycles, both of which can be hired through hotels.

There are no domestic flights; visitors can travel between the islands by boat. A limited number of taxis and minibuses operate in Tuvalu.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.

Pacific

Vanuatu

The Republic of Vanuatu’s land area is made up of a group of islands in the south-west Pacific, lying south of Solomon Islands and east of the state of Queensland in Australia. The country comprises six provinces: Malampa, Penama, Sanma, Shefa, Tafea and Torba.

Main towns

Port Vila (capital) and Mele on Efaté; Luganville and Port Olry on Espíritu Santo; Norsup on Malakula; and Isangel on Tanna.

Transport

Ferries link the islands. Additionally, there are shipping services, run by a number of operators, to Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The main ports are Port Vila and Luganville. The chief airports are at Bauerfield, near Port Vila, and Pekoa on Espíritu Santo Island; there are some 30 smaller airfields.

International relations

Vanuatu is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Pacific Community, Pacific Islands Forum, United Nations and World Trade Organization. The World Trade Organization approved Vanuatu’s accession in October 2011 and the country became a full member of the organisation on 24 August 2012.

Topography

Vanuatu forms a double chain of about 40 mountainous islands and 40 islets and rocks of volcanic and coral origin; about 65 of these are inhabited. Some islands (including Tanna, Lopévi and Ambrym) have active volcanoes. Many of the rocky islands are steeply mountainous.

Climate

Oceanic tropical, with south-east trade winds from May to October. The period from November to April is humid, with moderate rainfall. Cyclones may occur between November and April.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are that a majority of the population does not have access to a safe and reliable supply of water (although it is improving), and deforestation.

Vegetation

The rocky islands are thickly forested, with narrow coastal plains where cultivation is possible.

Wildlife

Vanuatu is home to 11 species of bat, including white flying-fox. It is also the easternmost habitation of dugongs, also known as sea-cows. Espíritu Santo has the richest bird population, with 55 species including incubator birds.

Other facts

At the 2013 CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu offered to host CHOGM 2017.

The country has more than 2,500 km of coastline.

Vanuatuans enjoy life expectancy of some 71 years.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 21

Life expectancy: 72 years

Population: 253,000 (2013)

Language: The national language is Bislama; English and French are widely spoken and also official languages. There are more than 100 Melanesian languages and dialects.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Presbyterians 28 per cent, Anglicans 15 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 13 per cent and Roman Catholics 12 per cent; 2009 census).

Economy

GNI: US$794m

GNI PC: US$3,130

GDP Growth: 2.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Vanuatu

Independence: 30 July 1980

Head of government: The Hon Charlot Salawi, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 110,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include most fresh food; plants and animals, and plant and animal products; and soil and agricultural products. There are restrictions on the import of dry and processed foods.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right. Visitors can drive with a foreign driving licence.Inter-island travel is normally by air, and services fly daily to the principal islands; inter-island ferries do not run very frequently. Air charter is also available. Taxis operate in urban areas and are metered.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria and typhoid.

Caribbean and Americas

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda, at the north of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, is composed of three islands: Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda. Antigua comprises six parishes: St George, St John, St Mary, St Paul, St Peter and St Philip.

Main towns

St John’s (capital), All Saints, Liberta, Potters Village, Bolans and English Harbour on Antigua; and Codrington on Barbuda.

Transport

St John’s deep water harbour is a regional centre for cargo and passengers and the country’s main port. VC Bird International Airport is 8km north-east of St John’s; and an airstrip at Codrington, Barbuda, is suitable for light aircraft.

International relations

Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

With about 365 beaches on Antigua, further beaches of pink and white sand on Barbuda, coves that were once volcanic craters, and luxuriant palms, the country was an early proponent of sea-and-sun tourism. Antigua is generally composed of low-lying coral and limestone. Barbuda is flat with a large lagoon on its west side. Redonda is a tiny rocky island, and is uninhabited.

Climate

Tropical and drier than most of the West Indies. The hot season, when most rain falls, is May to November.

Environment

The most significant environmental issue is limited natural freshwater resources which is aggravated by clearing of trees to increase crop production, causing rainfall to run off quickly.

Vegetation

Little remains of Antigua’s natural vegetation, as the island was formerly cleared for sugar planting. Unlike other islands in the Leeward group, it has little forest; mangoes, guavas, coconuts and bananas grow in the south-west. Barbuda is well wooded in the north-east, providing a haven for wildlife.

Wildlife

More than 150 species of birds have been recorded. Barbuda is a game reserve with a variety of wildlife: deer, wild pigs, duck, guinea-fowl, and a large colony of frigate birds in the mangrove lagoon. Redonda has become a haven for species such as the burrowing owl, which have been driven out of the other, inhabited, islands

Other facts

Sir Vivian Richards, born in St John’s in 1952, was Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1976, 1978 and 1980.

Jamaica Kincaid, born Elaine Potter Richardson in St John’s in 1949, has been heralded as the ‘most important West Indian woman writing today’.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 203

Life expectancy: 76 years (est.)

Primary enrolment: 85%

Population: 90,000 (2013)

Language: English; an English-based Creole is also spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Anglicans 18 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 12 per cent, Pentecostals 12 per cent, Moravians eight per cent, Roman Catholics eight per cent, 2011 census).

Economy

GNI: US$1.2bn

GNI PC: US$12,910

GDP Growth: –3.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 1 November 1981

Head of government: The Hon Gaston Browne, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 244,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Driving is on the left and visitors must purchase a local driving licence before hiring a car; these can be bought from the car hire company on production of a foreign driving licence.There are local bus networks but services are infrequent. Taxis are widely available and have standardised rates. Additionally, many taxi drivers will agree to take visitors on sightseeing trips. Local boats are available for excursions, and visitors can take the Barbuda Express ferry to and from St John’s five days a week; journey time is 90 minutes. There are daily flights between Antigua and Barbuda and journey time is around 20 minutes.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis B and schistosomiasis (bilharzia).

Caribbean and Americas

Bahamas, The

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a coral archipelago of around 700 islands and more than 2,000 rocks and cays in the West Atlantic south-east of the coast of Florida, USA, and north­east of Cuba. It straddles the Tropic of Cancer and stretches 970 km.

Main towns

Nassau (capital) on New Providence; Freeport, West End and High Rock on Grand Bahama; Cooper’s Town and Marsh Harbour on Abaco; Freetown and Spanish Wells on Eleuthera; Andros Town on Andros; and Clarence Town on Long Island.

Transport

Main ports are Nassau (New Providence), Freeport (Grand Bahama) and Matthew Town (Inagua). The Out Islands are served by a mail boat that leaves Nassau several times a week. The principal airports are Lynden Pindling International and Freeport International, and some 50 airports or airstrips in all.

International relations

The Bahamas is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community (though not the CARICOM Single Market and Economy), Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States and United Nations.

Topography

About 30 islands are inhabited, the most important of which are New Providence, where the capital Nassau is situated, and Grand Bahama, with the city of Freeport. The other islands are known collectively as the Family Islands or Out Islands. The islands lie on a submarine shelf which rises steeply from deep waters in the east; to the west lie the shallow waters of the Great Bahama Bank. The water supply is taken from wells or collected from rainwater.

Climate

The climate is cooler than other countries in the Caribbean region but still pleasantly mild in winter. Winter temperatures average 21°C, summer temperatures 30°C. Most of the rain falls in May–June and September–October and there are frequent thunderstorms in summer. The Bahamas islands are subject to hurricanes during June–November.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are coral reef decay and solid waste disposal.

Vegetation

The soil is thin, and generally infertile, but cultivation has produced exotic flowers on the more developed islands. Some islands have large areas of pine forests.

Wildlife

Animal life is restricted to small species, such as agouti, frogs, iguana and bats. The Inagua National Park on Great Inagua Island is the home of more than 50,000 flamingos, the largest flock in the world and The Bahamas’ national bird.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 27

Life expectancy: 75 years

Primary enrolment: 98% (2010)

Population: 377,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official and first language; a French-based Creole is spoken by Haitian immigrants

Religion: Mainly Christians (Baptists 35 per cent, Anglicans 14 per cent, Roman Catholics 12 per cent, Pentecostals nine per cent, Methodists four per cent, Church of God two per cent, 2010 census).

Economy

GNI: US$8.4bn

GNI PC: US$22,312

GDP Growth: 0.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.8% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 10 July 1973

Head of government: The Rt Hon Perry G Christie

Traveller Information

There were 1,363,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: The Bahamas is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community (though not the CARICOM Single Market and Economy), Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States and United Nations.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left and car hire is available on the larger islands to drivers aged 25 or over. A foreign driving licence can be used for the first three months of stay. The wearing of seat belts is mandatory. Air-conditioned ferries and scheduled flights run between the principal islands, and air charter services are available. Minibuses (Jitneys) operate in Freeport and Nassau. Taxis are the main form of transport on the smaller islands, where there is no public transport. Most taxis are metered and rates are government-controlled.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Caribbean and Americas

Barbados

Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, lies south of St Lucia, east of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and north of Trinidad and Tobago.


Main towns

Bridgetown (capital), Speightstown, Bathsheba, Holetown and Oistins.

Transport

A good road network of 1,600km (virtually all paved) covers the entire island, with a trans-insular highway from Bridgetown to the east coast. Bridgetown is a deep-water port with a cruiseship terminal and yacht harbour. Grantley Adams International Airport is 13km east of Bridgetown.

International relations

Barbados is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Barbados is a comparatively flat island, rising in a series of terraced tablelands to Mount Hillaby at 336m. The northeast (Scotland area) is broken, eroded and rocky. The rest of the island is coral limestone crossed with deep river-bed gullies which fill with water during heavy rain. There are no permanent rivers. On the east coast, much of the shoreline is rocky, pounded by a strong surf; elsewhere, natural coral reefs surround turquoise seas and beaches of white sand.

Climate

Mild subtropical. In the December-June dry season cooling north-east trade winds blow steadily; the wet season is humid and hotter, but the climate is generally pleasant even then, thanks to sea-breezes.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are pollution of coastal waters from waste disposal by ships; soil erosion; and the threatened contamination of the underground water supply by illegal disposal of solid waste.

Vegetation

Vestiges of indigenous forest cover 19 per cent of the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2011. Sugar cane and food crops predominate in rural areas. There is a rich diversity of tropical flowers and flowering trees.

Wildlife

Natural wildlife has largely been displaced by sugar cane but the Barbados Wildlife Reserve was established in 1985 in the Scotland district, its 1.6 hectares of mature mahogany trees being the home of the Barbados green monkey and the red-footed Barbados tortoise.

Other facts

Sir Garfield Sobers, born in Bridgetown in July 1936, was the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1970, achieving 8,032 runs and 235 wickets in 93 Test matches.

Austin Ardinel Chesterfield Clarke, born in St James,

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 661

Life expectancy: 75 years

Primary enrolment: 97% (2011)

Population: 285,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official and first language. An English-based Creole is also widely spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Anglicans 24 per cent, Pentecostals 19 per cent, Adventists six per cent, Methodists four per cent), with small Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities (2010 census).

Economy

GNI: US$4.2bn

GNI PC: US$15,172

GDP Growth: 0.80% p.a. 2009–12

Inflation: 5.0% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 30 November 1966

Head of government: The Hon Freundel Jerome Stuart, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 508,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some food.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left and car hire is available with a local driving permit. These can be purchased from car hire firms, the Ministry of Transport or local police stations on production of a foreign driving licence. Taxis are widely available; fares are government controlled. Bus services connect all major points on the island. Minibuses ply similar routes but without schedules and they can be flagged down anywhere on the island.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, diphtheria and hepatitis B.

Caribbean and Americas

Belize

Belize forms part of the Commonwealth Caribbean, and is located in central America, bordering Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south.

Main towns

Belmopan (capital) Belize City, San Ignacio, San Pedro, Orange Walk, Corozal, Dangriga, Benque Viejo and Punta Gorda.

Transport

The four main highways are: Northern Highway, Western Highway, Hummingbird Highway, and Southern Highway. Belize City is the main port; the international airport, Philip S. W. Goldson, lies 16 km north-west of Belize City.

International relations

Belize is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Belize is strengthening its links with its Central American neighbours through its membership of the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana.

Topography

The long east coast is mostly flat with lagoons and mangrove swamps. Inland, the terrain rises with Victoria Peak (1,122m), the country’s highest point, in the Cockscomb range to the east, and the heavily forested Maya Mountains to the south-west. The northern districts have wide areas of tableland. There are 17 principal rivers, navigable at best only by vessels of shallow draught

Climate

The climate is subtropical, moderated by trade winds. The average temperature from November to January is 24°C and from May to September 27°C; inland there is a greater range. There are two dry seasons: March–May and August–September (the Maugre season). The country is susceptible to hurricanes.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents and agricultural run-off; and solid waste disposal.

Vegetation

Forest covers 61% of the land area and includes rainforest with mahoganies, cayune palms, and many orchids. Higher in the mountains, pine forest and cedar predominate. Arable land comprises three per cent of the land area.

Wildlife

By 1992, 18 national parks and reserves had been established, including the world’s only jaguar reserve. Other native species include ocelots, pumas, baboons, howler monkeys, toucans and many species of parrot.

Other facts

Of 13 Commonwealth member countries in the Americas, only Belize, Canada and Guyana lie on the mainland, three of the most sparsely populated countries in the association; all the others are islands or archipelagos.

The country’s current Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, is the first of African descent.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 14

Life expectancy: 74 years

Primary enrolment: 96%

Population: 332,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official language, but Spanish is spoken by more than half the population, and English-based Creole is widely understood. Other languages are Maya, Garifuna and Ketchi. Most Belizeans are bilingual and many trilingual.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 40 per cent, Pentecostals 8.5 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 5.5 per cent, Anglicans five per cent, Mennonites, Baptists, Methodists); there are small minorities of Baha’i, Muslims and Jews (2010 census).

Economy

GNI: US$1.6bn

GNI PC: US$4,660

GDP Growth: 2.3% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 0.5% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: National Assembly

Independence: 21 September 1981

Head of government: The Hon Dean Oliver Barrow, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 294,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some food, pre-Columbian articles, marine products, unprocessed coral and turtle shells.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right and visitors can hire cars with a foreign driving licence for the first three months of stay. All-weather highways link the main towns. Scheduled flights operate from Belize City to the main towns and islands. Boat services connect Belize City to the main islands. Regular bus services link most towns and villages.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies and typhoid.

Caribbean and Americas

Canada

The second largest country in the world, Canada comprises the northern half of the North American continent, bordering with the USA to the south and north-west (Alaska). It is bounded by three oceans: the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic. Indented shores and numerous islands give it the longest coastline of any country at 202,100 km. Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island is 768 km from the North Pole. Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories. The provinces (and provincial capitals) are: Alberta (Edmonton), British Columbia (Victoria), Manitoba (Winnipeg), New Brunswick (Fredericton), Newfoundland and Labrador (St John’s), Nova Scotia (Halifax), Ontario (Toronto), Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), Québec (Québec), Saskatchewan (Regina); and the territories (and capitals): Northwest Territories (Yellowknife), Nunavut (Iqaluit) and Yukon (Whitehorse).

Main towns

Ottawa (capital, Ontario), Toronto (Ontario), Montréal (Québec), Vancouver (British Columbia), Calgary (Alberta), Edmonton (Alberta), Québec, Winnipeg (Manitoba), Hamilton (Ontario), , Halifax (Nova Scotia), Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Regina (Saskatchewan), St John’s (Newfoundland and Labrador), Fredericton (New Brunswick) and Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island).

Transport

The 7,821 km Trans-Canada Highway is the longest national highway in the world. The privately owned freight railway system extends over 58,345 km. Toronto and Montréal have underground urban railway systems, called the Subway and Metro respectively. The St Lawrence Seaway provides a water transport system from the Atlantic Ocean to the head of the Great Lakes. There are well over 1,000 airports, more than 800 with paved runways.

International relations

Canada is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization. With the USA and Mexico, Canada is a member of the North America Free Trade Association.

Topography

There are six physical regions. The largest is the Precambrian (or Canadian) Shield, the dominant geological feature of the country. It consists of ancient, very hard rocks occupying nearly half of Canada’s total area and including plateau-like highlands with thousands of lakes and rivers. The second region is the Appalachian mountains to the east, which cover Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and part of Québec. The mountains have been eroded by glaciers, wind and water over 300 million years; their highest elevation, in Gaspe’s Shickshock Mountains, is under 1,300 metres. The third region is the Great Lakes–St Lawrence Lowlands in the south-east, stretching from Québec City to Lake Huron. It is the country’s most productive agricultural area. The fertile Interior Plains or prairies, the fourth region, rise gently from Manitoba to Alberta and spreading northward through the Mackenzie river valley to the Arctic Ocean. The Western Cordillera, the fifth region, is a rocky spine of mountains along the Pacific coastline. The Cordillera stretches from South America to Alaska, and the Canadian portion includes many peaks over 3,000 metres, the highest being in the Rocky Mountains. The Arctic region, finally, consists of hundreds of islands, covering an area of 2,800 km by 1,800 km and reaching to Canada’s northern tip.

Climate

In the High Arctic, temperatures rise above freezing for only a few weeks in July/August. The boreal forest area is snow- bound for more than half the year. The eastern Atlantic region has changeable winter temperatures and heavy snowfall. July/August temperatures are 16–18°C. Winter also brings heavy snowfalls to the Great Lakes–St Lawrence region; but summer temperatures average almost 20oC, with heat waves. The prairies have cold winters and hot summers. The coast of British Columbia has the most temperate climate in Canada.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are damage to forests and lakes by acid rain, and contamination of oceans by waste and run-off from agriculture, industry and mining.

Vegetation

The Appalachian region is heavily wooded, with mixed sugar maple and spruce. The far north of the Shield and the Arctic are too cold for trees, but mosses, lichens, short grasses and dwarf shrubs burst into life and quickly fade in a six- week summer. A desert-like sweep of short grasses in the southernmost parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan is succeeded further north by fertile grasslands, where millions of ponds provide breeding grounds for half of North America’s ducks, geese, swans and pelicans, and for mosquitoes.

Wildlife

Canada has 34 national parks, including the Rocky Mountains NP. In the tundra of the far north are found seals, polar bears, the gigantic musk-oxen and caribou. In the extensive stretches of forest are moose, brown, black and grizzly bears, and beavers, one of Canada’s national symbols. The grasslands were once home to enormous herds of bison but extensive hunting means these are now only to be found in wildlife reserves.

Other facts

Canada was a founder member of the Commonwealth in 1931 when its independence was recognised under the Statute of Westminster, and Arnold Smith of Canada was the first Commonwealth Secretary-General (1965–75).

