Interesting facts about five Commonwealth countries


Tanzanian flag

Tanzanian flag

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.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1961

Population: 47,783,000 (2012)

The United Republic of Tanzania borders the Indian Ocean to the east, and has land borders with eight countries: (anti-clockwise from the north) 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).

Sri Lanka

Sanath Jayasuriya was Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1996.

Sanath Jayasuriya was Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 1996.

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.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1948

Population: 21,045,000 (2011)

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.

It is almost linked to the Indian mainland by Adam’s Bridge, an atoll barrier, mostly submerged, lying between the offshore island of Mannar and India itself.

The country comprises nine provinces (from south to north): Southern (provincial capital Galle), Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura), Western (Colombo), Uva (Badulla), Eastern (Trincomalee), Central (Kandy), North-Western (Kurunegala), North-Central (Anuradhapura) and Northern (Jaffna).


CanadaCanada 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).

In 2013 short story writer Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and Eliza Robertson won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Three Canadians have won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Mordecai Richler, in 1990; Rohinton Mistry (born in Bombay, India), in 1992 and 1996; and Lawrence Hill, in 2008.

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.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1931 (Statute of Westminster)

Population: 34,838,000 (2012)

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 to the west; the Arctic to the north; and the Atlantic to the east. Indented shores and numerous islands (some very large) give it the longest coastline of any country at 202,100 km. Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island is 768 km from the North Pole.


MaltaMalta 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. COMNET-IT has championed the development of the Commonwealth Action Programme for the Digital Divide.

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

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1964

Population: 428,000 (2012)

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. Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited; the other islands are Cominotto, Filfla and St Paul’s Island.

New Zealand

New Zealand Rugby team doing the Haka

New Zealand Rugby team doing the Haka

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.

Six New Zealanders have won overall Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes: Witi lhimaera in 1987 (Best First Book); Janet Frame in 1989; John Cranna in 1990 (Best First Book); Lloyd Jones in 2007; Craig Cliff in 2011 (Best First Book); and Emma Martin in 2012 (Short Story Prize). Another, Eleanor Catton, took the Man Booker Prize in 2013.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1931 (Statute of Westminster)

Population: 4,460,000 (2012)

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