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The Death of French-speaking Africa

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Cartoon image of Jane teaching Tarzan English

There is a happy little meme bobbing optimistically around the web. Apparently originating from the Natixis bank, it soon spread to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and thence to all lovers of French. It goes like this: by 2050 the number of French-speakers in the world will reach 750 million, ousting English, Chinese, Arabic and Gaelic all together. Most of its growth will come from Africa.

It is, of course, nonsense.

The French are past masters at marketing and mythology but this is almost certainly wrong.


Despite one glaring, and tragic, exception, that of AIDS with a penetration rate of 10.09% among 15-49 year-olds in English-speaking Africa compared to 1.85% in French-, francophone countries lag behind their English-speaking counterparts by an average of about 20% on just about every criterion you care to examine. Take a look at the following list where English-speaking countries come out on top every single time:

Criteria English-speaking Francophone
Corruption (www.transparency.org: 2013): 37.88 27.76
Literacy 15-24 yo’s, 2006-2011 (UNICEF) 78.65 63.66
No. doctors / 1000 (WHO: 2007-2008): 0.17 0.10
Improved access to water (UNICEF): 76.71 68.63
“Open defecation” (UNICEF): 18.94 29.38
Under-5 mortality rate (IFPRI, 2014): 7.91 10.24
Global Hunger Index (IFPRI, 2014): 15.29 17.61
Human Development Index (UNDP, 2014): 0.51 0.45
Mean growth in GDP 2004-12 (AEO) 5.31 4.68
Growth in GDP 2013 (CIA Factbook) 5.63 3.59
Global Competitiveness Index (WEF, 2013*): 108.24 126.64
Democracy (CSP, Polity IV, 2013): 4.00 2.00

* Figures perhaps biased (up or down) by the fact that of the 34 countries used the GCI did not include Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Republic of the Congo & Togo, all francophone… Why? Your guess is as good as mine…

Again and again, item after item – hunger, mortality, corruption, growth, etc. – francophone Africa loses out. If it were a game, they would have quit years ago, but it’s not, it’s human lives and human deaths. Instead, invited to Paris for prestigious conferences on “real culture”, the people of Africa allow themselves to be subjugated by the dazzling lights of French mystique, and lap the leftovers of former French glory.

Whether it is a question of language or culture is another debate. Either way, France – more right-wing than monarchical England despite its screeching liberté, égalité, fraternité – has trapped its Africa inside a fantasy realm of equality and rights of man while linguistically bogging it down in an antiquated language inappropriate for modern use and maintaining it in cultural servitude. Essentially, as long as Africa speaks French, it’s fucked. If it’s not culture per se, then language does the trick. While little children spend hours and weeks trying to understand the incoherent junk of French grammar, they are deprived of time learning the basic essentials of modern life.

For Africa to grow, it must switch to English.

The shift has already begun, with Rwanda, which some call the “ultimate turnaround”, switching to English for education in 2003 and continuing to advance in leaps and bounds. Then came Gabon in October 2012, initially adopting English as second official language and main foreign language in schools. How long before it discreetly drops French remains open. Burundi applied to become part of the Commonwealth in 2012, as did Mozambique in 1995. The snowball is moving.

To progress, Africa needs information, and it’s in English.





For further details, references, etc., please see Français hors de France!, in press, review copies available, just ask (click to go back to where you were).

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Guest mardi, 10 décembre 2019
Vous êtes ici : Home Frogologoblog Simon The Death of French-speaking Africa