The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management has its HQ in Ottawa, the Commonwealth of Learning in Vancouver and the Commonwealth Journalists Association in Toronto.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 4

Life expectancy: 81 years

Population: 35,182,000 (2013)

Language: Official languages are English and French; English is the mother-tongue of 57 per cent and French 22 per cent (2006 census). In the prairies, the most common non-official mother tongue is German; in central Canada, Italian; in British Columbia, Chinese; in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Inuktitut; in the Yukon, the Athapaskan languages of the Dene family; and in the Atlantic region, Micmac. Canada’s aboriginal people speak some 50 languages belonging to 11 distinct linguistic families.

Religion: Some 84 per cent of people adhere to a religion: Christians 74 per cent (Roman Catholics 43 per cent, Protestants 23 per cent, Eastern Orthodox 1.6 per cent); Muslims two per cent; Jews 1.1 per cent; Hindus one per cent; Buddhists one per cent; and Sikhs 0.9 per cent.

Economy

GNI: US$1,799.8bn

GNI PC: US$52,200

GDP Growth: 1.4% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.5% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament of Canada

Head of government: The Rt Hon Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 16,588,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include food. Products made from endangered species may require an export certificate.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right, and car hire is available to all those aged 21 and over. Visitors can use a foreign driving licence if staying for less than three months. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory. Road networks cover vast areas of the country.

Rail, bus and air services operate throughout the country. There are express rail services between main towns.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include diphtheria.

Caribbean and Americas

Dominica

The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, lying between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south.


Main towns

Roseau (capital), Portsmouth, Canefield, Marigot, Salisbury, Berekua, Mahaut, St Joseph, Wesley and Castle Bruce.

Transport

Banana boats and tourist cruiseships call at Roseau, at the deep- water harbour in Woodbridge Bay, and in Prince Rupert’s Bay, Portsmouth. The airports at Melville Hall can accommodate only turbo- prop passenger aircraft. Tourists flying into Dominica must therefore generally come via the nearby island of Antigua.

International relations

Dominica is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non- Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

A volcanic island, Dominica has a central mountain ridge running from Cape Melville in the north to the cliffs in the south. There are numerous mountain streams and rivers. The scenery is outstandingly beautiful, with waterfalls and luxuriantly wooded mountains. Most beaches are of black volcanic sand, with some of golden sand.

Climate

The climate is subtropical and hot, but cooled by sea breezes, with a rainy season in June–October, when hurricanes may occur. Rainfall is heavy, especially in mountain areas.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are shortage of drinking water; deforestation; soil erosion; pollution of the coastal zone by chemicals used in farming and factories, and untreated sewage.

Vegetation

Dominica is known as the nature island of the Caribbean. Dense forest and woodland cover 59% of the land area. Tree ferns are indigenous to the island. The island has a fertile volcanic soil.

Wildlife

The forests have a wide range of bird species, including the brilliant Dominica parrot, or Sisserou, which is depicted on the national flag, various species of doves and the mountain whistler. There are three distinct vegetation and habitat zones determined by rainfall and elevation at defined levels around the mountains. The country has two marine reserves and several hectares of forest reserve.

Other facts

Dominica was the first state in the Americas to have a female Prime Minister. Dame Eugenia Charles served from 1980 to 1995.

In 2004 the current Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, was the youngest head of government in the world, aged 31.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 96

Life expectancy: 76 years (est.)

Primary enrolment: 92% (2010)

Population: 72,000 (2012);

Language: The official language is English; a French-based Creole is spoken by most of the population.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 61 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists six per cent, Pentecostals six per cent, Baptists four per cent, Methodists four per cent; 2001 census).

Economy

GNI: US$493m

GNI PC: US$6,760

GDP Growth: –0.5% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: House of Assembly

Independence: 3 November 1978

Head of government: The Hon Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 78,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are not generally required by Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include certain plant material including avocados, bananas, coconuts and coffee; and animal products.

Travel within the country: Driving is on the left. An international driving permit is recommended, though a foreign driving licence can be used to obtain a temporary visitor’s permit for drivers between the ages of 25 and 65. Bus services connect towns and villages. Taxi rates are set by law and drivers do not expect to be tipped.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever and hepatitis B.

Caribbean and Americas

Grenada

Grenada consists of the island of Grenada, the most southerly of the Windwards in the Eastern Caribbean, and some of the southern Grenadine islands, the largest of which is Carriacou. Its Caribbean neighbours include St Vincent and the Grenadines (which includes the more northern Grenadines) and Trinidad and Tobago.

Main towns

St George’s (capital), Gouyave, Grenville, Victoria, St David’s and Sauteurs on Grenada; and Hillsborough on Carriacou.

Transport

In the mountainous terrain roads are often narrow and winding. St George’s is a deep-water port. Anchorage and facilities for yachts are offered at St George’s (at the Lagoon), Prickly Bay on the south-east coast and Secret Harbour, south of St George’s. The port for the Grenadine island of Carriacou is at Hillsborough and ferry services run between Grenada and other islands. Point Salines International Airport is 11 km south of St George’s in the south-west of Grenada and there is a small airport at Lauriston on Carriacou.

International relations

Grenada is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Mountains, chiefly of volcanic origin, form a backbone stretching the 33 km length and rise to 840 metres at Mount St Catherine. The terrain slopes down to the coast on the east and south-east. The island is watered by its many streams and springs, and a small lake, Grand Etang, occupies an old crater at 530 metres.

Climate

The tropical climate is especially pleasant in the dry season (February to May). The rainy season runs from June to December, when hurricanes may occur. The temperature and rainfall vary with altitude, with much heavier rainfall in the mountains.

Vegetation

The natural vegetation is tropical rainforest (about 75 per cent of surviving natural forest is state-owned) and brushwood. Species include the gommier, bois canot and blue mahoe. There are also mangrove swamps and stunted woods. Forest covers 50 per cent of the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2012.

Wildlife

Mainly smaller species, such as the mona monkey, agouti, armadillo and mongoose. There is a large variety of birds; the Grenada dove and hookbilled kite (an endangered species) are unique to the island.

Other facts

Grenada is an archipelago comprising the island of Grenada – the most southerly of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean – and some of the Southern Grenadines.

Grenada is the world’s second largest producer of nutmeg after Indonesia; a symbol of a clove of nutmeg is on the national flag.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 307

Life expectancy: 73 years

Primary enrolment: 87% (2009)

Population: 106,000 (2013)

Language: English is spoken by almost everyone. A French-based Creole is also spoken.

Religion: According to the most recent census available (2001) the population is made up of mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 45 per cent, Anglicans 14 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists).

Economy

GNI: US$806m

GNI PC: US$7,460

GDP Growth: -1.1% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.7% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 7 February 1974

Head of government: The Rt Hon Keith C Mitchell, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 116,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some fresh food and soil.

Travel within the country: Driving is on the left. Visitors wishing to drive in Grenada need to purchase a local driving permit; they must be aged at least 25 years and in possession of a foreign driving licence. There are regular flights from Grenada to Carriacou and Petite Martinique; and daily ferry services from St George’s to the other islands. Taxis and minibuses serve the islands.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever and hepatitis B.

Caribbean and Americas

Guyana

The Co-operative Republic of Guyana lies in the north-east of South America, north of the equator. The Amerindian name ‘Guiana’ (part of the country’s former name) means ‘Land of Many Waters’. It is bordered by Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela and, to the north and east, extends to the North Atlantic Ocean. The country comprises ten regions.

Main towns

Georgetown (capital), Linden, New Amsterdam, Anna Regina, Corriverton, Bartica, Rosignol, Skeldon and Vreed en Hoop. Georgetown is famous for its Dutch-inspired wooden architecture, street layout and drainage canals.

Transport

Surface travel in the interior of the country is hindered by dense forest, rapids on the rivers, and the generally undeveloped character of the interior. Thus, apart from in the coastal belt and on one inland route, most journeys are by air. There is no passenger rail service, although mining companies have private goods lines. There are some 1,600 km of navigable river. Apart from the Demerara, which has a road bridge, the other major rivers have to be crossed by ferries, which can take some hours for the wider rivers. At the Corentyne river ferry services link Guyana with Suriname.

Georgetown is the main port, and the international airport is CBJ International Airport.

International relations

Guyana is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Guyana hosts the headquarters of the Caribbean Community in Georgetown.

Topography

Guyana has three distinct geographical zones. It has a narrow coastal belt, where sugar and rice are grown and 90% of the people live. In the far interior are high savannah uplands. For the country as a whole forest covers 77% of the land area. In the forest zone are found most of the country’s resources of bauxite, diamonds, gold, manganese and other minerals. Guyana’s massive rivers include the Demerara, Berbice, Essequibo and Corentyne. The Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro river have a 222 metres drop – five times the height of Niagara.

Climate

Guyana has a warm tropical climate with high rainfall and humidity. The rainy seasons are November–January and May–July. North-east trade winds moderate coastal temperatures.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are water pollution by sewage, and agricultural and industrial chemicals; and deforestation.

Vegetation

Guyana’s tropical forest, covering 77% of the land area, is among the most ecologically valuable and best preserved in the world. There is concern about climate change and sea-level rise, because the low-lying littoral plain relies on a system of dams, walls and drainage canals to prevent flooding from the sea or the huge rivers. Forest resources are also important; the country has taken a lead in advancing forestry conservation and sustainable development.

Under the Iwokrama Rainforest Programme, some 371,000 hectares, much of it virgin forest, have been set aside for preservation and scientific study.

Wildlife

The tapir is the largest land mammal; cats include the jaguar and ocelot. Monkeys and deer are the most numerous species, and caimans are the largest freshwater animal. The giant anaconda or water boa is also found in the rivers. The wealth of plant, animal and micro-organism species includes many so far unrecorded, whose properties are unknown to science.

Other facts

Sir Shridath Ramphal of Guyana was Commonwealth Secretary-General 1975–90.

The Government of Guyana, at the 1989 CHOGM, offered to set aside about 360,000 hectares of pristine rainforest for research to demonstrate methods for conservation and sustainable use of forest resources and biodiversity: as a result, the Commonwealth’s flagship Iwokrama Rainforest Programme was launched the following year.

The Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre is based in Georgetown.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 4

Life expectancy: 66 years

Primary enrolment: 72%

Population: 800,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official language, Guyana being the only English-speaking country in South America. An English-based Creole is widely used; Hindi, Urdu and Amerindian languages are also spoken.

Religion: Christians about 57 per cent (Pentecostals 17 per cent, Roman Catholics eight per cent, Anglicans seven per cent, Seventh Day Adventists five per cent), Hindus 28 per cent, Muslims seven per cent (2002 census).

Economy

GNI: US$3.1bn

GNI PC: US$3,750

GDP Growth: 4.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.9% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Guyana

Independence: 26 May 1966

Head of government: HE Brigadier David Granger, President

Traveller Information

There were 177,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from Guyana, some countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. An international driving permit is recommended to drive in Guyana, although local driving permits are available for one month from the Licence and Revenue Office in Georgetown on presentation of a foreign driving licence. Seatbelts are compulsory. Air services serve the interior. Guyana has extensive waterways and steamers connect with the interior; there is also a coast-hopping service from Georgetown. Taxis operate in the main towns. Most fares are standard but over longer distances a fare should be agreed before travel.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Caribbean and Americas

Jamaica

Jamaica, whose name comes from the Arawak Xaymaca, meaning ‘Land of Wood and Water’, lies south of Cuba and west of Haiti.

Main towns

Kingston (capital), Portmore, Spanish Town, Montego Bay, May Pen, Mandeville, Old Harbour, Savanna-la-Mar, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Linstead, St Ann’s Bay, Morant Bay, Hayes, Ewarton and Bog Walk.

Transport

There is no railway. Main ports are Kingston and Montego Bay. The international airports are Norman Manley International and Montego Bay International.

International relations

Jamaica is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Jamaica hosts the headquarters of the International Seabed Authority, the autonomous international organisation established in 1994 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Topography

Jamaica is the ridge of a submerged mountain range. The land rises to 2,256 metres at Blue Mountain Peak. The coastline is indented, with many good natural bays. Fine sandy beaches occur on the north and west coasts. Small fast-flowing rivers, prone to flash flooding, run in forested gullies.

Climate

Tropical at the coast (22–34°C); markedly cooler in the mountains. Jamaica lies in the hurricane zone.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation; pollution of coastal waters by industrial waste, sewage and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; and air pollution in Kingston due to vehicle emissions.

Vegetation

Jamaica’s luxuriant tropical and, at higher altitude, subtropical vegetation is probably the richest in the region. There are more than 3,000 flowering species, including 194 orchid species, several cactus species, of which seven are unique to Jamaica, and 12 native palm species.

Wildlife

Fauna include 30 bat species. There is also a rich variety of birdlife, turtles, non-poisonous snakes, lizards, crocodiles, 14 kinds of butterfly unique to Jamaica, and many moths and fireflies. Manatees live in the coastal waters. There are about 500 species of landshell, many of which are unique to Jamaica.

Other facts

Jamaicans hold four Commonwealth Games records and three world records.

Four Jamaican women have won Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes: Olive Senior in 1987 (Best Book); Erna Brodber in 1989; Alecia McKenzie in 1993; and Vanessa Spence in 1994.

The Commonwealth Library Association has its secretariat at the Mona, Kingston, campus of the University of the West Indies.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 253

Life expectancy: 74 years

Primary enrolment: 82% (2010)

Population: 2,784,000 (2013)

Language: English; an English-based Creole is widely spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Church of God 19 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 12 per cent, Pentecostals 11 per cent, Baptists seven per cent, Anglicans three per cent, Roman Catholics two per cent), and there is also a significant Rastafarian community (2011 census).

Economy

GNI: US$13.7bn

GNI PC: US$5,220

GDP Growth: -0.5% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 9.2% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 6 August 1962

Head of government: The Hon Andrew Michael Holness, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 177,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from Guyana, some countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. An international driving permit is recommended to drive in Guyana, although local driving permits are available for one month from the Licence and Revenue Office in Georgetown on presentation of a foreign driving licence. Seatbelts are compulsory. Air services serve the interior. Guyana has extensive waterways and steamers connect with the interior; there is also a coast-hopping service from Georgetown. Taxis operate in the main towns. Most fares are standard but over longer distances a fare should be agreed before travel.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Caribbean and Americas

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is part of the Windward Islands group, which form an arc jutting out from the Eastern Caribbean into the Atlantic. It lies south of Dominica and north of Barbados.

Main towns

Castries (capital, including Bexon, Babonneau, Ciceron and La Clery), Dennery, Laborie, Monchy, Vieux Fort, Grande Rivière, Augier, Micoud, Soufrière and Anse La Raye.

Transport

The main cross-island route runs from Castries in the north to Vieux Fort in the south. The main ports are Castries and Vieux Fort. A fast catamaran service operates between Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica. Several cruise lines call at the island.

International relations

Saint Lucia is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Saint Lucia hosts the headquarters of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Topography

Saint Lucia is a pear-shaped mountainous island of volcanic origin, 43 km long. In the centre of the island, Mt Gimie rises to 950 metres. Sulphurous springs, steam and gases bubble out of a volcanic crater a few kilometres from Petit Piton. The mountains are intersected by short rivers, debouching in places into broad fertile valleys.

Climate

The hot tropical climate is moderated all year round by the north-east trade winds. The dry season is January to April, the rainy season May to November.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation and soil erosion, particularly in the north of the island.

Vegetation

With its economy traditionally based on agriculture, about 30% of the land area is under cultivation. Elsewhere there is rainforest with exotic and varied plant-life, many with brilliant flowers. Forest covers 77% of the land area.

Wildlife

This small island has rich birdlife including several unique species, for example the Saint Lucia oriole and the Saint Lucia black finch. The Saint Lucia parrot was the subject of a conservation programme which raised the population from some 150 birds to over 400. Native reptiles include the Saint Lucia tree lizard and the pygmy lizard.

Other facts

Saint Lucia is a mountainous country of volcanic origin ringed with sandy beaches.

The country has more Nobel laureates per capita than any other country: poet and playwright Derek Walcott, born in Castries, Saint Lucia, on 23 January 1930, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; and Sir Arthur Lewis was Nobel economics laureate in 1979.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 295

Life expectancy: 75 years

Primary enrolment: 82%

Population: 182,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official language; a French-based Creole is widely spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 62 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists ten per cent, Pentecostals nine per cent, Anglicans two per cent); Rastafarians two per cent (2010 census). -

Economy

GNI: US$1.3bn

GNI PC: US$7,090

GDP Growth: -0.2% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.0% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament of Saint Lucia

Independence: 22 February 1979

Head of government: The Hon Allen M Chastanet, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 319,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need to purchase a driving permit, at car hire firms or police stations, on presentation of a foreign driving licence. Some of the mountainous roads can be extremely steep with hairpin bends.

There are regular minibus services that connect rural areas with the capital. Taxis can be hailed in towns and have fixed fares for standard journeys.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis B and schistosomiasis (bilharzia).

Caribbean and Americas

St Kitts and Nevis

The two-island country of St Kitts and Nevis lies in the northern part of the Leeward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles in the Eastern Caribbean. The two islands are separated by a channel some 3 km in width.

Main towns

Basseterre (capital), St Paul’s, Sadlers, Middle Island, Tabernacle, Mansion, Cayon and Sandy Point on St Kitts; Charlestown on Nevis.

Transport

A regular passenger ferry service operates between Basseterre and Charlestown, taking 40 minutes. Basseterre has a deep-water port, with berthing facilities for cruiseships and cargo vessels. Nevis has a 126- metres pier at Charlestown. The Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport at Golden Rock, St Kitts, receives direct flights from the USA and Canada, while flights to other continents generally go via Antigua. The Nevis airfield is at Newcastle.

International relations

St Kitts and Nevis is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The country consists of two mountainous islands of volcanic origin in the Eastern Caribbean. St Kitts has a central mountain range broken by ravines and a spacious fertile valley running down to the capital Basseterre. The beaches are mostly of black volcanic sand except for the south-eastern peninsula, which has beaches of golden sand. The almost circular island of Nevis has beaches of silver sand and coconut groves.

Climate

Tropical, cooled by the north-east trade winds. There is no distinct rainy season. The heat is not searing; the highest recorded temperature is 33°C. Hurricanes may occur between June and November.

Vegetation

The lower mountain slopes of St Kitts, particularly to the north, are arable and used for growing sugar cane. Uncultivated lowland slopes are covered in tropical woodland and exotic fruits. The higher slopes provide short grass for pasturage. Tropical rainforest or dense bushy cover occurs on the central range. Nevis, where much of the land is cultivated by peasant farmers growing vegetables and coconuts, has a large coconut forest on the west side.

