The majority of the world’s French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
French is the second most popular language on earth and the second most spoken language in West Africa. According to the 2022 report of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), 409 million people speak French.
The OIF further stated that despite a decline in the number of learners of French in Europe, the overall number of speakers is rising, largely because of its presence in African countries: of the 212 million who use French daily, 54.7% are living in Africa.
Francophone Countries in West Africa
Today, owing to France’s past overseas expansion, there are 9 countries in French colonial territories in West Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, Togo, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Ivory Coast, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger.
Benin is a diverse country linguistically. A total of 55 languages are spoken in Benin, with 50 being indigenous. Of those, French is the official language.
This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from the early 17th century due to the high number of people who were sold and trafficked during the Atlantic slave trade to the New World. France took over the territory in 1894, incorporating it into French West Africa as French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France.
French was introduced during the colonial period and retained as the official language upon independence. Today it is an important lingua franca between diverse ethnic groups.
In Benin it is important to know French to get an administrative position or work in the cities in general, and speaking it is a mark of prestige.
According to Ethnologue, 39 distinct languages are spoken in the country, some of them by communities that number fewer than 100,000 members. Of the 39 languages, the sole official language is French.
French was inherited from the period of French mandate rule over the area, was made the official language at independence.
French is used in formal education, legislature, all forms of media, administration and commerce.
3. Côte d’Ivoire
There are around 78 different languages spoken in Ivory Coast but The official language of the republic is French.
The French language which was introduced during the colonial period is taught in schools and serves as a lingua franca in the country.
Mauritania was administered as a French colony during the first half of the 20th century and became independent on November 28, 1960.
Today, French which was inherited from the period of French mandate rule over the area, is a recognized language in the region and is widely used in the media and among educated classes.
5. Burkina Faso
In 1896, Burkina Faso was colonized by the French as part of French West Africa; in 1958, Upper Volta became a self-governing colony within the French Community. In 1960, it gained full independence with Maurice Yaméogo as President.
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest country in Africa with a gdp per capita of $857. 63% of its population practices Islam and 22% practice Christianity. Due to French colonialism, the country’s official language of government and business is French.
French is the principal language of administrative, political and judicial institutions, public services, and the press. It is the only language for laws, administration and courts. French is also the language of instruction in the nation’s schools.
This landlocked country covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km2 (490,000 sq mi), making it one of the largest country in Africa.
French, inherited from the colonial period, is the official language. It is spoken mainly as a second language by people who have received a formal western education and serves as the administrative language. Niger has been a member of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie since 1970.
Mali fell under the control of France during the late 19th century. By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control as a part of French Sudan. On 24 November 1958, French Sudan (Sudanese Republic) became an autonomous republic within the French Community. In January 1959, Mali and Senegal united to become the Mali Federation. The Mali Federation gained independence from France on 20 June 1960.
Senegal withdrew from the federation in August 1960, which allowed the Sudanese Republic to become the independent Republic of Mali on 22 September 1960, and that date is now the country’s Independence Day.
French which was introduced during the colonial period, was retained as the official language at independence and is used in government and formal education. Almost all people who speak French in Mali speak it as a second language.
Senegal was formed as part of the independence of French West Africa from French colonial rule. Because of this history, the official language is French.
French is the official language in a Senegal and is used by the administration.
While French is the sole official language, a rising Senegalese linguistic nationalist movement supports the integration of Wolof, the common vernacular language of the country, into the national constitution.
Senegal is also a member State of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Formerly French Guinea, the land that is now Guinea belonged to a series of African empires until France colonized it in the 1890s, and made it part of French West Africa. Guinea declared its independence from France on 2 October 1958.
Today French is the only official language in Guinea, and is used as the language of instruction in schools, in government administration, and the media.
French Speaking Countries in Africa
In 2022, a total of 31 independent states around the world reported French as an official language. If territories are included, the total number increases to 42. Of this total, 26 are located in Africa, which represents half of the world’s French speaking states and territories.
A study by the Observatory of the French language, the OIF noted that “nearly 60%” of Francophones with “everyday use of the French language ( …) reside in Africa “.
There are approximately 434 million people throughout the world who speak French. However, the country with highest French speaking population is not France. Instead, an African nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tops the list with a total of more than 77 million people. France ranks second.
List of French Speaking Countries in Africa
3. Burkina Faso
6. Central African Republic
9. Congo Brazzaville
10. Congo kinshasa
11. Côte d’Ivoire
13. Equatorial Guinea
15. Guinea (konakry)