Adopting French as the global language: Africa has more French speaking people than the whole of Europe

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Africa is contributing 47.7 percent (143.1 million) to the French-speaking population thereby making French a global language. This is more than 45.7 percent (137.1 million) of the whole of Europe and France with a population of 67.12 million.

According to a recent report by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), French has become the world’s fifth most spoken language as 300 million people in five continents speak the French language. Moving a step up from its previous sixth position, the French language which is ranked behind Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic has so many speakers thanks to the millions of Africans who speak the language daily.

In the last four years, the number of people speaking French has increased by almost 9.6 percent . The report which noted that the centre of gravity of the Francophonie is moving south added that between 2010 and 2018, 22.7 million more people speak French. 68 percent of these additional French speakers live in sub-Saharan Africa, 22 percent live in North Africa, 7 percent reside in America while Europe houses just 3 percent of the 22.7 million new speakers.

In total, out of the 300 million Francophonies, 34.8 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12.9 percent live in the Middle East and North Africa, 43.9 percent live in Western Europe, 1.8 percent live in the Central and Eastern part of Europe. North America, Latin America and the Carribean is home to 6 percent while 0.6 percent people live in Asia and Oceania.

The French language is gaining momentum globally because it is taught as a foreign language in schools around the world. Currently French is the second most widely learned foreign language in the world, with 132 million students and over 500,000 teachers. French is also the main language of instruction in schools in Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

French is also taught at establishments run by France’s cultural network abroad (Instituts Français and Alliance Française schools). There are over 481 cultural network establishments of the French school network’s abroad providing French education according to France’s national curriculum.

The growing African population is a huge contributor to French language ranking 5th on the chart. Till date, French remains the sole official language in 11 African countries and the second official language in 10. The OIF estimates that the number of French speakers will rise to over 700 million by 2050, 80 percent of whom will be in Africa.

French is also one of the working languages of many international institutions; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the African Union (AU), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) thereby increasing the number of speakers.


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Kennedy Mornah is an Award Winning Ghanaian Journalist with over two decades of experience in the Ghanaian Media landscape spanning the electronic, print and digital media. He is a Media Consultant, a Corporate MC, Radio and TV Host, Founder and Publisher of the Maritime and Transport Digest Newspaper, Businessman, a Go getter and an optimist. He has worked for renowned media organizations including Diamond Fm in Tamale, Luv Fm in Kumasi, Oman Fm in Accra and Starr Fm in Accra In 2017 he received the Reporter of the Year Award at the Ghana Shippers Awards in Accra, Ghana.

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