Wildlife

The French introduced the green vervet monkey to the islands, and mongooses and deer later followed. Birdlife includes pelicans and frigate birds on the coast, hummingbirds in the forested areas and quail and pigeons in the mountains.

Other facts

The two mountainous islands of St Kitts and Nevis are of volcanic origin, with a highest point of 1,156 metres in St Kitts; many beaches in St Kitts are of black volcanic sand, while those in Nevis are silver.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 206

Life expectancy: 75 years (est.)

Primary enrolment: 81% (2012)

Population: 54,000 (2013); some 12,000

Language: English is the official language; an English-based Creole is widely spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Anglicans, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Moravians and others). -

Economy

GNI: US$724m

GNI PC: US$13,460

GDP Growth: -0.9% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.3% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: National Assembly of St Kitts and Nevis

Independence: 19 September 1983

Head of government: The Hon Dr Timothy Harris, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 107,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left. A driving licence must be purchased before visitors can drive on the islands; available at car hire firms and police stations, on production of a foreign driving licence.

There are regular passenger ferries between St Kitts and Nevis, journey time about 40 minutes. The bus network provides a regular but unscheduled service. Taxis have set rates.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever and hepatitis B.

Caribbean and Americas

St Vincent and The Grenadines

St Vincent and the Grenadines, one of the Windward Island countries of the Eastern Caribbean, lies near the southern end of the Caribbean chain. The country comprises six parishes, one of these being Grenadines.

Main towns

Kingstown (capital), Georgetown, Byera, Biabou and Chateaubelair on St Vincent; Port Elizabeth on Bequia in the Grenadines.

Transport

Cruiseships call at St Vincent. A mail boat runs several times a week through the Grenadines and ferries operate between the islands. There are small airports/airstrips on Bequia, Union Island, Canouan and Mustique. A new international airport was due to be opened at Argyle in the east of St Vincent in 2012.

International relations

St Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The country comprises the island of St Vincent and the northern Grenadines, a series of 32 islands and cays, stretching south-west towards Grenada. The larger northern Grenadines are Bequia (pronounced Beck-way), Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, Isle D’Quatre and Union Island. St Vincent is volcanic in origin, and has an active volcano, La Soufrière. A rugged mountain range runs from La Soufrière in the north to Mt St Andrew above the Kingstown Valley in the south. This mountainous backbone sends off lateral spurs which are intersected by wooded valleys and numerous streams. Many of the beaches of St Vincent are of black volcanic sand; there are some white-sand beaches.

Climate

Tropical, moderated by trade winds in June/July. The dry season is January to May, the rainy season May/June to September. There is significantly heavier rainfall in the mountainous interior. Tropical storms and hurricanes may occur June–November.

Environment

The most significant environmental issue is pollution of coasts and coastal waters.

Vegetation

The mountains of St Vincent support a luxuriant growth of tropical forest; coconuts and the more typical tropical coral island vegetation occur on the Grenadines and coastal fringes of St Vincent island. The botanical gardens conserve rare species, including the mangosteen fruit tree, and a descendant from Captain Bligh’s original breadfruit tree.

Wildlife

The Buccament Valley east of Layou is a tropical rainforest reserve, home to the endangered St Vincent parrot, as well as many other species such as the unique whistling warbler. Bequia’s rich marine flora and fauna make it a popular resort for divers.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 280

Life expectancy: 72 years

Primary enrolment: 95% (2012)

Population: 109,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official language; an English-based Creole is widely spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Anglicans 47 per cent, Methodists 28 per cent, Roman Catholics 13 per cent); with a small community of Hindus.

Economy

GNI: US$722m

GNI PC: US$6,580

GDP Growth: –0.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.7% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II

Legislature: Parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines

Independence: 27 October 1979

Head of government: The Hon Dr Ralph Everard Gonsalves, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 72,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include animals, plants and seeds, except where licences have been obtained from the authorities in advance.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need to obtain a driving permit. Small planes can be chartered for travel between islands. Bus and minibus services operate between towns. Taxis are widely available and charge government-fixed rates.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever and hepatitis B.

Caribbean and Americas

Trinidad and Tobago

The country, the most southerly of the West Indian island states, situated 11.2 km off the Venezuelan coast, consists of two islands: Trinidad and Tobago.

Main towns

Port of Spain (capital), Chaguanas, San Juan, San Fernando, Arima, Point Fortin, Tunapuna, Sangre Grande and Princes Town on Trinidad; and Scarborough on Tobago.

Transport

There is no railway. Port of Spain and Point Lisas are the main ports. Point Lisas deep- water port on the west coast serves the petro-chemical industries. Other terminals are at Pointe-à-Pierre, Point Fortin and Guayaguayare (petroleum); Claxton (cement); Tembladora (bauxite); Brighton (asphalt); Chaguaramas (dry-docks); and Scarborough on Tobago. Tourist cruiseships dock in Scarborough and Port of Spain. Piarco International Airport is a major regional centre for passenger and cargo traffic and aviation-related industries.

International relations

Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Trinidad and Tobago hosts the secretariat of the Association of Caribbean States in Port of Spain.

Topography

Trinidad and Tobago are unique among Caribbean islands in that only 10,000 years ago they were a part of the South American mainland; the geology and rich flora and fauna are closely akin to Venezuela. A mountain range runs along the north coast. Trinidad is well supplied with rivers. The Pitch Lake in the south-west is the world’s largest natural reservoir of asphalt. There are sandy beaches in the north and east, and Trinidad has many excellent harbours. Tobago also has a central mountain range descending to a plain in the south-west and many fine beaches.

Climate

Tropical, tempered by north-east trade winds, with a temperature range of 22–31°C. The dry season is January to May and the wet season June to December, with a short dry sunny season during September and October.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are water pollution from agricultural chemicals, industrial wastes and raw sewage; oil pollution of beaches; deforestation; and soil erosion.

Vegetation

Forest covers 44% of the land area. The forest is tropical evergreen: high in the mountains are mountain mangrove, tree-ferns and small palms; on the lower slopes, hog-plums and sand-box; and in the fresh and brackish swamps, mangrove and gable-palms.

Wildlife

There are many more species of birds and butterflies than on any other Caribbean island, including 15 varieties of hummingbird. There is a wildlife sanctuary in the Northern Range on Trinidad at El Tucuche with agoutis, golden tree-frogs and more than 400 species of birds, and the Caroni Swamp reserve is the home of thousands of scarlet ibis. The government has proposed a National Parks and Wildlife Bill, which aims to protect endangered species of which there are now relatively very few.

Other facts

Kamla Persad-Bissessar became the first woman Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in May 2010.

Sir Vidia Naipaul, born in Chaguanas, Trinidad, in August 1932, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001; Earl Lovelace won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1997; and Sharon Millar the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2013.

Brian Lara, born in Santa Cruz, Trinidad, in May 1969, was Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1994 and 1995.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by Trinidad and Tobago to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 262

Life expectancy: 70 years

Primary enrolment: 95% (2010)

Population: 1,341,000 (2013)

Language: English is the official and national language; English-, French- and Spanish-based Creoles, Indian languages including Hindi and Chinese dialects are also spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 22 per cent, Pentecostals 12 per cent, Anglicans six per cent), Hindus 18 per cent and Muslims five per cent (2011 census).

Economy

GNI: US$21.2bn

GNI PC: US$15,760

GDP Growth: -0.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 7.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and Politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

Independence: 31 August 1962

Head of government: The Hon Dr Keith Christopher Rowley, Prime Minister

Traveller Information

There were 402,000 tourist arrivals in 2011.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from Trinidad and Tobago, some countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate (see Travel Health below). Prohibited imports include any parts or products of coconut palms; honey; and marine animals and plants.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Most visitors can drive for up to 90 days with a foreign driving licence. Scheduled flights and ferries operate between the two islands; fast ferries take 2.5 hours. Taxis are available on both islands and official taxis are recognised by the ‘H’ on their licence plates. Taxis are not metered and fares should be agreed before travel.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis B and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Asia

Bangladesh

The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a fertile and densely populated delta country in southern Asia bordered by the Bay of Bengal, India and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1972

Population: 156,595,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.7% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 142

Official language: Bangla

Timezone: GMT plus 6hr

Currency: taka (Tk)

Geography

Area: 143,998 sq km

Coastline: 580km

Capital city: Dhaka

Population density (per sq. km): 1,087

Main towns

Dhaka (capital), Chittagong, Narayanganj, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Tungi, Comilla, Mymensingh, Bogra, Rangpur, Barisal, Jessore, Dinajpur, Pabna, Nawabganj, Brahman Baria and Narsingdi.

Transport

A rail network of some 2,835 km links the main towns. The Dhaka–Chittagong line has frequent daily services. Rail is broad gauge in the west, narrow gauge in the east, with ferry links across rivers. Bangladesh has 5–8,000 km of navigable waterway, depending on extent of flooding, and a well-developed water transport network, carrying more than 30 per cent of domestic freight. The main ports are Chittagong and Mongla, Chittagong dealing with the bulk of foreign trade. Shahjalal (formerly Zia) International Airport is 19 km north of Dhaka.

International relations

Bangladesh is a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Apart from hills to the south-east, most of Bangladesh is a flat alluvial plain crossed by navigable waterways – the Ganges (Padma), Brahmaputra (Jamuna) and Meghna river systems – flowing into the Bay of Bengal. About 14 per cent of the country is normally under water. Flooding is frequent and can be disastrous.

Climate

Tropical monsoon-type. Hot and humid April to October, with the monsoon season running June to September. Cool and dry, November to March. The country is vulnerable to cyclones, which can be devastating.

Environment

The most significant issues are severe overpopulation, high risk of flooding in large areas of the country, soil degradation and erosion, ground water contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic, and poisoning of fish by use of commercial pesticides.

Vegetation

Intensely cultivated; paddy fields dominate the delta; palms, bamboo, mango, the plains. Water hyacinth is a serious menace to waterways. Forest on the south-eastern hills; forest covers 11 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.2 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Soil is mostly very rich, supporting intensive cropping, with up to three crops p.a. in many places; arable land comprises 59 per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

The country has a varied wildlife population, although 18 species became extinct during the 20th century and 33 species of mammals and 28 of birds were endangered in 2014. Mammal species include 26 types of bat, the famous Bengal tiger and the Gangetic dolphin, and reptile species include turtles, river tortoises, crocodiles, gavials, pythons, krait and cobras. There are several ‘protected’ areas for wildlife.

Other facts

The Tenth Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting was held in Dhaka, 17–19 June 2013, with delegates from 30 countries and a theme of ‘Women’s Leadership for Enterprise’.

Muhammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, delivered the 6th Annual Commonwealth Lecture, on ‘Halving Poverty by 2015’, in 2003; he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, jointly with the Bank.

Two Bangladeshi-born writers have won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Book award: Adib Khan (1995) and Tahmima Anam (2008).

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 1,087

Life expectancy: 71 years

Primary enrolment: 92% (2010)

Population: 156,595,000 (2013)

Language: Bangla (Bengali) is the official language. English is widely spoken, especially in government and commerce.

Religion: Muslims 90 per cent, Hindus 9.5 per cent, a few Buddhists and Christians (2011 census); Islam is the state religion.

Economy

GNI: US$142.9bn

GNI PC: US$900

GDP Growth: 5.9% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 7.6% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Jatiya Sangsad

Independence: 1971

Head of government: The Hon Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 303,000 tourist arrivals in 2010.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit. Domestic flights connect Dhaka with most of the other main towns. Rail travel is slow; the main line is between Dhaka and Chittagong. A ferry operates from Dhaka to Khulna. In urban areas cycle-rickshaws and taxis are widely available.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies and typhoid.

Asia

Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam (Brunei – ‘Abode of Peace’) is a small state in South-East Asia on the north-west coast of the island of Borneo, in the Indonesian Archipelago. Its 161 km coastline faces the South China Sea. On the land side, it is enclosed by the Malaysian state of Sarawak, which divides it in two. The districts of Brunei–Muara, Tutong and Belait make up the larger, western part of the country; Temburong district the east.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1984

Population: 418,000 (2013)

GDP: –0.5% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 30

Official language: Malay

Timezone: GMT plus 8hr

Currency: Brunei dollar (Br$)

Geography

Area: 5,765 sq km

Coastline: 161km

Capital city: Bandar Seri Begawan

Population density (per sq. km): 73

Main towns

Bandar Seri Begawan (capital), Kuala Belait, Seria, Tutong, Muara and Bangar.

Transport

The main deep-water port is at Muara, with a dedicated container terminal. The Brunei, Belait and Tutong rivers provide an important means of transport. Passenger vessels and water-taxis run between the shallow draught port at Bandar Seri Begawan, Temburong district, and the Malaysian port of Limbang. Brunei International Airport is six km north-east of the capital.

International relations

Brunei Darussalam is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The coastal plain is intersected by rivers descending from the hilly hinterland. Most towns and villages are beside estuaries.

Climate

Tropical, with high humidity and heavy rainfall. There is no distinct wet season; the wettest months are January and November. Much of the rain falls in sudden thundery showers.

Environment

The most significant environmental issue is seasonal smoke/haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia.

Vegetation

Mangrove swamps lie along the coast, and forest covers 72 per cent of the land area, a large part of this being primary forest, dense in places and of great genetic diversity. There are 15 forest reserves, covering about 40 per cent of the total land area. The government plans to increase the area of the forest reserves. Around 15 per cent of the land area is cultivated.

Wildlife

Most of the mammals are small and nocturnal, including tree shrews, moon rats and mouse deer. There are numerous bird species, especially hornbills. Some 33 mammal species and 22 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

Brunei Darussalam is a monarchy.

Scholarships for doctoral study are awarded by Brunei Darussalam to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 73

Life expectancy: 79 years

Primary enrolment: 92%

Population: 418,000

Language: Official language is Malay; English is widely spoken. Other languages include Chinese (various dialects), Tamil, Iban and Dusun.

Religion: Official religion is Islam; minorities of Buddhists, Christians, Confucians and Taoists. The national ideology, Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB, Malay Muslim monarchy) fuses Islamic values and Brunei Malay culture.

Economy

GNI: US$16.1bn

GNI PC: US$38,563

GDP Growth: 0.7% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 0.8% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam

Independence: 1 January 1984

Head of government: HM Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan

Traveller information

There were 225,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include alcohol; although adults who are not Muslims are permitted a duty-free allowance, which must be declared on arrival.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left, and car hire is available for those with an international driving permit.

Taxis are widely available in Bandar Seri Begawan; fares are generally metered. A national bus service links the main towns.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and Japanese encephalitis.

Asia

India

The Republic of India comprises most of the Indian subcontinent. It also includes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. Its neighbours are Pakistan, Afghanistan and China to the north, then Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar (formerly Burma). In the south, the Palk Strait separates it from Sri Lanka. India comprises 29 states (including the Delhi National Capital Territory) and six union territories.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1947

Population: 1,252,140,000 (2013)

GDP: 4.7% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 135

Official language: Hindi, English

Timezone: GMT plus 5.5hr

Currency: rupee (Rs)

Geography

Area: 3,287,263 sq km

Coastline: 7,520km

Capital city: New Delhi

Population density (per sq. km): 381

Main towns

New Delhi/Delhi (capital), Mumbai (formerly Bombay, in Maharashtra State), Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore in Karnataka), Ahmadabad (Gujarat), Chennai (formerly Madras, in Tamil Nadu), Kolkata (formerly Calcutta, in West Bengal), Surat (Gujarat), Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Pune (Maharashtra), Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Nagpur (Maharashtra), Patna (Bihar), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Ludhiana (Punjab), Faridabad (Haryana), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) and Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir).

Transport

The number of vehicles and the demand for roads is growing very rapidly.India has Asia’s biggest, and the world’s fourth biggest, railway system, with 64,460 km of track. The cities are connected by express trains, and there are local trains between most parts of the country. The chief western port is Mumbai, and the chief eastern ports are Kolkata–Haldia and Chennai. The country has 7,520 km of coastline and coastal shipping of freight within India plays an important role. There are about 19,000 km of navigable inland waterways, though only 4,600 km is navigable by large vessels. There are international airports at Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Ahmadabad, and a total of about 250 airports with paved runways.

International relations

India is a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non- Aligned Movement, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

India has great topographical variety, with four distinct regions. The northern region rises into the Himalayas, forming a mountainous wall 160 km to 320 km deep, the mountains losing height to the east. The second region is the plain of the River Ganges and its tributaries, a huge stretch of flat alluvium flowing into the Bay of Bengal in a broad delta. This is one of the most fertile and densely populated regions of India. The third region is the Thar Desert, which stretches into Pakistan. The fourth region is the Deccan tableland bordered by ranges of hills, the Western and Eastern Ghats and Nilgiri Hills in the south, and their coastal belts. The country has many large rivers, the most important of which are the Ganges, Jamuna, Brahmaputra, a stretch of the Indus, Godavari, Krishna, Mahanadi, Narmada and Cauvery. All these rivers are navigable in parts.

Climate

The climate is hot with regional variations. Rajasthan and large parts of the north-west are dry (under 750 mm annual rainfall) and the Thar Desert (in fact a semi-desert) receives around 300 mm. Some 80 per cent of rain falls between June and September, the season of the monsoon. April to June is generally hot, dry and dusty.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are that finite natural resources support a very large and growing population; deforestation, soil erosion and desertification; air pollution with industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; and water pollution with raw sewage and run-off of agricultural pesticides.

Vegetation

Forests in the western Himalayan region range from conifers and broad-leaved trees in the temperate zone to silver fir, silver birch and junipers at the highest level of the alpine zone. The Deccan tableland supports vegetation from scrub to mixed deciduous forests. The Malabar region is rich in forest vegetation. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have evergreen, mangrove, beach and diluvial forests. Much of the country’s flora originated three million years ago and are unique to the subcontinent.

Wildlife

Among the indigenous mammals are elephants, bisons, pandas, Himalayan wild sheep, deer, antelopes and tapirs. Large cats include lions, tigers, panthers, cheetahs and leopards. The tiger is the Indian national animal, protected since 1973. Crocodiles and gharials (a crocodile unique to India) are bred in a project begun in 1974 to save them from extinction. Birdlife is abundant and includes pheasants, mynahs, parakeets and hornbills. The spectacular Indian peacock is the national bird. Reptiles include cobras, saltwater snakes and pythons.

Other facts

Kamalesh Sharma of India became Commonwealth Secretary-General in 2008; and Professor Asha Kanwar was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning in 2012.

