The great meeting of the Francophonie, which has been postponed time and time again because of COVID and the instability in Tunisia, was finally held on November 19 and 20 in Djerba. It was an opportunity for its members to reaffirm the direction taken. Namely, building on values that unite the French-speaking countries and fostering cooperation by focusing on digital technology.
By Lilia Ayari
Louise Mushikiwabo, who has been re-elected, stays on track. Indeed, upon her arrival at the helm of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), the newly elected Secretary General of La Francophonie had called, as she chaired for the first time the Permanent Council of La Francophonie (CPF) in March 2019, for a “renewal of La Francophonie”. After conducting an audit of an institution considered by many to be old and mired in “Francophone” mechanisms, the Rwandan revives and restructures the machine. On the menu of her program, an “update” of the institution and priorities: the French language, human rights and democracy, education and youth employment, digital technology and gender equality, cooperation and exchange of best practices.
At the end of a first term marked by numerous crises _ COVID, coups in the Sahel and in Guinea among others_ it is on the strength of her first results that she was re-elected for a second term. This took place on the sidelines of the 18th Summit of the Francophonie that took place on November 19 and 20 in Djerba, Tunisia.
A new « update »
The opportunity for a new “update” of the institution that celebrated last year its fiftieth anniversary, by the Secretary General of La Francophonie through a report presented to the heads of state and government. That report precisely makes the assessment of her action at the head of the OIF since 2019. It was summed up as follows: a tighter programming for a more relevant action, increased legitimacy of the organization on the international scene, more effective management and governance processes.
Afterwards, the Francophone Heads of State and Government, meeting in a new format, discussed the priorities of the Francophonie. In particular, they addressed the issue of digital technology as a vector of development and solidarity – the summit’s theme -, the role of women and youth as vectors of peace and actors of development, and the context of growing citizen mistrust.
At the end of their work, several normative texts, which outline the future Francophonie were adopted. Starting with the “Strategic Framework 2023-2030”, that sets out new strategic objectives for an ever more relevant multilateral Francophone cooperation. As well as the “Declaration on the French language in the linguistic diversity of La Francophonie”, in which the signatories commit to further promote the use of French in the Francophone space and beyond. Finally, the “Regulation on the procedure for accession or modification of the status of a State or government to the OIF”, which endorses the reflection on the identity and membership of the Francophonie.
Two political texts also reflect the discussions and the search for consensus between the States and governments of the OIF on the major global issues and crisis situations in the Francophone space: the “Djerba Declaration” and the “Resolution on crisis situations, post-crisis and peacebuilding in the Francophone space”.These documents constitute the roadmap for the next four years of the Francophonie, headed by Louise Mushikiwabo.
Accelerating economic focus
In other words, we are staying the course set by the Secretary General and increasing the pace. Above all, we confirm the direction that was initiated but not yet fully implemented: to rely on the common ground to the countries of La Francophonie, namely the French language, culture, and shared values, and we strengthen cooperation between countries by relying on the economy and on digital technology.
An idea already expressed in 2016 at the first day of the economic and digital Francophonie and which meets an expectation, a request repeatedly expressed by members of the Francophonie, during the annual “Meeting of Francophone entrepreneurs (REF)” in particular. They would like to benefit from comparative advantages, as Francophones, in the Francophone space. In other words, to be inspired by the Commonwealth, united above all by economic interests and advantages.
But if the idea seems to be widely shared, putting it into practice remains complex. Countries of the Francophone space are already linked by other economic agreements. (Read the interview Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux “economic Francophonie, a growth pillar of our countries).
“As the continent will double its population, the future of the Francophonie will more than ever be written with Africa…”
The real challenge at this level is to strengthen the common base, which is far from certain. If the number of French speakers will be between 500 and 800 million by 2070, nearly 80% of them will live in Africa (Read the Survey:French language in the world: 62% of speakers in Africa). On the continent, as elsewhere in the world, the French language is increasingly challenged by English. With countries that no longer hesitate to switch from French, as official language, to English. This was the case in Rwanda, even if French is making a comeback in schools (see our Report:Rwanda: French could be returning to in school), and is now the case in Gabon.
One thing is certain, however: as the continent will double its population, the future of the Francophonie will be written with Africa… or not. While French is the fourth most spoken language in the world, behind English, Chinese and Spanish, within 50 years, French will be spoken by 477 to 747 million people in the world, moving up to third place. Meanwhile, the date has been set for 2024, in France, the country picked to host the 19th Summit of La Francophonie. The birthplace of the French language. In other words, back to basics.
Watch or watch again the opening ceremony
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