International Francophonie Day is celebrated every March 20, the date on which the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) was created. While it has essentially been a cultural, educational and social community since the beginning, La Francophonie has always considered the importance of reinforcing an economic dimension.
At the 15th Francophonie Summit held in Dakar in 2014, the 80 states and governments of the IOF expressed their desire to further develop the economic dimension of La Francophonie by adopting the first Stratégie économique pour la Francophonie (“Strategy”) (in French only).
Canada, as an influential member, played a key role in promoting the Strategy. Furthermore, the Secretary General of La Francophonie, the former Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean, gave a speech at the United Nations in 2015 in which she reiterated the importance of this Strategy for overcoming the pressing economic, environmental and social issues confronting the countries of La Francophonie.
The vision and themes of the Stratégie économique pour la Francophonie
This Strategy, used as a benchmark, is consistent with the vision that “puts individual development at the centre of the sustainable economic development process.” It also contributes to the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Its objective is “to strengthen the francophone economic zone in order to address the issues that lead to economic, social, energy and environmental challenges, as well as the growing imbalances in the global economic and financial system.”
The Strategy revolves around two themes: (1) promoting an economy focused on humans and their development; and (2) strengthening the francophone economic zone to create a privileged zone for trade, cooperation and solidarity.
Specifically, while encouraging the use of French and promoting multilingualism, the Strategy seeks to reconcile “economic growth with fighting poverty and inequalities, protecting the environment and preserving cultural heritage. To do this, it calls for improving democratic processes and strengthening the rule of law, governance, human rights and equality between men and women.” Furthermore, it supports sound and effective economic and fiscal governance.
Implementation of the Strategy depends on the involvement of the members and institutions of La Francophonie, stakeholders in local development and civil society, as well as the private sector and the diaspora. The approaches include mobilization, cooperation, influence and advocacy.
The potential of the Stratégie économique pour la Francophonie
The Strategy offers IOF states and governments a large economic zone that should be further explored, along with potential new markets.
According to the Stratégie économique pour la Francophonie and the recent Rapport de la langue française dans le monde (in French only), in 2010, these countries represented 14% of the world’s population, 14% of global gross national income (GNI) and 20% of commercial trade. Today they have more than 900 million inhabitants, and could have 1.5 to 2 billion in 2050.
Source: International Organisation of La Francophonie, Estimation des francophones (in French only).
Even if we limit the number of countries to those that have French as an official language and those in which French is widely spoken (33 countries), that still represented, in 2009–2010:
- 6.5% of the world’s population;
- 8.4% of global GDP;
- 11% of the world’s agricultural land;
- 6% of the world’s energy reserves (according to World Bank estimates in 2005, this includes 8.4% of natural gas and 5.5% of petroleum resources); and
- 14% of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in the world and 15.3% of FDI outflows.
Again according to the Rapport de la langue française dans le monde, French is currently ranked third in the world for “language of business.” Moreover, it holds an economic value as a marketable skill in the labour market or in a business, or as a “product” that is acquired at a cost (e.g., a French course), as well as a constituent element of a service or product (e.g., a book or film).
The same report indicates that French constitutes an important component of cultural industries. For example, francophone countries represent a considerable market share in global exports and imports of audiovisual content and associated services (e.g., 14.3% of exports and 22.3% of imports in 2008).
Source : International Organisation of La Francophonie (coordinated by the IOF Observatoire de la langue française), Rapport de la langue française dans le monde, Paris, Éditions Nathan, 2014, p.426.
The challenge for the Stratégie économique pour la Francophonie
The main challenge for the Strategy remains its effective and integrated implementation. La Francophonie encompasses territories on all continents, with very different degrees of wealth and development (e.g., some countries are members of the G8 or the G20, while 23 countries, notably African, are among the world’s 48 least developed countries). Furthermore, socio-economic issues and emerging problems vary from one country to another.
The Strategy does not propose a concrete action plan that would allow members to verify the accomplishment of objectives and measure progress.
Canada’s weight in the economic Francophonie
Canada is the second biggest donor to the IOF, after France, and one of La Francophonie’s main pillars. It plays a significant role in every IOF institution, notably in its advisory body, the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, through the Canadian Branch.
As an influential player, Canada was active in promoting the Strategy, and its effective implementation is a priority of Canada’s engagement within La Francophonie. The Strategy represents an important economic opportunity for Canada in terms of new possibilities for the international expansion of its economy and investments, as well as international cooperation in key areas such as cultural industries.
In a speech she gave in January 2016, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, stressed that the16th Francophonie Summit, which will be held in Madagascar in November 2016, is an important event to assess the progress made in the context of the Strategy.
Global Affairs Canada, La Francophonie.
International Organisation of La Francophonie (coordinated by the IOF Observatoire de la langue française), Rapport de la langue française dans le monde, Paris, Éditions Nathan, 2014, pp. 403–485 (in French only).
Author: Armine Tchakmakchian, Library of Parliament