Twelve Indians have been regional winners in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and three have gone on to take the overall Best Book or Best First Book awards.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative established its HQ in New Delhi in 1993; and the country is also host to the Commonwealth Youth Programme Asia Centre in Chandigarh and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum’s Project Office, Asia, in Mumbai.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by India to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 381

Life expectancy: 66 years

Primary enrolment: 93% (2011)

Population: 1,252,140,000 (2013)

Language: The main official languages are Hindi (spoken by 30 per cent of the population), and English (as laid down in the Constitution and Official Languages Act of 1963), but there are also 17 official regional languages, and many other languages.

Religion: According to the most recent population census (2011) the population is made up of mainly Hindus (80.5 per cent), Muslims (13.4 per cent), Christians (2.3 per cent), Sikhs (1.9 per cent), and small amounts of Buddhists and Jains.

Economy

GNI: US$1,855.6bn

GNI PC: US$1,570

GDP Growth: 7.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 10.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of India

Independence: 15 August 1947

Head of government: The Rt Hon Narendra Modi, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 6,848,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid for at least 180 days from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some fresh food, live plants and products comprising the skins or horns or tusks of animals.

Travel within the country:

Driving is on the left. An international driving permit is required to hire a car.

Domestic air services connect the main towns. The Indian railway system is extensive and fast trains link the main towns. Taxis and auto-rickshaws are available in urban areas, and fares are charged by the kilometre. Chauffeur-driven tourist cars can be found in major centres and cost slightly more than taxis.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, polio, rabies and typhoid.

Asia

Malaysia

Lying north of the equator in central South-East Asia, above Singapore and south of Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia is separated by about 540 km of the South China Sea from the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which share the island of Borneo with Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam. Malaysian islands include Labuan, Penang and the Langkawi Islands. The Federation of Malaysia comprises three federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan) and 13 states (Sabah, Sarawak and the 11 states of Peninsular Malaysia). The peninsular states are the nine sultanates of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu, plus Melaka and Penang.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1957

Population: 29,717,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.5% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 62

Official language: Malay

Timezone: GMT plus 8hr

Currency: ringgit or Malaysian dollar (M$)

Geography

Area: 329,758 sq km

Coastline: 4,680km

Capital city: Kuala Lumpur

Population density (per sq. km): 90

Main towns

Kuala Lumpur (capital), Subang Jaya (Selangor, contiguous with Kuala Lumpur), Kelang (Selangor), Johor Baharu (Johor), Ampang Jaya (Selangor), Ipoh (Perak), Shah Alam (Selangor), Kuching (Sarawak), Petaling Jaya (Selangor), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Batu Sembilan Cheras (Selangor), Sandakan (Sabah), Kajang Sungai Chua (Selangor), Seremban (Negeri Sembilan), Kuantan (Pahang), Tawau (Sabah), Kuala Terengganu (Terengganu), Miri, Kota Baharu (Kelantan), Bukit Mertajam (Penang) Alor Setar (Kedah), Taiping (Perak), Melaka (Melaka) and George Town (Penang).

Transport

good network in Peninsular Malaysia including a motorway from north to south. Toll motorways (such as parts of the North–South Expressway) have been built by private groups. There is a railway network of 2,250 km operated by Malaysian Railway, in Peninsular Malaysia, linking with Singapore in the south and Thailand to the north. Express trains are modern. Sabah has a coastal line; Sarawak has no railway. Kuala Lumpur’s light railway system combines underground and raised track and covers the entire city, connecting city centre with airports and suburbs.

Ferry services run between ports on the peninsula and link the peninsula with Sabah and Sarawak. River transport is well developed in the east and the only form of transport in remote areas. The new Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang, 55 km to the south of Kuala Lumpur, was completed in 1998, in time for the Commonwealth Games. Other international airports are at Penang (16 km south of George Town), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), and Kuching (Sarawak).

International relations

Malaysia is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Peninsular Malaysia has a mountainous spine with low plains on either side. In the west, mangrove swamps and mudflats at the coast give way to cultivated plains. Sandy beaches lie along the east coast. The main rivers are the Perak and the Pahang. Sabah’s mountains include Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South-East Asia. Sarawak’s highest mountain is Murud, its main river the Rejang.

Climate

Tropical, with heavy annual rainfall and high humidity. The daily temperature throughout Malaysia varies from 21–32°C. In Kuala Lumpur, April and May are the hottest months, December the coldest and April the wettest.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation; air pollution by industrial and motor emissions; water pollution by raw sewage; and smoke or haze from Indonesian forest fires.

Vegetation

Intensive logging and replanting operations are gradually changing the forest’s form. Most cleared areas are in the north-east and west of Peninsular Malaysia.

Wildlife

East Malaysia has one of the largest and most varied bird populations in the world, including many species of parrots, hornbills and broadbills. The endangered orangutan, the proboscis monkey and massive wild ox, the seladang or Malayan gaur, also occur.

Other facts

Malaysia is to host the tenth biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management and the fifth Forum of Commonwealth Public Service Ministers in Kuala Lumpur in October 2014; and at the 2013 CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Malaysia offered to host CHOGM 2019.

Tash Aw was a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional winner with The Harmony Silk Factory in 2006; and Sri Lankan Rani Manicka, who was born in Malaysia, with her novel, The Rice Mother, in 2003.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by Malaysia to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 90

Life expectancy: 75 years

Population: 29,717,000 (2013)

Language: The national language is Malay (Bahasa Malaysia), but English is widely spoken. Other languages include various Chinese dialects, Tamil and indigenous languages such as Iban and Kadazan.

Religion: Muslims 61 per cent, Buddhists 20 per cent, Christians nine per cent and Hindus six per cent (2010 census). Islam is the official religion; freedom of worship is guaranteed under the constitution.

Economy

GNI: US$301.3bn

GNI PC: US$10,400

GDP Growth: 4.3% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 1.8% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Parliament of Malaysia

Independence: 31 August 1957

Head of government: The Hon Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 25,715,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. An international driving permit is required to drive in Malaysia. The wearing of seatbelts is mandatory and driving under the influence of alcohol carries heavy penalties. Scheduled air services link the main towns throughout the country. In peninsular Malaysia the rail network spans the country. In Sabah the North Borneo Railway runs from Kota Kinabalu to the town of Papar. Kuala Lumpur is served by four rail networks and taxis, minibuses and pedicabs (trishaws) are widely available.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis (risk is minimal in peninsular Malaysia), malaria, rabies and typhoid.

Asia

Pakistan

The country comprises four provinces: Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa (formerly North- West Frontier Province). The territory adjoining Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa is known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Pakistani-administered parts of Jammu and Kashmir in the north-east as Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1947 (left in 1972, rejoined in 1989)

Population: 182,143,000 (2013)

GDP: 1.8% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 146

Official language: Urdu

Timezone: GMT plus 5hr

Currency: Pakistan rupee (PRs)

Geography

Area: 796,095 sq km, excluding territory in Jammu and Kashmir, whose status is in dispute.

Coastline: 1,050km

Capital city: Islamabad

Population density (per sq. km): 229

Main towns

Islamabad (capital), Karachi (Sindh Province), Lahore (Punjab), Faisalabad (Punjab), Rawalpindi (Punjab), Multan (Punjab), Hyderabad (Sindh), Gujranwala (Punjab), Peshawar (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa), Quetta (Balochistan), Sargodha (Punjab), Bahawalpur (Punjab), Sialkot (Punjab), Sukkur (Sindh), Larkana (Sindh), Shekhupura (Punjab), Jhang (Punjab), Rahimyar Khan (Punjab), Mardan (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa), Gujrat (Punjab), Kasur (Punjab), Mingaora (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa), Dera Ghazi Khan (Punjab), Nawabshah (Sindh), Wah (Punjab), Sahiwal (Punjab), Mirpur Khas (Sindh), Okara (Punjab), Kohat (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa), Abottabad (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa), Khuzdar (Balochistan), Swabi (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa), Dera Ismail Khan (Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa) and Zhob (Balochistan).

Transport

There are 781 stations. Main lines run north–south, linking the main ports and industrial centre of Karachi with Islamabad, 1,600 km to the north. All major cities and most industrial centres are linked by rail. Karachi port handles the bulk of foreign trade. Major international airports are at Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.

International relations

Pakistan is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

High mountain region of the north includes part of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindukush. There are 35 peaks over 7,320 metres high, including K-2, the world’s second-highest mountain. This region abounds in glaciers, lakes and green valleys. Southwards, the ranges gradually lose height. The western low mountain region covers much of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa Province, with mountains cut by valleys and passes, including the Khyber Pass, 56 km long, connecting Kabul in Afghanistan with Peshawar. The third region is the Balochistan plateau to the west. West of the Balochistan plateau is an area of desert with dry lakes, one 87 km long. The Potohar upland lies between the Indus and Jhelum rivers in the Islamabad/Rawalpindi area. The fifth region is the Punjab plain watered by the River Indus and its eastern tributaries (Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas) and additionally irrigated by canals.

Climate

Extreme variations of temperature. The northern mountains are cold, with long and severe winters. Temperatures on the Balochistan plateau are high. Along the coastal strip, the climate is modified by sea breezes. In the rest of the country, the temperature rises steeply in summer. Seasons are: cold season (December to March), hot season (April to June), monsoon season (July to September) and post-monsoon season (October and November).

Vegetation

Well-watered mountain slopes support forests of deodar, pine, poplar, shisham, willow and other species. Towering grasses and expanses of floating lotus flourish in the lake area of the Sindh plain. There are mangrove swamps to the south.

Wildlife

Wildlife in the northern mountains includes brown bears, black Himalayan bears, musk deer, ibexes, leopards and rare snow-leopards. Chinkara gazelles have a wider distribution, while barking deer live closer to urban centres. In the delta, there are crocodiles, pythons and wild boar. Green turtles, an endangered species, regularly visit the Karachi coast during the egg-laying season. Houbara bustards are winter visitors. Manchar Lake in Sindh is rich in water-birds.

Other facts

Dr Asma Jahangir of Pakistan was in 2010 appointed to the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, which presented its recommendations for reform in the Commonwealth to Commonwealth leaders at CHOGM in Australia in October 2011.

Cricketers Imran Khan and Wasim Akram, both born in Lahore, Punjab, achieved the ‘all-rounder’s double’ and Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 229

Life expectancy: 67 years

Primary enrolment: 72%

Population: 182,143,000 (2013)

Language: The official language is Urdu, but English is widely used. Regional languages are Punjabi, Pashtu, Sindhi and Saraiki. There are numerous local dialects.

Religion: Muslims 96 per cent, the majority of whom are Sunni, with a minority (about 10-15 per cent) of Shia. There are small communities of Hindus, Christians, Qadianis and a few Parsis (Zoroastrians).

Economy

GNI: US$248.0bn

GNI PC: US$1,380

GDP Growth: 3.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 11.3% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Pakistan

Independence: 14 August 1947

Head of government: The Hon Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 966,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include alcohol, matches, and plants and plant material, including fresh fruit.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left. An international driving permit is required to hire a car.

Scheduled flights, the rail network and air-conditioned buses link the main towns. Taxis are widely available in urban areas.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, polio, rabies and typhoid.

Asia

Singapore

The name ‘Singapore’ derives from the Sanskrit Singa Pura (‘City of the Lion’). Situated in South-East Asia and lying just north of the equator, the Republic of Singapore is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the narrow Johor Straits (1km wide), crossed by a causeway. A number of smaller islands are included within its boundaries and a few kilometres to the south are islands belonging to Indonesia.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1965

Population: 5,412,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.5% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 9

Official language: English, Chinese (Mandarin), Malay, Tamil

Timezone: GMT plus 8hr

Currency: Singapore dollar (S$)

Geography

Area: Land area 699 sq km, including 63 small islands.

Coastline: 193km

Capital city: Singapore

Population density (per sq. km): 7,742

Main towns

Singapore City, Jurong, Bukit Panjang, Serangoon, Katong and Changi.

Transport

There are 3,260km of roads, all paved, with 118 flyovers, the longest of which is the 2.1km Keppel Viaduct. The 42km Pan-Island Expressway is the longest road. The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRT) connects the city with all residential areas and the international airport, serving more than 40 stations. A railway across the Straits of Johor causeway connects the island with the Peninsular Malaysian railway system and beyond to Thailand. Singapore has an excellent harbour and is one of the world’s busiest ports. It comprises six terminals, a container port and several deep-water wharves. Changi International Airport has three terminals; the third terminal was opened in January 2008.

International relations

Singapore is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Singapore hosts the headquarters of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Topography

The land is flat apart from low hills (highest point is Bukit Timah at 163m). In the north-east large areas of swamp have been reclaimed. The island is drained by a number of small streams.

Climate

A hot and humid tropical climate, without defined seasons. Heavy showers November to January.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are industrial pollution and seasonal smoke/haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia; and the finite land and freshwater resources to support a very high population density.

Vegetation

Outside conservation areas, much of the natural dense forest and swamp flora have been cleared, although there is extensive planting on any spare ground in urban areas, and Singapore aims to be a ‘garden city state’. To control the impact of industry and urban development, environmental regulations are strict.

Wildlife

The last tiger was shot in 1932. Most of the animals found in Singapore are confined to the rainforest area of the nature reserves and include flying lemurs, squirrels and long-tailed macaques. Despite the urbanisation of the country, there are over 300 species of bird.

Other facts

Singapore has won the annual Commonwealth Essay Competition nine times since 1983 when it was launched; no other country has won more than three times. Singapore is by far the most densely populated country in the Commonwealth. Scholarships for postgraduate study in integrative sciences and engineering are awarded by Singapore to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 7,742

Life expectancy: 82 years

Population: 5,412,000 (2013)

Language: English, Chinese (Mandarin), Malay and Tamil are the four official languages. Several other Chinese dialects are spoken, the most prevalent being Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew. Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, in a mother tongue and English (the administrative language).

Religion: Buddhists 34 per cent, Christians 17 per cent, Muslims 14 per cent, Taoists 11 per cent and Hindus five per cent (2010 census).

Economy

GNI: US$290.8bn

GNI PC: US$54,040

GDP Growth: 5.3% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 3.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 9 August 1965

Head of government: The Hon Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 11,098,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include chewing gum and cigarette lighters; and alcoholic drinks or tobacco products with ‘Singapore duty not paid’ on the packaging.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors can drive with a foreign driving licence for stays of up to one month.

For longer visits an international driving permit is required. Singapore has one of the most advanced metro systems in the world, the MRT. Taxis are widely available; fares are metered.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis B and Japanese encephalitis.

Asia

Sri Lanka

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean, separated from south-east India (Tamil Nadu state) by the Palk Strait. The country comprises nine provinces: Southern (provincial capital Galle), Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura), Western (Colombo), Uva (Badulla), Eastern (Trincomalee), Central (Kandy), North-Western (Kurunegala), North-Central (Anuradhapura) and Northern (Jaffna).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1948

Population: 21,273,000 (2013)

GDP: p.c. growth: 4.6% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 73

Official language: Sinhala, Tamil

Timezone: GMT plus 5:30hr

Currency: Sri Lanka rupee (SLRs)

Geography

Area: 65,610 sq km

Coastline: 1,340km

Capital city: Colombo

Population density (per sq. km): 324

Main towns

Colombo (commercial capital; Western Province), Sri Jayewardenepura–Kotte (administrative capital; greater Colombo), Maharagama (greater Colombo), Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia (greater Colombo), Moratuwa (greater Colombo), Negombo, Kalmunai, Kandy (Central), Galle (Southern), Batticaloa, Jaffna (Northern), Daluguma, Katunayaka, Anuradhapura (North-Central), Trincomalee (Eastern), Ratnapura (Sabaragamuwa), Badulla (Uva), Vavuniya, Kurunegala (North-Western), Dambulla, Chavakachcheri, Point Pedro and Valvettithurai.

Transport

Rail links exist between the major towns. The lines run from Colombo north along the coast to Puttalam, north via Kurunegala and Anuradhapura to Mannar and to Jaffna; north-east to Trincomalee and Batticaloa; east to Kandy via Gampaha; and south along the coast to Galle and Matara. The international ports are at Colombo, Galle, Talaimannar and Trincomalee. Bandaranaike international airport is 32 km from Colombo

International relations

Sri Lanka is a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Beyond the coastal plains, Sri Lanka’s topography is dominated by an outstandingly beautiful central mountain massif of gneiss rock, with the highest point at Pidurutalagala (2,524m). The holy Adam’s Peak (2,243m) is so called from a mark at the top in the likeness of a human footprint, variously attributed as the print of the Buddha, Vishnu or Adam, and is a place of pilgrimage. The coastal plains are broader in the north, tapering off in the long low-lying Jaffna peninsula. Several fast-flowing non-navigable rivers arise in the mountains.

Climate

Tropical. The lowlands are always hot, particularly March–May. The highlands are cooler. During December and January there is occasional frost on very high ground – for example, at Nuwara Eliya. The dry season is March–mid-May. The south-west monsoon season lasts from mid-May–September, the north-east monsoon season November–March.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are: deforestation; soil erosion; coastal degradation as a result of mining activities and increased pollution; pollution of freshwater resources by industrial wastes and sewage; air pollution in Colombo; and the threat to wildlife populations of poaching and urbanisation.

Vegetation

Vegetation is rich and luxuriant, with a great variety of flowers, trees, creepers and flowering shrubs. Among the many species of trees are the rubber tree, palm, acacia, margosa, satinwood, Ceylon oak, tamarind, ebony, coral tree and banyan. Flowers and shrubs include the orchid and rhododendron.

Wildlife

Nature reserves now cover ten per cent of the island. Wilpattu National Park in the north-west (813 sq km) is best known for leopards; Yala National Park in the south-east (112 sq km) is home to large elephant populations. However, reduction of the natural tropical hardwood forest is endangering several animal species.

Other facts

The 58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference was held in Colombo in September 2012. Sri Lanka was the first Commonwealth state to have a female prime minister. Sirimavo Bandaranaike served for three periods of office: 1960–65, 1970–77 and 1994–2000. Shehan Karunatilaka won the Commonwealth Writers’ Book Prize in 2012. Sanath Jayasuriya was Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1996, Muttiah Muralitharan in 2000 and 2006, and K C Sangakkara in 2011.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 324

Life expectancy: 74 years

Primary enrolment: 94%

Population: 21,273,000 (2013);

Language: The official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. English is used in commerce and government and very widely understood.

Religion: Buddhists 70 per cent, Hindus 13 per cent, Muslims ten per cent and Christians six per cent (2012).

