What comes to your mind when you hear the word Francophone?
French speaking people? You are not incorrect! In fact, the meaning of the word 'Francophone' can be easily deduced from the combination of derivations from familiar words: 'Franco' which has to do with 'France' or 'French' and 'phone' which has to do with sound or speech or (which is of more application to this Article), language.
According to collinsdictionary.com, 'Francophone is someone who speaks French, especially as first language. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined it by adding 'of l, or having, or belonging to a population using French as it's first or sometimes second language.'
Simply put, francophone Africa are those countries in the African continent who were once colonized by France.
These countries are 31 in number which is slightly more than half of the entire African continent.
In Africa, there are many countries that use French to varying degrees of officialdom.
French is an official language, or shares official status with other languages in Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Rwanda, Congo, Mali, the Seychelles, Djibouti and Senegal. In Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and even Egypt, French is still widely spoken among the upper classes. These countries, during the colonial period had the French language imposed upon them as a standard language. Today, 21 of these countries speak French as their first or second or official language or shared language.
The subject of Francophone Africa is one that incites great interest especially when you look at it from the point of convergence of differing cultures so far apart as the ends of the Atlantic Oceans. However, it has been one of a long-playing relationship, strengthened all the more even after the attainment of Independence from the colonial power. This fact is obvious in the political, economic, social and even cultural nature of the Francophone African states.
Fundamentally, the French language plays a unifying role amongst states divided by myriad tribes and indigenous languages and dialects in Francophone Africa. These countries coexist with a sense of shared experience and a common language. These countries are considered as an extension of France and thus, enjoys certain privileges accrued to a French native.
Firstly, citizens of a francophone country are considered automatically citizens of France. This comes with educational benefits since France is open to have Francophone Africans studying in their universities.
Secondly, there has been a strong economic bond between France and the Francophone African states which has brought about development in the regions. To say the least, these regions enjoy good roads and stable power supply. Even after the dissolution of the West African CFA giving way for their own currency recently, known as the ECO, Francophone Africa still maintains a strong relationship with France.
Thirdly, there have been efforts made by France to promote French language and foster intercultural relationship. La Francophonie is an organization that sees to this end. In fact, it embraces countries that are merely lovers and promoters of the French language and culture.
Lastly, these Francophone African countries play key roles in the polity of ECOWAS and AU and in enduring peaceful coexistence among member-states, including the Anglophone states.