About sixty heads of state, heads of government and ministers, met in Djerbau 18th Francophonie Summit this November 19 and 20, 2022. After two postponements, the 18th Francophonie Summit finally took place to define strategies for the development of the French language but also of the Member States. Also this year France, represented by Emmanuel Macron, carried out the project supported by MEDEF to revitalize a French-speaking economic area by organizing an economic forum tomorrow, Monday 20 November 2022.
” For my part, I believe that we are moving towards a renewed Francophonie, in which every country has its place“.
Louise Mushikiwabo – Secretary General of the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF)
The French language in decline?
But first, it is the place of the French language in the world that was the focus of the Tunisian weekend. According to the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF), French today has 321 million speakers worldwide and is the 5thth world language.
Among them, 255 million people use French every day. But the advantage of our language is the demographics of the countries that adopted it. Thus, in 2060, more than 760 million people will speak French, ie 8% of the population compared to 3% today. English is no longer “just” spoken by 560 million people, while Spanish will have 660 million speakers. This makes French the first European language in the world. Only Mandarin, Hindi and Arabic are spoken by more people. Continuing the demographic projection, French could even become the second language spoken in the world in the next century.
A geopolitical retreat?
As the President of the Republic reminded our colleagues from TV5MONDE, demographics should not hide the pitfalls that threaten our language. In the excerpt above, Emmanuel Macron discusses the situation in the Maghreb. If French is not under threat in Tunisia, the cultural shift in Morocco, which is pushing it a little more toward reclusion every day, is making its use disappear among the younger generations.
In Algeria, it is under the impetus of the state, which is trying to blame France for the situation of the population there, that French are back. We had mentioned the addition of English at the beginning of the 2022 school year in the so-called “primary” classes of Algerian schools, at the expense of French lessons.
Elsewhere, politics can be a guarantee of respect for Francophonie. This is the case with Canada and in particular Quebec where the legal framework for the use of French is relevant. It is further reinforced by a migration policy that largely favors those who speak French, regardless of their origin. For Africans, but also for Europeans, it is often the preferred gateway to the new world.
To strengthen the French language and create an area of shared prosperity, French-speaking countries are turning to digital technologies. This is the theme chosen for this summit.
In the language landscape of the Internet, the English-speaking tree hides the multilingual forest. Forest where the presence of the French language is decreasing. Not so much because it’s declining in absolute terms, but because the other languages are making more progress. However, French remains the fourth idiom used on the web, more or less on par with Russian, Portuguese, Hindi and Arabic..
The cause of this decline, of which the International Organization of Francophonie is aware, is the digital divide in African countries. Gold, “French has an extraordinary promise for the future”, believes Daniel Pimienta, director of the Observatory of Linguistic and Cultural Diversity on the web and present in Djerba, a promise based on the demographic prospects of the African continent, as we mentioned above.
“The vision of digital Francophonie is that of a civilization that respects international law on human rights and the prerogatives of the rule of law, in which states respect and protect democratic values and fundamental freedoms online and offline, while pursuing the ideals of diversity and inclusion, of equality of women and men as well as that of cultural and linguistic diversity”
The International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) in its press kit
In an attempt to reduce the digital divide on the African continent, Business France and France EduNum International (FENI) organized a symposium on November 19, 2022.
This event had as its theme Technologies for Education and the Francophonie, the debates took place in the presence of the French delegation of digital companies for education and training.
Three consecutive round tables brought together French institutions, African decision-makers and French-speaking EdTech experts to discuss the following topics:
– Perspectives on the digital challenges of education and training
– Digital at the service of employability throughout working life
– EdTech and Impact: Bringing Education and Training to New Territories
Economic strategy for the Francophonie 2022-2026
The Digital Francophonie Strategy 2022-2026, adopted at the 39th session of the Francophonie Ministerial Conference on December 10, 2021, commits the Member States and governments, the OIF and the other actors of the Francophonie Charter. This is the first time political leaders have met since it was passed.
The strategy aims to create a sphere of influence for the French language and for French-speaking expertise on the multilateral stage, particularly in international markets and in the development of international standards related to the digital, in order to create an inclusive, responsible, united, healthy and safe , promoting cultural and linguistic diversity and accelerating the digital transformation in the service of strengthening democracy and human rights by providing reliable and quality information and fighting disinformation, online hate and discrimination in all its forms.
Even if we are far from finding a common framework, certain rules or regulations desired by democratic countries and liberal economies can still counteract opposition from certain regimes, with observers unanimously acknowledging that there is a common will among all members there to address economic priorities. And in this wake, the 18thth The Francophonie Summit 2022 has prioritized the economic situation of young people and women, as they are particularly affected by the precariousness of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Download the report published in 2021 on the economic strategy for the Francophonie:
An unstable international environment
The meeting of French-speaking leaders also provided an opportunity to raise important international issues. Concerns about democratic rights, uncertainty about the 2023 Francophonie Games, the impact of the war in Ukraine on African countries, the conflict between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo… there was no shortage of topics.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – Rwanda
The situation between these two African countries has particularly strained the atmosphere. Congolese head of state Félix Tshisekedi was represented by his prime minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde because of the invasion in the east of the country. While her opponent, Martin Fayulu, exceptionally joined the executive couple’s voice in calling for the OIF to condemn Rwanda.
“If the Francophonie Summit, which starts today in Djerba, Tunisia, does not condemn the aggression of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Rwanda through its aid organizations M23, this international institution will lose its raison d’être. And the DRC will no longer be interested in staying a member.
Martin Fayulu, runner-up in the 2018 presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The other big topic was of course the war in Ukraine. The conflict has put pressure on Ukrainian and Russian grain and fertilizer exports. Africa is also the region most affected by this war as African countries are dependent on them.
However, the OIF, which has little influence on the international context, has addressed the issue of the Sahel and the insecurity in this region, which affects several member countries, without offering new solutions.