Economy

GNI: US$65.4bn

GNI PC: US$3,170

GDP Growth: 6.7% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 6.2% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive president

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 4 February 1948

Head of government: HE Mr Maithripala Sirisena, President

Traveller information

There were 1,275,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some fresh food, plants and plant material, and tea.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit. Trains connect Colombo to most other towns; air-conditioned carriages are available on some services and express services operate on a few lines, for example Colombo-Kandy.

Taxis have yellow tops and red and white number plates. Most are metered but visitors should always agree the fare before travel. Chauffeurdriven cars are also available and motorised rickshaws are plentiful.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies and typhoid.

Africa

Botswana

The Republic of Botswana is a large, roughly circular, landlocked plateau in the centre of Southern Africa, bordered by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1966

Population: 2,021,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.8% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 109

Official language: Setswana, English

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: pula (P)

Geography

Area: 582,000 sq km

Coastline: none

Capital city: Gaborone

Population density (per sq. km): 3

Main towns

Gaborone (capital), Francistown, Molepolole, Maun, Mogoditshane, Selebi-Phikwe, Serowe, Kanye, Mochudi, Mahalapye, Palapye, Tlokweng, Lobatse, Ramotswa, Thamaga and Bobonong. Most of Botswana’s main settlements are in the south-east of the country.

Transport

The north-south highway links South Africa with Zambia. The TransKalahari highway, completed in 1998, links Botswana to Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast, shortening the route between Johannesburg and the Namibian capital, Windhoek, and opening up the hitherto inaccessible western regions of the country. The 888-km railway line runs north-south along the eastern side of the country from Plumtree in Zimbabwe to the border with South Africa. Exports from Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Southern Africa use this line to reach the South African ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Local railway lines service Botswana’s mining industries. Air services operate to several regional destinations plus regular domestic flights between Gaborone and Francistown, Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Ghanzi, Pont Drift and Kasane.

International relations

Botswana is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Botswana hosts the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community in Gaborone.

Topography

The average elevation of the country is 1,000m. To the south-east are hills, the highest being 1,491m Otse Mountain near Lobatse. In the north-west are the Tsodilo Hills, famous for rock-paintings. Also in the north-west, the Okavango river flows into an enormous inland delta, home of a great variety of wildlife. To the north-east is the salt desert of the Makgadikgadi Pans. However, about 85% of the country consists of the tableland of the Kalahari desert, a vast sandveld.

Climate

The climate ranges from semi-arid through subtropical to temperate. Summer (October to April) is the rainy season and is very hot. May to October is usually dry. In winter the nights can be cold and sometimes frosty, especially in the desert. Mean maximum temperature at Gaborone is 32.5°C. From August, annual seasonal winds cross the Kalahari from the west, raising dust and sandstorms.

Vegetation

Mostly dry savannah with grasslands and thornbush to semi-desert and some true desert. Acacia, bloodwood and Rhodesian teak trees in the forest in the north-west. Forest covers 20 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.9 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.

Wildlife

Wildlife is protected in the three national parks and five game reserves, extending to 105,000 sq km or 18.5 per cent of the total land area. The Okavango Delta supports a world-famous variety of water-birds and attracts thousands of animals in the dry season. The Chobe National Park, also in the north, has more than 50,000 elephants.

Other facts

Novelist and human rights campaigner Unity Dow was appointed a High Court judge in 1998, the first woman to hold the post.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by Botswana to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Botswana was the largest producer of gem-quality diamonds in the world in 2012, a position it has held since it displaced Australia in 1999.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 3

Life expectancy: 48 years

Primary enrolment: 84% (2009)

Population: 2,021,000 (2013)

Language: Setswana is the national language; English is an official language.

Religion: Most people are Christians (81 per cent in 2011 census) or hold traditional beliefs. Traditional religions incorporate some Christian practices.

Economy

GNI: US$14.6bn

GNI PC: US$7,730

GDP Growth: 3.2% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 7.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive president

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 30 September 1966

Head of government: HE Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President

Traveller information

There were 2,145,000 tourist arrivals in 2010.

Immigration and customs:

Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by some Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country:

Traffic drives on the left. An international driving permit is recommended. Flying is an efficient way to travel around the country and chartered flights are available. Bus services link the main towns and taxis are available within towns. Botswana Railway runs a daily service between Francistown, Gaborone and Lobatse.

Travel health:

Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid.

Africa

Cameroon

Cameroon is called Cameroun in French, Kamerun in German, Camarões in Portuguese, and Cameroon in English. The country’s name derives from camarões, meaning ‘shrimps’, so called by the 15th-century Portuguese explorer Fernando Po who named the River Wouri Rio dos Camarões (‘shrimp river’), after the many shrimps. Cameroon in central Africa is bounded by the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The country comprises ten regions: Adamaoua, Centre, Coastal, East, Far North, North, North-West, South, South-West and West.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1995

Population: 22,254,000 (2013)

GDP: 0.0% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 152

Official language: French, English

Timezone: GMT plus 1hr

Currency: CFA franc (CFAfr)

Geography

Area: 475,442 sq km

Coastline: 402km

Capital city: Yaoundé (constitutional); Douala (economic)

Population density (per sq. km): 47

Main towns

Yaoundé (capital), Douala, Garoua, Bamenda, Maroua, Bafoussam, Ngaoundéré, Bertoua, Loum, Kumbo, Edéa, Mbouda, Kumba, Foumban, Dschang, Nkongsamba, Ebolowa, Kousséri and Buea.

Transport

The rail network runs 977 km north–south from Ngaoundéré to Yaoundé, with connections between Douala and Yaoundé, and from Douala to Nkongsamba and Kumba. International airports are at Douala (10 km south-east of the city), Yaoundé (25 km from city) and Garoua.

International relations

Cameroon is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The physical geography is varied, with forests, mountains, large waterfalls and deserts, falling into four regions. At the border of the northern Sahel region lies Lake Chad and the Chad basin; further south the land forms a sloping plain, rising to the Mandara Mountains. The central region extends from the Benue (Bénoué) river to the Sanaga river, with a plateau in the north. In the west, the land is mountainous, with a double chain of volcanic peaks, rising to a height of 4,095 metres at Mt Cameroon. This is the highest and wettest peak in western Africa. The fourth region, to the south, extends from the Sanaga river to the southern border, comprising a coastal plain and forested plateau.

Climate

In the northern Sahel region, there is a long dry season from October to April, with temperatures varying from cool to very hot. Further south, on the Adamaoua plateau, there are sharp drops in temperature at night. In the south the climate is hot and humid, with two rainy seasons, in September/October and from March to June.

Environment

The most significant issues are overgrazing, desertification, deforestation, poaching, and overfishing.

Vegetation

There is tropical rainforest in the hot humid south, with mangroves along the coast and river mouths. The southern coastal plain and south-east plateau also contain the cocoa and banana farms and the rubber and oil palm plantations. The central region has mixed deciduous and evergreen forest. Above the forest zone are drier woodlands, with taller grasses and mountain bamboos.

Wildlife

The Waza National Park in the north, originally created for the protection of giraffes and antelopes, also abounds in monkeys – screaming red and green monkeys and mandrills – and lions and leopards. There are gorillas in the great tracts of hardwood rainforest in the south and east.

Other facts

Celebrated writers originating from Cameroon include Ferdinand Oyono, who was born in Ebolowa, South Region, in 1929 and died in 2010; and Mongo Beti, born in Akométan, Centre Region, in 1932 and died in 2001.

The many Cameroon nationals who have excelled in international football include Samuel Eto’o, African Footballer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010; Patrick Mboma, 2000; Thomas Nkono, 1979 and 1982; and Roger Milla, 1976 and 1990.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 47

Life expectancy: 55 years

Primary enrolment: 92%

Population: 21,700,000 (2012)

Language: French and English are both official languages; French is spoken by about 80 per cent of the population, English by about 20 per cent. There are about 240 indigenous languages including 24 major language groups.

Religion: Christians about 69 per cent, Muslims 21 per cent and six per cent Animists, while other religious groups including Jews and Baha’is make up less than five per cent of the population (2005 census).

Economy

GNI: US$28.7bn

GNI PC: US$1,270

GDP Growth: 3.9% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 2.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: National Assembly of Cameroon

Independence: 1 January 1960

Head of government: HE Mr Paul Biya, President

Travel

There were 817,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers aged over 12 months.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right. An international driving permit is required to drive in Cameroon. Major roads are paved.Scheduled flights connect the main towns, and are daily between Douala and Yaoundé. Train services are run by CAMRAIL. Coach services operate between Yaoundé and Douala.Taxis are widely available in the main towns. All fares must be agreed on before travel, as taxis are not metered.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

Ghana

The Republic of Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, is a West African country lying on the Gulf of Guinea. It is surrounded by Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo. Ghana has ten regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Volta and Western. After Greater Accra, Ashanti is the most populated region; Upper West, the least.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1957

Population: 25,905,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.2% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 138

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT

Currency: cedi (¢)

Geography

Area: 238,537 sq km

Coastline: 539km

Capital city: Accra

Population density (per sq. km): 109

Main towns

Accra (capital), Kumasi, Tamale, Ashiaman, Takoradi, Cape Coast, Teshie, Tema, Obuasi, Sekondi, Madina, Koforidua, Wa, Techiman, Nungua, Tema New Town, Ho, Sunyani, Bawku and Bolgatanga.

Transport

There is a 953-km railway network, connecting Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, originally built mainly to link mining centres to the ports but also provides passenger services. Main ports are at Tema, near Accra, and Takoradi, and the main international airport is at Accra (Kotoka), 10 km to the north of the city; other airports are at Takoradi, Kumasi, Sunyani and Tamale.

International relations

Ghana is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The Black Volta, Red Volta and White Volta rivers merge into one river Volta, which has been dammed at Akosombo to form Lake Volta. There are hills to the north (averaging 500 metres), but the country is generally flat. The central forest area is broken up into ridges and valleys. There are lagoons on the coast, and many sandy beaches with coconut trees.

Climate

Tropical; warm and fairly dry in northern areas, hot and humid on the coastal belt. Temperatures usually range between 21°C and 32°C. In 2007, large parts of West Africa were the subject of severe flooding. Ghana was the worst hit with more than 300,000 of its people made homeless.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion; drought in the north; poaching and habitat destruction threatening wildlife populations; and water pollution and inadequate supplies of drinking water.

Vegetation

Grass occurs on much of the central plain, dense rainforest in the south and west; woodland and dry savannah to the north. Forest covers 21 per cent of the land area, having declined at 2.0 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 21 per cent and permanent cropland 12 per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

Ghana is rich in animal life and in 2003 had protected areas comprising 5.6 per cent of the total land area. The Mole National Park comprises some 736 sq km in the western part of the northern region of Damonoyo and has many species including elephants, hippos, eagles, kites and hornbills. The Digya National Park on the shores of Lake Volta has hippos, water bucks, crocodiles and manatees.

Other facts

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivered the 3rd Annual Commonwealth Lecture, on ‘Africa Wants to Trade its Way out of Poverty’, in 2000.

Four Ghanaians have been regional winners in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Ama Ata Aidoo (1992), Lawrence Darmani (1992), Lucy Safo (1994) and Benjamin Kwakye (1999 and 2006).

Abédi Pelé, born in Accra, Ghana, in 1964, was voted African Footballer of the Year in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 109

Life expectancy: 61 years

Primary enrolment: 87%

Population: 25,905,000 (2013)

Language: The official language is English. The principal indigenous language group is Akan, of which Twi and Fanti are the most commonly used forms. Ga is spoken in the Accra region, Ewe in Volta, and the Mole–Dagbani language group in northern Ghana.

Religion: Christians 71 per cent in 2010 census and Muslims 18 per cent; traditional animist religions are often practised alongside both of these religions.

Economy

GNI: US$46.8bn

GNI PC: US$1,760

GDP Growth: 8.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 11.8% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Ghana

Independence: 6 March 1957

Head of government: HE John Dramani Mahama, President

Traveller information

There were 931,000 tourist arrivals in 2010.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of visa application. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers aged over nine months.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right. An international driving permit is required to drive in Ghana. Seatbelts are compulsory and drink-driving is illegal. Grass or leaves strewn across the road indicates an accident or hazard ahead.

There are domestic flights between Accra, Kumasi and Tamale. The rail network forms a 953-km loop in the south of the country, connecting Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi. Taxis are available in the main towns. Tro-tros (small private buses) are abundant.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

Kenya

Kenya lies astride the equator, extending from the Indian Ocean in the east to Uganda in the west and from the United Republic of Tanzania in the south to Ethiopia and Sudan in the north. On the east and north-east it borders Somalia.

The country is divided into eight provinces (Central, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi, North-Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1963

Population: 44,354,000 (2013)

GDP: 0.6% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 147

Official language: Kiswahili, English

Timezone: GMT plus 3hrs

Currency: Kenyan shilling (KSh)

Geography

Area: 582,646 sq km

Coastline: 536km

Capital city: Nairobi

Population density (per sq. km): 76

Main towns

Nairobi (capital), Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu, Ruiru, Thika, Malindi, Kitale, Bungoma, Kakamega, Garissa, Kilifi, Mumias, Meru, Nyeri, Wajir, Lamu and Marsabit.

Transport

The main railway line runs between Mombasa and Nairobi, and branch lines connect with Taveta on the Tanzanian border in the south and Kisumu on Lake Victoria in the west. Mombasa is the chief port for Kenya and an important regional port, handling freight for and from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including a substantial volume of food aid. Ferries ply the coast between Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is 13 km south-east of Nairobi. Moi International is 13 km west of Mombasa.

International relations

Kenya is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Kenya was a member, with Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, of the East African Community, which from 1967 had a common market and many shared services, but collapsed in 1977. The three countries again embarked on developing regional co-operation in 1993, bringing about progressive harmonisation of standards and policies across a wide range of activities and launching a new East African Community in January 2001 and East African Customs Union in January 2005. The Community was enlarged in July 2007 when Burundi and Rwanda became members. Kenya is also a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which was established in 1986 by the six countries in the Horn of Africa to combat drought and desertification and promote food security in the region. Kenya hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi.

Topography

There are four main regions. The north-east plain is arid. The south-east region is fertile along the Tana river, in the coastal strip and in the Taita Hills, which rise to 2,100 metres. The north-west is generally low-lying and arid but includes Lake Turkana, 260 km long, and many mountains, including Nyiru. The south-west quarter, a plateau rising to 3,000 metres, includes some of Africa’s highest mountains: Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon and the Aberdare Range.

Climate

The coastal areas are tropical, with monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot and mainly dry. The highlands are much cooler and have four seasons. Nairobi, 1,700 metres above sea level, has a mean temperature that ranges from a minimum of 13°C to a maximum of 25°C; Mombasa, on the coast, from a minimum of 23°C to a maximum of 29°C.

Environment

The most significant issues are water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilisers; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; and poaching.

Vegetation

Thornbush and grassland are characteristic of much of the country. Varied forest covers about 13,000 sq km of the south-west quarter, at 2–3,500 metres above sea level. Forest covers six per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.3 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises ten per cent and permanent cropland one per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

Kenya’s wildlife is probably the most famous in the world. Wild mammals include lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, baboons and many kinds of monkeys. There are 359 recorded species of mammals, of which 28 are endangered (2012). Reptiles include crocodiles and more than 100 species of snake. There are 344 species of birds, 34 of which are endangered (2012).

Other facts

The father of US President Barack Obama was a Kenyan national.

Kenyan athletes hold eight Commonwealth Games records and 19 world records.

Kenyan athletes hold eight Commonwealth Games records and 19 world records. Dennis Kipruto Kimetto, born in 1984, has won marathons all over the world, and currently holds the world records for the fastest marathon and the fastest 25 km.

Kenya hosts the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and a national chapter of the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council (CHEC).

  1. Vassanji won the Commonwealth Best First Book Prize (Africa Region) in 1990, with Margaret A. Ogola being awarded it in 1995.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 76

Life expectancy: 62 years

Primary enrolment: 82% (2009)

Population: 44,354,000 (2013)

Language: Kiswahili and English are official languages. Each of the ethnic groups has its own language.

Religion: Christians 84 per cent (mainly Protestants 48 per cent and Roman Catholics 24 per cent), Muslims 11 per cent, and most of the rest hold traditional beliefs (2009 census).

Economy

GNI: US$43.8bn

GNI PC: US$930

GDP Growth: 5.6% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 8.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Kenya

Independence: 12 December 1963

Head of government: HE Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, President

Traveller information

There were 1,750,000 tourist arrivals in 2011.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals; they can generally be obtained on arrival. If you are travelling on from Kenya, many countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate (see Travel Health below).

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. A foreign driving licence is valid in Kenya, as long as it is in English. All major roads are paved. Scheduled domestic flights link the regions. Fast train services operate between Nairobi and Mombasa, with a journey time of 13 hours and sleeping compartments available. Bus and minibus (matatu) services connect the main towns. Taxis and rickshaws (tuk tuk) provide urban transport.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, meningococcal meningitis, polio, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

Lesotho

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small landlocked country entirely surrounded by South Africa. It is known as the ‘Mountain Kingdom’, the whole country being over 1,000 metres in altitude. The country is divided into ten districts, each named after the principal town: Berea, Butha Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha’s Nek, Quthing and Thaba- Tseka.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1966

Population: 2,074,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.8% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 162

Official language: Sesotho, English

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: loti, plural maloti (M)

Geography

Area: 30,355 sq km

Coastline: none

Capital city: Maseru

Population density (per sq. km): 68

Main towns

Maseru (capital, pop. 178,345 in 2011), Teyateyaneng (61,578), Maputsoa (48,243), Mafeteng (30,602), Butha Buthe (30,115), Mohale’s Hoek (25,308), Hlotse (18,840), Quthing (14,177), Qacha’s Nek (9,417) and Mokhotlong (8,784).

Transport

There are 5,940 km of roads, 18 per cent paved. South African Railways runs a short freight line into Lesotho, terminating at the Maseru industrial estate. The international airport, Moshoeshoe I Airport, lies 20 km south of Maseru; there are 31 airstrips around the country for domestic flights.

International relations

Lesotho is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Lesotho has two main mountain ranges – the Drakensberg and the Maloti ranges. The highest mountain in southern Africa is Thabana–Ntlenyana in eastern Lesotho. The country is well-watered in a generally dry region, the Orange river and its tributary the Caledon both rising in Lesotho.

Climate

The climate is temperate with well-marked seasons. The rainy season (receiving 85 per cent of total precipitation) is October to April, when there are frequent violent thunderstorms. Rainfall averages 746 mm p.a. Temperatures in the lowlands range from 32.2°C to –6.7°C; the range is much greater in the mountains. From May to September, snow falls in the highlands with heavy frosts occurring in the lowlands.

