A very interesting synthesis on the French-speaking population, produced by Ilyes Zouari, president of Center for studies and reflection on the French-speaking world (CERFM), provides the opportunity to reflect on the use that could be made of this massive phenomenon – the population of the French-speaking world reaches 524 million inhabitants, a little more than the European Union, tells us I. Zouari – to improve a number of things, especially in terms of development and planetary balance.
State of play
Ilyes Zouari retains as French-speaking countries and regions “in which the population is in daily contact with the French language, and where one can therefore live in french “. For countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and Canada, the inhabitants of regions which meet this condition are counted – so for example, if I understood correctly, Quebec, but not all of Canada. A territory is retained as French-speaking if French, possibly with a “local partner language”, is the language of administration and education, at least from a certain level, and the dominant language for the media and business.
Not all estimates of the Francophone population are so strong. The OIF (International Organization of La Francophonie), for example, expects 300 million francophones, although with its 54 member countries strictly speaking, to which are added 7 “associate” members and 27 “observers” it casts a fairly wide net. Still, the two estimates show this: the Francophonie constitutes a fraction of the world population which is far from being negligible!
Why should we play this trump card?
Sharing a language and therefore, to a certain extent, a culture, makes it possible to work together more effectively. The Hexagon is small, compared to the planet, and will be more and more, as far as the population is concerned, since the birth rate is low: 112 births per 10,000 inhabitants. Low, but it gets worse, especially in Europe: Germany has 94 births per 10,000 people, and Italy 70! These are not really countries on which we can count so that, within a century, Europe and European culture will still play their full role in the world.
Let us now turn to the French-speaking countries of the Third World, and particularly Africa, a continent with which France has very strong links. Globally, there are 322 annual births per 10,000 inhabitants, three times more than in Europe (which is 100), and double that observed in Asia and South America (around 156). Demographically, it is in Africa, above all, that the future of humanity is being prepared. And it turns out that it is also with this continent that France has particularly strong relations, linked to a very developed Francophonie.
Ilyes Zouari reminds us – or teaches us – that the most populous French-speaking African country is the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 91 million inhabitants. Next come Algeria (nearly 45 million inhabitants), Morocco (nearly 37) then Madagascar (28) and Côte d’Ivoire (26). The case of Congo is symptomatic: there is a large number of ethnic groups, and several African languages (the 4 main ones are Kikongo, Swahili, Lingala and Tshiluba) ; It is therefore French which plays the role of national language, bearer of unity. Without French, there would not be one country, but four or more. This creates for France a duty, let’s not say of development aid, the formula is connoted paternalistic, but of cooperation, according to the expression which has been applied to the “cooperants” who came to contribute to the development of this country whose potential is very big.
To be brief, I will not dwell on the reasons that plead in favor of cooperation, in the full sense of the term, with the Congo, Algeria, etc. : let’s just say that we have lost sight of the community of destiny which linked France and the French to these peoples. Our common interest is to play the Francophonie asset. The metropolis, as they used to say in colonial times, is a few steps ahead in technical and scientific fields, and these “Third World” countries have demographic vitality: together, these two assets are masters. Of course, France will not abandon Europe, but frankly the great African air would do it the greatest good! We must not confine ourselves to old people; to bet on Africa is not to put all your eggs in one basket; it is also speaking like Cambronne to apparatchiks whose great pride is to define the characteristics allowing to affix the label “free-range chicken” on the corpse of a gallinaceous.
How to play this asset?
To give the Francophonie real consistency, it must be given an importance at least equal to that of European construction, less bureaucracy and more open-mindedness. The stupidities that have marked the history of European construction have vaccinated at least the most informed among us: let’s not repeat them!
The main foolishness was bureaucracy, the second was recourse to the parliamentary model. Let us not transpose to the French-speaking world the taste for Brussels for the adoption of restrictive standards ranging from the ripening of cheeses to the mechanisms of the elevators. Let us not create a pseudo-legislative assembly requiring a heavy bureaucracy: it is the equivalent of the Commission which will be useful, not that of the European Parliament, which is very expensive without being of great use.
Let us plan to move towards a common French-speaking market, so as to benefit as quickly as possible from the advantages provided by this opening of borders. Let’s plan to work on what is necessary to make trade faster and more profitable: stable monetary and customs institutions, the adoption of common technical standards and an institution capable of resolving the disputes that are sure to arise. And let’s not try to force the steam: we must know how to give time to time, be careful not to have a vanguard very in front of the main body, not to leave countries, regions, ethnic groups, watch the march forward without participating.
Let us also plan to give a high priority to training: it is the number one key for the development of these countries whose populations do not have perfectly satisfactory goods and services. This training should not consist in purely and simply transposing what is done in France, but preserving and perfecting what exists and gives satisfaction, while adding to it what is absent and must be created.
Europe is now a mature lady. Of course, we are not recommending that the young African Francophonie steal its place from it, but a healthy competition between the old institution and the new one would be beneficial!