Environment

The most significant issue is overgrazing, resulting in severe soil erosion and desertification.

Vegetation

Mainly grassland and bushveld, with forest in ravines and on the windward slopes of mountains. Forest covers one per cent of the land area and arable land comprises ten per cent. Forest cover increased at 0.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.

Wildlife

The Drakensberg Mountains are the last stronghold in southern Africa of the huge bearded vulture, the lammergeier. Large mammals have largely been eradicated by stock farming, and indigenous ground-living species are now restricted to small antelope, hares and the mountain-dwelling rock-rabbit (dassie).

Other facts

Lesotho is a monarchy.

The country’s lowest point of 1,400 metres above sea level is the highest lowest point of any country in the world. It has relatively very little forest, covering only one per cent of the land area.

Through the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Lesotho exports water to South Africa, which completely surrounds it.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 68

Life expectancy: 49 years

Primary enrolment: 82%

Population: 2,074,000 (2013);

Language: Sesotho and English are official languages; Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 56 per cent, and Lesotho Evangelicals and Anglicans 24 per cent); the rest hold traditional beliefs, which often coexist with Christianity (2006 census).

Economy

GNI: US$2.9bn

GNI PC: US$1,550

GDP Growth: 5.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 5.4% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Parliament of Lesotho

Independence: 4 October 1966

Head of government: The Rt Hon Dr Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 422,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include some fresh food.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Car hire is available in Maseru with an international driving permit. Paved roads connect the main towns but outside these areas the road network is underdeveloped and the terrain often difficult.

A good bus network connects the major towns but can be slow. Minibuses are quicker but can only cover shorter distances. There is no passenger rail service in Lesotho.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid.

Africa

Malawi

Malawi is a long, narrow south-east African country shaped by the dramatic Rift Valley, with Lake Malawi a dominant feature. It is bordered by Mozambique to the east, south and south-west, by Zambia to the north and north-west, and by the United Republic of Tanzania to the north and north-east. There are three regions: the northern (capital Mzuzu), the central (capital Lilongwe) and the southern (capital Blantyre).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1964

Population: 16,363,000 (2013)

GDP: 1.5% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 174

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: Malawi kwacha (MK)

Geography

Area: 118,484 sq km

Coastline: none

Capital city: Lilongwe

Population density (per sq. km): 138

Main towns

Lilongwe (capital), Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba, Kasungu, Karonga, Mangochi, Salima, Nkhotakota, Liwonde, Balaka, Mzimba, Dedza, Nsanje, Rumphi and Mchinji.

Transport

Rehabilitation of the war-damaged railway line to the Mozambican port of Nacala was completed in 1997. Plans were announced in 1999 for private-sector management of Malawi Railways, leading to eventual privatisation. Lilongwe International Airport handles the bulk of domestic and international traffic; the second international airport is Blantyre Chileka.

International relations

Malawi is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Malawi’s deep Rift Valley trench is on average 80 km wide. Lake Malawi occupies two-thirds of the Rift Valley floor. It feeds the Shire river, which flows south to join the Zambezi. Plateaux rise west of the trench. The northern region is mountainous, with the open Nyika Plateau, escarpments, valleys and the forested slopes of Viphya Plateau. The central region, the main agricultural area, is a plateau over 1,000 metres high. The southern region is low-lying apart from the 2,100 metres high Zomba Plateau and the 3,002 metres Mulanje Massif, the highest mountain in south-central Africa.

Climate

The tropical climate is tempered by altitude and cooler on the high plateaux. There are three seasons: a cool, dry season from mid-April to August; a warm, dry season from September to November; and a rainy season (receiving 90 per cent of precipitation) from December to April.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation; soil degradation; and water pollution by agricultural run-off, sewage and industrial wastes.

Vegetation

The varied climate encourages a range of vegetation. Zomba Plateau, the country’s oldest forest reserve, has Mulanje cedar, cypress and Mexican pine. There is dense tropical rainforest on the lower ranges of the Mulanje Massif; higher up grow ericas, helichrysum, giant blue lobelias, species of iris, staghorn lily and (unique to Malawi) Whyte’s sunflower.

Wildlife

Animals include leopard, hyena, jackal, hyrax, porcupine, red duiker, bushbuck, reedbuck, klipspringer, baboon, mongoose, vervet monkey, serval, civet, genet, tree frog. More than 219 bird species have been recorded, including the white-tailed crested fly catcher, fiscal shrike and wailing cisticola, and 15 species are thought to be endangered (2012). Birds of prey include the augur buzzard, the eagle owl and the long-crested eagle.

Other facts

Malawi is one of seven landlocked Commonwealth countries, all of which are in Africa, though it does have a border with Lake Malawi of more than 750 km.

Malawi has the lowest per capita income in the Commonwealth (2012), but its economy has grown substantially since the early 2000s.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 138

Life expectancy: 55 years

Primary enrolment: 97% (2009)

Population: 16,363,000 (2013)

Language: Chichewa is the national language and widely spoken. English is the official language. Chinyanja, Chiyao and Chitumbuka (in the north) are major languages.

Religion: The population is made up of mainly Christians, who constitute 80 per cent of the total; 13 per cent of the population are Muslims (2008 census).

Economy

GNI: US$3.6bn

GNI PC: US$270

GDP Growth: 5.3% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 14.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Malawi

Independence: 6 July 1964

Head of government: HE Arthur Peter Mutharika, President

Traveller information

There were 767,000 tourist arrivals in 2011.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Car hire and chauffeur-driven cars are available. Visitors may drive in Malawi on an international driving permit for up to one year. The wearing of seatbelts is compulsory. Drink-driving is illegal. Scheduled air services fly between Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Makokola and Liwonde. There is a national rail service between the main towns. Coach services operate between Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Taxis are in short supply and need to be booked.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid. An outbreak of cholera around Lake Chilwa in the south of the country was reported in November 2012 when 547 people had contracted the disease, eight of whom had died.

Africa

Mauritius

The Republic of Mauritius, an island country in the Indian Ocean, lies east of Madagascar and the south-east African coast. Its nearest neighbour is the French island of Réunion. The Constitution of Mauritius provides that Mauritius includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega, Tromelin, Cargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia and any other island comprised in the State of Mauritius. Mauritius has always maintained that it has sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago but has not been able so far to exercise its sovereignty.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1968

Population: 1,244,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.5% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 63

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT plus 4hr

Currency: Mauritian rupee (MRs)

Geography

Area: Island of Mauritius 1,864 sq km; Rodrigues 104 sq km; total area, including other islands 2,040 sq km.

Coastline: 177km

Capital city: Port Louis

Population density (per sq. km): 610

Main towns

Port Louis (capital, Vacoas-Phoenix, Beau Bassin-Rose Hill, Curepipe, Quatre Bornes, Triolet, Goodlands, Bel Air, St Pierre, Central Flacq, Mahébourg, Le Hochet and Grand Baie.

Transport

There is no railway. Port Louis is the main harbour and only commercial port. Facilities include a container terminal and terminals for the bulk handling of sugar, oil, wheat and cement. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaisance is in the south-east of the island, some 50 km from Port Louis. There is an airstrip at Plaine Corail on Rodrigues receiving a daily service from Mauritius.

International relations

Mauritius is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Mauritius hosts the headquarters of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Topography

The island of Mauritius is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs, with lagoons and coral-sand beaches. Mountains, with rocky peaks, rise abruptly from the broad fertile plains; within lies the central plateau. The rivers flow fast through deep ravines, with frequent waterfalls. They are not navigable, but fill eight reservoirs. The longest is the 34 km Grand River South-East. There are two natural lakes, Grand Bassin and Bassin Blanc, both craters of extinct volcanoes.

Climate

The climate is maritime subtropical, with south-east trade winds blowing for much of the year. Summer, the rainy season, is from November to April, winter from June to September. Rainfall ranges from 80 mm in October to 310 mm in February. Heavy rains fall mainly from late December to the beginning of April. Cyclones, occurring in the summer, occasionally cause severe damage.

Environment

The most significant issues are water pollution, and degradation of coral reefs.

Vegetation

The mountain foothills are densely vegetated, many planted with sugar cane and tea. Some 4,600 hectares of forest land have been set aside as nature reserves. The uplands have been extensively replanted with conifers and eucalyptus. Trees include coastal casuarina trees (called filaos), the Indian almond tree (badamier), ficus (multipliant), flametree (flamboyant), African tulip, bauhinia and jacaranda.

Wildlife

Mauritius was the home of the dodo, an extinct species of flightless large turkey. Conservation systems are now well enforced, but only nine of a known 25 species of indigenous birds remain, including the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon. The Rodrigues fruit bat or golden bat was in danger of becoming extinct until recently; the Mauritius fruit bat is more common. Javanese deer, introduced by the Dutch for food, are found mainly in the uplands and the ravines, and protected by hunting restrictions. There are 12 species of lizards, four of non-poisonous snakes and 2,000 of insects and butterflies. Three of the butterflies – the citrus, ficus and sailor – are unique to the islands. Marine fauna is very rich.

Other facts

The 18th triennial Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers was held in Port Louis during 28–31 August 2012 and was attended by delegations from 39 countries.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a Frenchman whose parents originated from Mauritius, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008.

Mauritius has one of the highest life expectancies in Africa (74 years).

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 610

Life expectancy: 74 years

Primary enrolment: 98% (2012)

Population: 1,244,000 (2013)

Language: The official language is English; a French-based Creole is the mother tongue of many Mauritians and the most widely spoken language. Other languages include Bhojpuri, spoken by five per cent of the population, and French (four per cent; 2011 census).

Religion: Hindus 49 per cent, Christians 33 per cent (Roman Catholics 26 per cent), Muslims 17 per cent (2011 census).

Economy

GNI: US$12.0bn

GNI PC: US$9,300

GDP Growth: 3.5% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 3.9% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic

Legislature: Parliament of Mauritius

Independence: 12 March 1968

Head of government: The Rt Hon Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 993,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals and are generally issued on arrival. Prohibited imports include some fresh food, soil, plants and plant material.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to hire a car must be aged at least 23 and be in possession of a foreign driving licence. The wearing of seatbelts is mandatory. Daily air services and a weekly ferry link Mauritius and Rodrigues. Taxis are regulated and metered.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and schistosomiasis (bilharzia).

Africa

Mozambique

Mozambique is in south-east Africa and borders the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland and the Indian Ocean. The country is divided into eleven provinces: Maputo, Maputo city, Gaza, Inhambane, Manica, Sofala, Zambézia, Tete, Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1995

Population: 25,834,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.7% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: 2011: world ranking 178

Official language: Portuguese

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: Mozambique metical (MT)

Geography

Area: 799,380 sq km

Coastline: 2,470km

Capital city: Maputo

Population density (per sq. km): 32

Main towns

Maputo (capital), Matola, Nampula, Beira, Chimoio, Nacala, Quelimane, Mocuba, Tete, Lichinga, Garue, Pemba, Xai-Xai, Maxixe, Gurué, Angoche, Cuamba, Montepuez, Inhambane and Dondo.

Transport

The road network links with all neighbouring countries except Tanzania in the north. There is a new toll road from Maputo to Witbank in the industrial heartland of South Africa. The railway network extends to 3,116 km. Beyond domestic needs, Beira, Maputo and Nacala are important ports for Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

International airports are Maputo International, 3 km north-west of the city, and Beira, 13 km from the city.

International relations

Mozambique is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Mozambique occupies the eastern fringe of the great southern African escarpment. The mountains of the interior fall to a broad plateau, which descends to coastal hills and plain. Rivers generally run west to east. The coastal beaches are fringed by lagoons, coral reefs and strings of islands. The Zambezi is the largest of 25 main rivers.

Climate

Tropical and subtropical. Inland is cooler than the coast and rainfall higher as the land rises. The hottest and wettest season is October to March. From April to September the coast has warm, mainly dry weather, tempered by sea breezes. The country is vulnerable to cyclones.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are desertification, pollution of surface and coastal waters, and persistent migration of people from the hinterland to urban and coastal areas.

Vegetation

The plateau is savannah – dry and open bushveld and wide stretches of grassland. There are patches of forest in the western and northern highlands. Dense subtropical bush characterises the coastal plain. Forest covers 49 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises seven per cent and permanent cropland 0.4 per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

Mozambique has four national parks. Gorongosa, the biggest, extends to 3,770 sq km. There are also many forest and game reserves harbouring zebras, water buffaloes, giraffes, lions, elephants and rhinos, and many varieties of tropical water birds such as flamingos, cranes, storks and pelicans.

Other facts

Graça Machel is a former Chairperson of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Maria Lurdes Mutola, born in Maputo, took the Commonwealth Games Women’s 800 Metres record at the Manchester Games in 2002.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 32

Life expectancy: 50 years

Primary enrolment: 86% (2012)

Population: 25,834,000 (2013)

Language: Portuguese (official) and three main African groups: Tsonga, Sena–Nyanja, Makua–Lomwe. English is widely spoken.

Religion: Christians 56 per cent (mainly Roman Catholics), Muslims 18 per cent (mainly in the north), most of the rest holding traditional beliefs, which incorporate some Christian practices.

Economy

GNI: US$15.3bn

GNI PC: US$590

GDP Growth: 7.1% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 6.6% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Assembléia da República de Moçambique

Independence: 25 June 1975

Head of government: HE Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President

Travel

There were 2,113,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Car hire is available in Maputo and Beira; an international driving permit is recommended. Paved roads connect Maputo with Beira, and Beira with Tete. Domestic flights link Maputo with Beira and other main towns. Air- taxi services are also available. Regular bus services cover most of the country. In the more rural areas, converted trucks (chapas) are operating. There are three unconnected rail networks, and services are infrequent. Taxis are available in the larger towns.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid.

Africa

Namibia

Namibia in south-west Africa is one of the driest and most sparsely populated countries on Earth. It is bounded by the South Atlantic Ocean on the west, Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south. The Caprivi Strip, a narrow extension of land in the extreme north-east, connects it to Zambia. Namibia comprises 13 regions: Karas, Hardap, Khomas, Erongo, Omaheke, Otjozondjupa, Kunene, Oshikoto, Okavango, Omusati, Oshana, Caprivi and Ohangwena.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1990

Population: 2,303,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.1% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 127

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT plus 1–2hr

Currency: Namibia dollar (N$)

Geography

Area: 824,269 sq km (including Walvis Bay 1,124 sq km).

Coastline: 1,570km

Capital city: Windhoek

Population density (per sq. km): 3

Main towns

Windhoek (capital), Rundu, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Oshakati, Rehoboth, Katima Mulilo, Otjiwarongo, Okahandja, Keetmanshoop, Tsumeb, Gobabis, Grootfontein, Lüderitz and Usakos.

Transport

Walvis Bay, the only deep-water port, which incorporates an export processing zone, is the main outlet for exports. Use of Lüderitz, Namibia’s second port, has increased, due to a rise in fishing activities. Air transport is important because of Namibia’s size. There are more than 350 aerodromes and airstrips, with licensed airports in the main towns and mining centres, including the international airport some 40 km from Windhoek.

International relations

Namibia is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Namibia hosts the secretariat of the Southern African Customs Union; the SADC Tribunal; and the SADC Parliamentary Forum.

Topography

The country has three broad zones: the Namib Desert to the west; the Kalahari Desert to the east; and the Central Plateau. The plateau, made up of mountains, rocky outcrops, sand- filled valleys and undulating upland plains, covers over 50 per cent of the land area. It includes Windhoek, the capital, and slopes eastward to the Kalahari Basin and northward to the Etosha Pan, the largest of Namibia’s saline lakes.

Climate

Prolonged periods of drought are characteristic. There is little precipitation apart from rare thunderstorms in the arid zone of the Namib Desert coast, with rainfall rising to 600 mm or more in the sub-humid north- eastern border with Angola and the Caprivi Strip. Rain falls in summer (October to April). The cold Benguela current gives the Namib Desert thick coastal fog.

Vegetation

Much of the terrain is grassland, or plains dotted with scrub. Namibia supports at least 345 different grasses and 2,400 types of flowering plant. Characteristic native plants are acacias, balsam trees, omwandi trees, fig and date palms, makalani palms, mopane (shrubs or trees), monkey-bread trees, marula trees, yellow-blossomed omuparara trees, violet-blossomed apple-leaf trees and shrubs such as the raisin-bush, coffee bush and camphor bush.

Wildlife

Namibia’s wildlife is famous, particularly the exceptional range of bird species found in the wetlands. There are some 200 recorded species of birds, with 27 thought to be endangered (2014). The pans in game parks provide drinking water for most of the typical African wild mammal species. The Etosha National Park, the country’s most famous reserve and one of the largest in the world, contains lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and zebras. The Namibian seas are naturally rich in fish, and in seabirds which prey on fish.

Other facts

Frank Fredericks, born in Windhoek in October 1967, took the Commonwealth Games Men’s 200 Metres record at the 1994 Games in Victoria, Canada.

With population density of less than three per sq km, Namibia is the most sparsely populated country in the Commonwealth and in Africa; and it has some 1,570 km of coastline.

Namibia is one of the world’s major producers of uranium; it was fifth largest in 2012.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 3

Life expectancy: 64 years

Primary enrolment: 88%

Population: 2,303,000 (2013)

Language: English, Oshiwambo, Herero, Nama, Afrikaans and German. The official language is English, first or second language to only about 20 per cent. Oshiwambo is spoken throughout most of the north. The Caprivians speak Lozi as their main language. Afrikaans is widely spoken and is the traditional language of the Cape Coloureds and Baster communities.

Religion: Christians 80–90 per cent (predominantly Lutherans), the rest holding traditional beliefs.

Economy

GNI: US$12.5bn

GNI PC: US$5,840

GDP Growth: 4.3% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 6.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Namibia

Independence: 21 March 1990

Head of government: HE Dr Hage Gottfried Geingob, President

Traveller information

There were 1,027,000 tourist arrivals in 2011.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include plants and plant material.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to hire a car need an international driving permit. Scheduled flights link Windhoek and other main towns. Luxury bus services connect main towns throughout Namibia and South Africa. Rail services are generally slow and most trains run overnight. There are two luxury train services, one connecting with Upington in South Africa, and the other a weekly connection between Windhoek and Swakopmund that crosses the Namib Desert. Taxis provide urban transport.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid.

Africa

Nigeria

The Federal Republic of Nigeria lies on the Gulf of Guinea and has borders with Benin (west), Niger (north), Chad (north-east across Lake Chad) and Cameroon (east). It comprises the Abuja Federal Capital Territory and 36 states.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1960 (suspended 1995–99)

Population: 173,615,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.6% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: world ranking 152

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT plus 1hr

Currency: Naira (N)

Geography

Area: 923,768 sq km

Coastline: 853km

Capital city: Abuja

Population density (per sq. km): 188

Main towns

Abuja (federal capital since 1991), Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Benin City, Ilorin, Maiduguri, Aba, Warri, Onitsha, Jos, Enugu, Zaria, Akure, Abeokuta, Oshogbo, Ife, Ogbomosho, Oyo, Sokoto, Okene, Calabar, Katsina, Bauchi, Minna, Gombe, Ado, Makurdi, Ondo, Owerri, Gboko, Nsukka, Jalingo, Birnin Kebbi, Uyo, Yola and Asaba.

Transport

There are around 3,530 km of railway, the main routes running from Lagos to Kano, and from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, with a branch line from Zaria to Gusau and Kaura Namoda. Much of the network is single-track, and the narrow gauge restricts speed and load-carrying capacity.Main ports are at Apapa, Tin Can Island, Warri, Sapele, Port Harcourt and Calabar. Ferry services operate along the Niger and Benue rivers and along the coast.Lagos international airport is 22 km north of Lagos; other main international airports are at Abuja (35 km from the city), Kano and Port Harcourt, and main domestic airports at Benin City, Calabar, Enugu, Jos, Kaduna, Lagos, Maiduguri, Sokoto and Yola.

International relations

Nigeria is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.Nigeria hosts the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja.

The country is also a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Topography

Nigeria is a large country, 1,045 km long and 1,126 km wide. It has several important rivers, notably the Niger and its main tributary, the Benue, both of which are navigable. The Niger forms a delta some 100 km wide, running into the sea west of Port Harcourt. In the north-east rivers drain into Lake Chad. The coastal region is low-lying, with lagoons, sandy beaches and mangrove swamps. Inland the country rises to the central Jos Plateau at 1,800 metres.

Climate

Tropical; hot and humid on the coast, with greater extremes of temperature inland and cold nights in the north during December and January. The rainy season is generally March–November in the south and May–September in the north.

Vegetation

Mangrove and freshwater swamps in coastal areas, merging into an area of rainforest, containing hardwoods and oil palms. Moving north, the savannah and plateau regions have grasslands and hardy trees such as the baobab and tamarind. There is semi-desert vegetation in the north-east. In the north, forest depletion has been caused by overgrazing, bush fires and the use of wood as fuel, but there has been government-sponsored planting in an attempt to arrest the southward advance of the Sahara. Oil palms occur naturally and, being valuable, are often spared when forests are cleared.

Wildlife

The Yankari National Park is an important stopover for migrating birds (some 600 species call there), and also has an elephant population. The Okomo Sanctuary is home to the endangered white-throated monkey. On the grasslands of the savannah are camels, antelopes, hyenas and giraffes.

Other facts

Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria was Commonwealth Secretary-General 1990–2000.

Wole Soyinka, born in Abeokuta in July 1934, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986; and Nigerians have won 14 Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes.

The Seventh Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning was held in Abuja, 2–6 December 2013, with the theme of ‘Open Learning for Development’.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population of some 170 million.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 188

Life expectancy: 53 years

Primary enrolment: 64% (2010)

Population: 173,615,000 (2013)

Language: English (official language), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and more than 200 other languages and dialects.

Religion: Muslims (mainly in the north and west) 50 per cent, Christians (mainly in the south) 40 per cent, and the rest holding traditional beliefs.

Economy

GNI: US$499bn

GNI PC: US$2,710

GDP Growth: 5.9% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 11.3% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Nigeria National Assembly

Independence: 1 October 1960

Head of government: HE General Muhammadu Buhari, President

Traveller information

There were 715,000 tourist arrivals in 2011.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from Nigeria, many countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate (see Travel Health below). Prohibited imports include fruit, vegetables, cereals and eggs; beer, mineral water, soft drinks and sparkling wine; and jewellery and textiles, including mosquito netting.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right. To hire a car an international driving permit is required, together with two passport-size photos.

Scheduled flights link the main towns. Trains are generally slow. Daily services run on the two main lines, between Lagos and Kano and Port Harcourt and Maiduguri. Sleeping cars are available but must be booked in advance.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, meningococcal meningitis, polio, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

Rwanda

The Republic of Rwanda is a landlocked country with land borders with four countries: Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. Water covers 1,390 sq km of the country; the largest lakes include Bulera, Ihema, Kivu, Mugesera and Muhazi, and there are many rivers. The country comprises five provinces.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: November 2009

Population: 11,777,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.2% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: 2014: World ranking 151

Official language: Kinyarwanda, French, English

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: Rwandan franc (Rwfr)

Geography

Area: 26,338 sq km

Coastline: none

Capital city: Kigali

Population density (per sq. km): 447

Main towns

Kigali (capital), Gisenyi, Ruhengeri, Butare, Gitarama, Byumba, Cyangugu, Nyanza, Rwamagana, Ruhango, Gikongoro, Kibuye and Kibungo.

Transport

There is no railway. The main international airport is Kigali International.

International relations

Rwanda is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Rwanda joined the East African Community in July 2007. Commonwealth leaders, holding their biennial CHOGM in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, admitted Rwanda as the association’s 54th member on 28 November 2009.

Topography

The terrain is rugged with steep hills and deep valleys, rising in the north to the highest peak, Karisimbi, which lies in a range of volcanoes. The country is popularly known as the ‘land of a thousand hills’.

Climate

Though the country is close to the Equator, the climate is tempered by altitude; it is hot and humid in the valleys, and drier and cooler in the higher elevations. The rainy seasons are March–May and October–November; the hottest season August–September.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are drought, limiting the potential for agriculture; overgrazing; soil erosion and degradation; and deforestation due to almost universal use of wood as a fuel.

Vegetation

Thick equatorial rainforest is found in the north and west of the country. Forest cover has increased at 1.6 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 49 per cent and permanent cropland ten per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

National parks and game reserves cover some eight per cent of the country and include the Volcanoes National Park (famous for its mountain gorillas) and Akagera National Park (elephants, buffaloes, giraffes and zebras). Some 20 mammal species and 14 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in November 2009, becoming the association’s 54th member.

In 2008 the Government of Rwanda decided to change the medium of education from French to English.

In September 2008 Rwanda became the first nation in the world to elect a majority of women MPs: 45 of the 80 members of the Chamber of Deputies. The number increased to 51 women deputies in the September 2013 election.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 447

Life expectancy: 64 years

Primary enrolment: 99%

Population: 11,777,000 (2013)

Language: Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages, and Kiswahili is widely spoken.

Religion: Christians (mostly Roman Catholics) comprise about half the population and most of the rest hold traditional beliefs, often combined with Christianity. There is a small minority of Muslims, comprising about two per cent of the population, according to the 2012 census.

Economy

GNI: US$7.3bn

GNI PC: US$620

GDP Growth: 7.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 5.7% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Rwanda

Independence: 1 July 1962

Head of government: HE Paul Kagame, President

Traveller information

There were 815,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers aged over 12 months. Prohibited imports include animals and fresh food coming from countries which the Rwandan authorities have listed as posing a health risk.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right. An international driving licence is required to drive in Rwanda. Roads between Kigali and major towns are paved, though landslides can occur in the rains.

Planes are available for charter. Taxis are available in the larger towns. Fares should be agreed in advance and tipping is not usual.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include hepatitis A, malaria, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

Seychelles

The Republic of Seychelles lies in the western part of the Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar and 1,593km east of Mombasa, Kenya. It is an isolated archipelago of outstanding natural beauty comprising about 115 islands, the largest and most economically important of which is Mahé.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1976

Population: 93,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.3% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: 2014: world ranking 71

Official language: Creole, English and French

Timezone: GMT plus 4hr

Currency: Seychelles rupee (SRs)

Geography

Area: 455 sq km; maritime zone more than 1.3 million sq km.

Coastline: 491km

Capital city: Victoria

Population density (per sq. km): 204

Main towns

Victoria (capital, pop. 21,700 in 2010) and Anse Royale (4,168), both on Mahé.

Transport

There are 510 km of roads, 97 per cent paved; only Mahé, Praslin and La Digue have surfaced roads. Cruiseships and cargo ships call at Mahé.Seychelles International Airport is at Point Larue, 10 km from Victoria. There are airstrips on several outlying islands.

International relations

Seychelles is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Southern African Development Community and United Nations. Seychelles became a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation on 15 November 2011.

Topography

There is a compact group of 41 mountainous granite islands, including Mahé (the largest), Praslin and La Digue. All three have high central granite ridges, the highest point being Morne Seychellois (905m) on Mahé. The other islands are built of coral, and are scattered, low-lying and sparsely populated.

Climate

Tropical. The south-east trade winds blow from May to October. The north-west monsoon winds bring heavy squalls of rain. January is the wettest month, July and August the driest. Temperature remains constant throughout the year, at 24-31°C, and humidity at around 80%. The country is outside the cyclone belt

Environment

The most significant environmental issue is dependence on rainwater for supply of water.

Vegetation

The granite islands support luxuriant tropical forest on the mountain slopes. The coral islands are also densely covered with vegetation more characteristic of sandy coral soils. Generally, the most common trees are the coconut palm and casuarina. Others include banyans, screw pines and tortoise trees and the giant coco de mer palm, which is unique to the Seychelles and lives for up to 1,000 years. Of about 200 plant species, 80 are indigenous, including the bois rouge, the giant bois de fer and the capucin. Forest covers 88 per cent of the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2012.

Wildlife

Fruit bats, flying foxes, geckos and skinks are common, and there are more than 3,000 species of insects. The giant tortoise (which appears on the Seychelles coat of arms) survived near-extinction; there are now several thousand on Aldabra. There are many species of rare birds such as the bare-legged scops owl, Seychelles kestrel, black parrot, magpie robin and paradise flycatcher. Four islands are bird sanctuaries, including Bird Island, which is inhabited by millions of fairy terns. Six mammal species and nine bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

Seychelles is an archipelago of about 115 islands, spread across a maritime zone of more than 1.3 million sq km; 41 are mountainous granite islands, the highest point being Morne Seychellois (905m) on the largest island, Mahé; the other islands are built of coral, and are scattered, lowlying and sparsely populated. Some 89% of Seychelles is covered by forest, more than any other country in the Commonwealth, and this figure has remained constant over 1990–2010. Seychelles has one of the highest incomes per capita in Africa – US$11,130 in 2011.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 204

Life expectancy: 73 years

Primary enrolment: 94% (2011)

Population: 93,000 (2013)

Language: The official languages are Creole, English and French. Seychellois Creole (Kreol Seselwa) is French-based and very widely used.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 76 per cent, Anglicans six per cent, and small numbers of other Christians); Hindus two per cent and Muslims one per cent (2010 census). Belief in the supernatural and gris-gris (the old magic of spirits) often coexists with Christian and other beliefs. Sorcery was outlawed in 1958.

Economy

GNI: US$1.21bn

GNI PC: US$12,530

GDP Growth: 4.1% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 8.1% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive president

Legislature: National Assembly

Independence: 29 June 1976

Head of government: HE Mr James Alix Michel, President

Traveller information

There were 230,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid at least until the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include food; and plants and animals, and parts of plants and animals, except where prior permission has been granted by the relevant authorities.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors holding a foreign driving licence are allowed to drive.Scheduled and chartered flights operate between some of the islands. There are taxis on Mahé and Praslin, and rates are government-controlled.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include dengue fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid.

Africa

Sierra Leone

The Republic of Sierra Leone (Portuguese for ‘Lion Mountain’) in West Africa is bordered by Guinea to the north, Liberia to the south-east, and the Atlantic to the south and west.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1961

Population: 6,092,000 (2013)

GDP: p.c. growth: 0.5% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: 2014: world ranking 183

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT

Currency: leone (Le)

Geography

Area: 71,740 sq km

Coastline: 402km

Capital city: Freetown

Population density (per sq. km): 85

Main towns

Freetown (capital), Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Koidu, Lunsar, Port Loko, Pandebu-Tokpombu, Kabala, Waterloo, Kailahun, Magburaka, Segbwema, Koindu and Bonthe.

Transport

There are 11,300 km of roads, eight per cent paved, but in poor repair; secondary roads may be impassable in the rainy season. The railway system (nearly 600 km in length) closed in 1974. Freetown is the main port with a deep-water quay. There are smaller ports at Pepel, Bonthe, Niti and Sulima. Several rivers are navigable by small craft.

International relations

Sierra Leone is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

Sierra Leone has some 402km of coast along the Atlantic Ocean, with magnificent beaches. Apart from the hilly Freetown peninsula (officially known as the Western Area), the coastal belt is flat, with a width of up to 110km. The land rises to the Guinea highlands in the east, with mountain peaks up to 1,917m. There are eight main rivers; the estuaries of two of them can be navigated by ocean-going vessels.

Climate

Tropical and humid all year, but cooler on the coast. The dry season is November to May, when the dusty harmattan wind blows from the Sahara; the rainy season lasts the rest of the year.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are depletion of natural resources during the civil war; deforestation and soil exhaustion due to over-harvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, and slash-and-burn agriculture; and overfishing.

Vegetation

Mangrove swamps occur along the coast, with thickly wooded hills on the Freetown peninsula, and grasslands, woods and savannah on the interior plains. The central inland area, formerly forested, has been cleared for agriculture.

Wildlife

Large game animals are now rare, but the Kilimi National Park in the north of the country has the largest concentration of chimpanzees in West Africa. The park is also home to 12 other primate species, including colobus monkeys, as well as rare large bongo antelopes and, in the river margins, pygmy hippopotami. After the civil war a chimpanzee sanctuary was established at Leicester in the Western Area. Some 17 mammal species and 14 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

Aminatta Forna, who was raised in Sierra Leone and the UK, won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize with her novel The Memory of Love. Sierra Leone has the lowest per capita income in the Commonwealth, but its economy has grown at 5.2% a year over 2007–11.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 85

Life expectancy: 46 years

Population: 6,092,000 (2013);

Language: English is the official language. Krio (an English-based Creole) is spoken in and around Freetown. Other major languages are Temne, Mende and Limba.

Religion: Muslims 60 per cent, Christians ten per cent, with most of the remaining population holding traditional beliefs, which often coexist with other religions.

Economy

GNI: US$4.5bn

GNI PC: US$680

GDP Growth: 5.0% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 13.0% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive president

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 27 April 1961

Head of government: HE Mr Ernest Bai Koroma, President

Traveller information

There were 81,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least 12 months from the date of departure. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the right. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit. The main roads are paved.

Air charter is available. Buses link most towns and ferries run between coastal ports. Taxis are available in urban areas.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, polio, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

South Africa

The Republic of South Africa has land borders with: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. Its sea borders are with the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Lesotho is enclosed within its land area. The country comprises nine provinces: Eastern Cape (provincial capital Bhisho), Free State (Bloemfontein), Gauteng (Johannesburg), KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg), Limpopo (Polokwane), Mpumalanga (Nelspruit), Northern Cape (Kimberley), North-West (Mafikeng) and Western Cape (Cape Town).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1931 (Statute of Westminster; left in 1961, rejoined in 1994)

Population: 52,776,000 (2013)

GDP: 0.9% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 118

Official language: 11 most widely spoken

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: rand (R)

Geography

Area: 1,221,038 sq km

Coastline: 2,800km

Capital city: Pretoria

Population density (per sq. km): 43

Main towns

Pretoria (administrative capital), Cape Town (legislative capital), Bloemfontein (judicial capital), Johannesburg, Durban, Soweto, Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, Soshanguve, Evaton, Pietermaritzburg, Tembisa, Vereeniging, East London, Boksburg, Polokwane, Kimberley, Welkom, Benoni, Mafikeng, Nelspruit, Richards Bay and Bhisho.

Transport

This substantial rail network serves not only South Africa with its mining and heavy industries, but also neighbouring countries. Ports also serve South Africa and its landlocked neighbours: Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The main commercial ports are at Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and East London.

International relations

South Africa is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

The southern part of the ancient African plateau forms the centre of South Africa, falling through rolling hills and coastal plains to the coastal belt. The Limpopo and Orange are the major river systems, although Natal and parts of the Cape are traversed by fast-flowing, seasonal rivers with coastal lagoons. Surface water is in short supply.

Climate

Climate varies with altitude and continental position: Mediterranean climate in the Western Cape; humid subtropical climate on the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast; continental climate of the highveld; and arid Karoo and Kalahari fringes, with a great temperature range, giving very hot summer days and cold dry nights.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are soil erosion, desertification, air pollution and resulting acid rain, and pollution of rivers from agricultural run-off and urban discharges. In a country with relatively few major rivers and lakes, extensive water conservation and control measures are necessary to keep pace with rapid growth in water usage.

Vegetation

Varies with climate, including temperate hardwood forest, dense coastal bush, Mediterranean scrub (including many varieties of aloes and proteas), vast grasslands of the veld dotted with flat-topped thorn trees, and bushveld scrub. South Africa’s native flora have been developed as garden flowers all over the world.

Wildlife

South Africa’s wildlife, among which are the large mammals characteristic of the African grassland, includes species, such as the white rhino, that are endangered elsewhere. The game reserves such as the Kruger and Hluhluwe are considered among the world’s best. The wide range of bird species includes many migrants from the northern hemisphere.

Other facts

Of the many internationally acclaimed South African writers, two – Nadine Gordimer (in 1991) and John Maxwell Coetzee (in 2003) – have Nobel Prizes; and Coetzee (2000) and Manu Herbstein (Best First Book in 2002) have been overall winners in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by South Africa to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 43

Life expectancy: 57 Years

Primary enrolment: 85%

Population: 52,776,000 (2013)

Language: Official languages are Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Sesotho sa Leboa (Northern Sotho), Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

Religion: Christians 80 per cent (2001 census), with a wide range of denominations; and minorities of Muslims, Hindus and Jews. Traditional and Christian forms of worship are often blended.

Economy

GNI: US$343.2bn

GNI PC: US$7,190

GDP Growth: 1.9% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 5.6% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive president

Legislature: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

Head of government: HE Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, President

Traveller information

There were 9,510,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least 30 days from the date of departure. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers aged over 9 months arriving from the countries where the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises a risk of yellow fever transmission and from certain other African countries listed by the South African authorities where vaccination is not generally recommended by the WHO, including United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia. Restricted imports include plants and plant products – including honey, margarine, seeds and vegetable oils – and animals and animal products – dairy products and eggs.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors can drive with a foreign driving licence if it is in English. The road network is mostly paved. Seatbelts are mandatory.

South Africa has a comprehensive transport network including air, train and bus services. There are luxury trains that run between Cape Town and Pretoria. Taxis are widely available in the main towns.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid.

Africa

Swaziland

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a small landlocked country in the east of Southern Africa, bounded to the east by Mozambique and elsewhere by South Africa.

The country comprises four regions: Hhohho (in the north), Manzini (west-central), Lubombo (east) and Shiselweni (south).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1968

Population: 1,250,000 (2013)

GDP: p.c. growth: 0.8% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 148

Official language: siSwati, English

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: lilangeni, plural emalangeni (E)

Geography

Area: 17,364 sq km

Coastline: none

Capital city: Mbabane

Population density (per sq. km): 72

Main towns

Mbabane (capital), Manzini, Malkerns, Nhlangano, Mhlume, Big Bend, Siteki, Simunye, Hluti, Pigg’s Peak and Lobamba.

Transport

The 300 km railway is used mainly for freight and continues in a north-easterly direction to Maputo in Mozambique, providing Swaziland with access to shipping. Since 1986, there has been a direct connection between Mpaka (35 km east of Manzini) and the South African railway network. The passenger service from Durban to Maputo, Mozambique, passes through Swaziland, stopping at Mpaka. A new international airport, King Mswati III International Airport, located to the east of Manzini, replaced Matsapha as the principal international airport in 2014.

International relations

Swaziland is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography

There are four regions, all running from north to south. The western Highveld, a continuation of the Drakensberg Mountains, rises to 1,862m. East of the Highveld is the grassy Middleveld, beside the Lowveld (also called the Bushveld) at around 150–300m with some higher ridges and knolls. The eastern region, the Lubombo, is a narrow escarpment. The four most important rivers, all flowing from the Highveld east towards the Indian Ocean, are the Komati, the Usutu, the Mbuluzi and the Ngwavuma. None is easily navigable. The Lowveld watercourses are wadis, except after heavy rain.

Climate

The Highveld is near-temperate and humid, the Middleveld and Lubombo subtropical, the Lowveld near-tropical. Swaziland is one of the best-watered countries in southern Africa although, in common with the region, rainfall may be unreliable and periods of drought occur in the Lowveld, for example in 2004–05. Summer (October–March) is the rainy season. There is occasional, short-lived frost in the Highveld and the Middleveld.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are overgrazing, soil degradation, soil erosion, limited supplies of drinking water, and depletion of wildlife populations by excessive hunting.

Vegetation

Varies from the forested Highveld with its Usutu pines to the grassland and bush vegetation of the Lowveld. Forest covers 33 per cent of the land area, having increased at 0.9 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises ten per cent and permanent cropland less than one per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

There are eight nature reserves inhabited by indigenous species, several of them under threat elsewhere, such as black and white rhinoceroses, elephants, buffaloes, hippopotami, and a vast variety of bird species – including storks and vultures. Six mammal species and 11 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

Swaziland is a monarchy.

It is one of seven landlocked Commonwealth countries, all of which are in Africa. Mountains in the western highlands rise to 1,862m, and the lowlands to the east fall to around 150m.

As a neighbour of South Africa – Africa’s economic powerhouse – Swaziland receives more than most other African countries in remittances per capita.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 72

Life expectancy: 49 Years

Primary enrolment: 85% (2007)

Population: 1,250,000 (2013);

Language: siSwati is the national language and English widely spoken.

Religion: Christians about 60 per cent and most of the rest hold traditional beliefs. Traditional beliefs often coexist with Christian beliefs.

Economy

GNI: US$3.5bn

GNI PC: US$3,080

GDP Growth: 1.4% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 6.5% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Parliament

Independence: 6 September 1968

Head of government: The Hon Dr Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Prime Minister

Traveller information

There were 1,093,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. Prohibited imports include alcohol and some cosmetics; and some fresh food, plants and seeds (except with the relevant health certificate). Permission is required to use a camera.

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit.

A bus network links main towns and minibus taxis run on the shorter routes. Taxis provide urban transport.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid.

Africa

Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked East African country lying astride the equator. It is bordered (clockwise from north) by Sudan, Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1962

Population: 37,579,000 (2013)

GDP: 3.3% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 164

Official language: English, Kiswahili

Timezone: GMT plus 3hr

Currency: Uganda shilling (USh)

Geography

Area: 236,000 sq km including 36,330 sq km of inland water.

Coastline: none

Capital city: Kampala

Population density (per sq. km): 159

Main towns

Kampala (capital), Kira, Mbarara, Mukono, Gulu, Nansana, Masaka, Kasese, Hoima, Lira, Mbale, Njeru, Jinja, Entebbe, Arua, Iganga, Kabale, Mityana, Kitgum, Tororo and Koboko.

Transport

Some 70,750 km of roads radiate from Kampala, 23 per cent of which are paved. The railway network extends over some 260 km. At the end of 1993, passenger services between Kampala and Kenya were resumed after a break of 15 years. Entebbe International Airport is 35 km south-west of Kampala.

International relations

Uganda is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Uganda was a member, with Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania, of the East African Community, which from 1967 had a common market and many shared services but collapsed in 1977. The three countries again embarked on developing regional co- operation in 1993, bringing about progressive harmonisation of standards and policies across a wide range of activities, and launching a new East African Community in January 2001 and East African Customs Union in January 2005.

Topography

Water, with swampland, covers nearly 20 per cent of the surface area. The largest lakes include Lake George, Lake Kyoga, and parts of Lakes Victoria, Albert and Edward. From its source in Lake Victoria, the White Nile flows northwards through the country. Mountains include the high Rwenzori range in the west (Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley is 5,110 metres) and Mount Elgon (4,253 metres) in the east.

Climate

Equatorial, tempered with breezes and showers. Cooler in the higher areas. Heavy rain from March to May, and in October and November. Little rainfall in the north-east; though north-east parts of the country experienced unusually heavy rainfall in the latter part of 2007 with heavy flooding displacing tens of thousands of people.

Environment

The most significant issues are: draining of wetlands for agricultural use; overgrazing, soil erosion and deforestation; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; and poaching.

Vegetation

Much of the country, being so well-watered, is richly fertile; there is arid semi-desert in the north-east. Most of the country’s vegetation is savannah with tropical forests in areas of high rainfall. Drought-resistant bush, grasses and succulents grow in the north-east.

Wildlife

Uganda has 7,200 sq km of national parks and game reserves, reflecting the extraordinary diversity of the country which comprises lakes, swamps, dense grassland, woodland, rolling plains, forests and mountains. There is a rich variety of wildlife, including elephants, Uganda kobs, buffaloes, lions, rhinos, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees – 338 species of mammals and 830 species of birds. Some 25 mammal species and 20 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Local Government Conference, 14–17 May 2013, when delegates called for local government to be fully integrated with the post-2015 development agenda.

Samuel Kavuma of Uganda was in 2010 appointed to the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, which presented its recommendations for reform in the Commonwealth to Commonwealth leaders at CHOGM in Australia in October 2011.

Ugandans won the Commonwealth Essay Competition in 1989 and 2007.

Dorcas Inzikuru took the Commonwealth Games Women’s 3,000 Metres Steeplechase record in the Melbourne Games in 2006.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 159

Life expectancy: 59 years

Primary enrolment: 91% (2011)

Population: 37,579,000 (2013)

Language: The official languages are English and Kiswahili; Kiswahili and Luganda are widely spoken and there are several other African languages.

Religion: Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 42 per cent, Anglicans 36 per cent, Pentecostals five per cent), Muslims 12 per cent, and most of the rest holding traditional beliefs, which often coexist with other religions (2002 census).

Economy

GNI: US$20.8bn

GNI PC: US$510

GDP Growth: 5.8% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 10.9% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Uganda

Independence: 9 October 1962

Head of government: HE Mr Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President

Traveller information

There were 1,206,000 tourist arrivals in 2013.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from Uganda, many countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate (see Travel Health below).

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit. Car hire is available in Kampala and at Entebbe International Airport, though those without experience of driving in the country are advised to hire a vehicle with a driver.Scheduled flights operate from Entebbe to the main towns and charter flights are also available. In urban areas black and white striped taxis are widely available.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, meningococcal meningitis, polio, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), typhoid and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has recommended vaccination against yellow fever.

Africa

United Republic of Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania borders the Indian Ocean to the east, and has land borders with eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (across Lake Tanganyika), Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. The country includes Zanzibar (consisting of the main island Unguja, plus Pemba and other smaller islands).

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1961

Population: 49,253,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.3% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 159

Official language: Kiswahili, English

Timezone: GMT plus 3hr

Currency: Tanzanian shilling (TSh)

Geography

Area: 945,090 sq km

Coastline: 1,420km

Capital city: Dodoma

Population density (per sq. km): 52

Main towns

Dodoma (capital), Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Zanzibar Town, Arusha, Mbeya, Morogoro, Tanga, Kigoma, Songea, Moshi, Tabora, Iringa, Musoma, Sumbawanga, Shinyanga, Mtwara and Kasulu.

Transport

There are two railway systems, extending to a total of 4,460 km, and running on two different gauges. The main ports are at Dar es Salaam, Mtwara, Tanga and Zanzibar. Ferries provide freight and passenger transport on Lake Victoria. There are three international airports (Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar) and more than 50 local airports and airstrips. Because of the size of the country and scattered population, air services have become the most significant form of internal transport for official and business travel.

International relations

United Republic of Tanzania is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, East African Community, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization. United Republic of Tanzania was a member (with Kenya and Uganda) of the East African Community, which from 1967 had a common market and many shared services, but collapsed in 1977. The three countries again embarked on developing regional co- operation in 1993, bringing about progressive harmonisation of standards and policies across a wide range of activities, and launching a new East African Community in January 2001 and East African Customs Union in January 2005. The Community was enlarged in July 2007 when Burundi and Rwanda became members. United Republic of Tanzania hosts the headquarters of the East African Community in Arusha.

Topography

The country comprises several distinct zones: a fertile coastal belt; the Masai Steppe and mountain ranges to the north (with Mt Kilimanjaro rising to 5,895 metres); and a high plateau in the central and southern regions. There are over 61,000 sq km of inland water. Unguja Island (36 km from the mainland) is fertile, hilly and densely populated on the west side, low and thinly peopled in the east.

Climate

Varies with geographical zones: tropical on the coast, where it is hot and humid (rainy season March–May); semi- temperate in the mountains (with the Short Rains in November–December and the Long Rains in February–May); and drier in the plateau region with considerable seasonal variations in temperature.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are drought, soil degradation, deforestation, desertification and destruction of coral reefs.

Vegetation

Lush tropical at the coast; the rest of the country, apart from urban areas, is savannah and bush. Forest and woodland cover 37 per cent of the land area, having declined at 1.1 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 16 per cent and permanent cropland two per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

The national parks and game reserves cover 16 per cent of the country and include Serengeti National Park (famous for its vast migratory herds of plains animals, notably wildebeest, zebras, elands and kudus). Small bands of chimpanzees are found in the Gombe National Park along Lake Tanganyika. The steep mountain walls of Ngorogoro Park’s volcanic crater have provided protection and a natural enclosure for animals in an environment of great natural beauty. Rhino and elephant populations are still being depleted by poaching despite government protective measures.

Other facts

Filbert Bayi took the Commonwealth Games Men’s 1,500 Metres record at the Christchurch Games (New Zealand) in 1974.

The country includes the highest and lowest points in Africa – the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 metres above sea level) and the floor of Lake Tanganyika (358 metres below sea level).

Tanzanian national Dr William Shija was appointed Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 2007, and Dr Asha-Rose Migiro served as UN Deputy Secretary-General 2007–12.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 52

Life expectancy: 62 Years

Primary enrolment: 98% (2008)

Population: 49,253,000 (2013);

Language: The official language is Kiswahili (which is universally spoken in addition to various other African languages), and is the medium of instruction in primary schools. English is the second official language, the country’s commercial language, and also the teaching language in secondary schools and higher education.

Religion: (on mainland) Muslims 35 per cent, Christians 30 per cent, and a small number of Hindus, with most of the rest holding traditional beliefs; (in Zanzibar) Muslims virtually 100 per cent.

Economy

GNI: US$32.8bn

GNI PC: US$630

GDP Growth: 6.7% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 10.9% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Parliament of Tanzania

Independence: 9 December 1961 (mainland), 10 December 1963 (Zanzibar)

Head of government: John Pombe Magufuli, President

Traveller information

There were 1,043,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by all Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from United Republic of Tanzania, some countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate (see Travel Health below). Prohibited imports include some fresh food, plants and seeds (except with the relevant health certificate).

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit. Scheduled flights fly to main towns and to Zanzibar. Some intercity buses are modern, with air-conditioning, toilets and refreshments. Taxis cannot be hailed in the street but are none the less widely available in urban areas. They do not have meters, so fares should be agreed before starting out. It is also possible to hire a chauffeur- driven car.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, dengue fever, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid. Vaccination against yellow fever is not generally recommended by the World Health Organization.

Africa

Zambia

Zambia is a landlocked, fertile and mineral-rich country on the Southern African plateau. It is bordered by: (clockwise from the north) the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia (via the Caprivi Strip), Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country comprises ten provinces (from south to north): Southern, Western, Lusaka, Central, Eastern, North-Western, Copperbelt, Northern, Muchinga (whose creation was announced in October 2011) and Luapula.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1964

Population: 14,539,000 (2013)

GDP: 2.0% p.a. 1990–2013

UN HDI: World ranking 141

Official language: English

Timezone: GMT plus 2hr

Currency: kwacha (ZK)

Geography

Area: 752,614 sq km

Coastline: none

Capital city: Lusaka

Population density (per sq. km): 19

Main towns

Lusaka (capital), Kitwe, Ndola, Kabwe, Chingola, Mufulira, Livingstone, Luanshya, Kasama, Chipata, Kalulushi, Mazabuka, Chililabombwe, Mongu, Choma, Kapiri Mposhi, Kansanshi, Kafue, Mansa, Monze, Sesheke and Mpika.

Transport

There are 91,440 km of roads, 22 per cent paved, and 1,273 km of railway (not including the Tazara Railway). Roads can be hazardous during the rainy season. There is access to the Mozambican port of Beira (also to Maputo) via Livingstone and the Zimbabwe railway system; to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, via the Tazara Railway; and to Durban in South Africa, also via Livingstone and the Zimbabwe railway system. In 2003 a South African consortium was granted a 20-year licence to manage Zambia Railways. The western route to the sea, the Benguela Railway (through the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Angolan port of Benguela) was closed in 1975 due to upheavals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) and Angola. However, by 2007 restoration of the route was in progress following a grant, of up to US$300 million received by Angola from China. Since 2000, plans have been under way for a new rail route from Lusaka to Blantyre in Malawi, giving access to the port of Nacala in Mozambique. There are international airports at Lusaka (26 km east of the city) and Mfuwe (in the South Luangwa National Park), and more than 100 other airports and airstrips throughout the country.

International relations

Zambia is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Zambia hosts the headquarters of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa in Lusaka.

Topography

Most of Zambia is high plateau, deeply entrenched by the Zambezi river (and its tributaries, the Kafue and Luangwa) and the Luapula river. The Zambezi flows to the south, turning eastwards to make the border with Zimbabwe. In the north are three great lakes: the Tanganyika, Mweru and Bangweulu. The man-made Lake Kariba stretches along the southern border. The Mafinga Mountains form part of a great escarpment running down the east side of the Luangwa river valley. The country rises to a higher plateau in the east.

Climate

Tropical, but seldom unpleasantly hot, except in the valleys. There are three seasons: a cool dry season April–August; a hot dry season August–November; and a wet season, which is even hotter, November–April. Frost occurs in some areas in the cool season. Rainfall is 508–1,270 mm p.a.

Environment

The most significant environmental issues are: deforestation, soil erosion, and desertification; health risk posed by inadequate water treatment facilities; threat to big game populations by poaching; and air pollution and resulting acid rain in the areas surrounding mining and refining operations in Copperbelt Province.

Vegetation

Forest – mostly savannah bushveld – covers 66 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.3 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. The high eastern plateau consists of open grassy plains with small trees and some marshland. Arable land comprises five per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife

Zambia has a wealth of wildlife, including big mammals and numerous species of antelopes. There are 19 national parks and 34 game management areas, about one-third of the country’s area. South Luangwa has one of Africa’s largest elephant populations. Kafue National Park has the largest number of antelope species of any African park, including the rare red lechwe, an aquatic antelope. It is also a home of the fish eagle, Zambia’s national emblem. Decline in animal numbers has been slowed by the government’s commitment to wildlife conservation, and the enforcement of measures against poaching and weapon-carrying in the conservation areas. There are 233 mammal species, of which ten are thought to be endangered (2014).

Other facts

The Commonwealth Youth Programme Africa Centre is based in Lusaka.

Kalusha Bwalya, born in Mufulira in 1963, was African Footballer of the Year in 1988.

Zambia is one of seven landlocked Commonwealth countries, all of which are in Africa.

Society

Population density (per sq. km): 19

Life expectancy: 58 years

Primary enrolment: 94%

Population: 14,539,000 (2013); 40

Language: English is the official language and is widely spoken. There are seven main African languages: Bemba, Kaonde, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja and Tonga.

Religion: Mainly Christians (denominations include Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostals, New Apostolic Church, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists); Christian beliefs are often blended with traditional beliefs; plus minorities of Muslims and Hindus.

Economy

GNI: US$21.6bn

GNI PC: US$1,480

GDP Growth: 7.8% p.a. 2009–13

Inflation: 8.3% p.a. 2009–13

Constitution and politics

Status: Republic with executive President

Legislature: Zambian Parliament

Independence: 24 October 1964

Head of government: HE Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President

Traveller information

There were 859,000 tourist arrivals in 2012.

Immigration and customs: Passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival. Visas are required by most Commonwealth nationals. If you are travelling on from Zambia, some countries will require you to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate (see Travel Health below).

Travel within the country: Traffic drives on the left. Visitors wishing to drive will need an international driving permit. It is illegal to drink and drive or to use a mobile phone while driving. Chauffeur-driven cars are also available for hire. Scheduled flights fly between the main centres. There are three main railway lines affording services between Lusaka and Livingstone, Lusaka and the Copperbelt, and Kapiri Mposhi and the northern border with United Republic of Tanzania. Taxis are widely available in urban areas but are not metered and fares should be agreed in advance.

Travel health: Prevalent diseases where appropriate precautionary measures are recommended include cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and typhoid. Vaccination against yellow fever is not generally recommended by the World Health Organization.