Every year on the 20th of March, Francophone people across the globe celebrate “the Francophonie international day”: the occasion for over 890 million spread across 5 continents to celebrate the common language of French in a diversity of cultures. The French language is currently the second most studied language in the world and has seen rapid growth since 2010, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Having been an associated member of the Francophonie International Organisation since 2006, Ghana would definitely not be left out of the festivities. Over a period of two weeks, from 11th to 25th March, the francophone embassies in collaboration with Alliance Française and the Institut Français put together a host of activities: concerts, sporting events, film shows, conferences, quiz competitions, workshops and colloquia, and of course a grand bazaar on the final day. Here are a number of some flagship events that took place.
Francophonie in the fast lane
Early on Saturday 11th March, men and women of diverse nationalities and backgrounds assembled at the Accra High School to participate in a 10 km marathon – a distance traced through the streets of North ridge to Kanda and back – that was organised upon the initiative of the Swiss Embassy. Many were the motivations for partaking in this sportive venture; some were there to have fun, others for health reasons, or for networking, as well as those who certainly came to win. After enduring sun and sweat, all the runners enjoyed a massage session with refreshments, after which the prizes were presented by Messrs. Roland Fischer and François Schmidt of the Swiss Embassy. The awards which included swatch watches, manicure sets, thermos-isotherm bottles and several paraphernalia, went to the first three for both men and women. The first prize was a weekend for two at La Palm beach hotel in Togo.
Opening Concert at Alliance Française
The mood was a more relaxed one in the evening as the two-week Francophonie festival was officially launched with an opening concert featuring Fafa Ruffino of Benin and Bibie Brew from Ghana. The guest of honour for the evening, Education Minister Hon. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh in his opening remarks, said that government was taking urgent steps to promote the study of French in schools in order to enable citizens interact easily with their Francophone neighbours. This he believed would in turn enhance trade, professional exchange and regional integration.
Fafa Ruffino, a rising star on the West African music landscape took to stage and captivated the audience with her smooth and silky voice, churning out a melting pot of traditional African, soul, R&B tunes in French and Beninois languages. Bibie Brew of ‘Tout doucement’ fame then entertained guests in her own inimitable fashion. In attendance were many members of the diplomatic community in Ghana, notable among which were the ambassadors of Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, France, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Niger and Senegal.
Lebanon emerges Francophonie Football Cup champion
There was more sport on Sunday with the kick-off of a football gala held in Dzorwulu where fifteen teams representing Francophone states clashed for honours in a Francophonie Cup full of thrills.
At the end of matches at the group stage, eight teams showed heart to reach the quarter finals, namely: Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Central African Republic, Niger, Gabon and Lebanon which fielded two separate teams. The semi-finals saw Togo crashing out against Lebanon, with Guinea defeating CAR. Thus the defending champions Guinea went into the final in search of a second successive Francophonie cup triumph, but it was the Lebanese that drew first blood before being pegged back in the second half by the Guinean team. Penalties were therefore required to determine a winner and at the end of a pulsating shoot out, the Lebanese won 4-3, much to the dismay of the Guinean supporters who had been vocal throughout the tournament. Trophies along with other awards were presented by the French Ambassador, the Lebanese ambassador, the Chargé d’Affaires of Togo and the Director of Alliance Française.
International Day of La Francophonie – Finals of Grand French Contest
Monday the 20th of March, 2017 was International Francophonie Day and in Ghana, it was marked with the grand finale of the annual Francophonie competition which was followed by a round table discussion on the joys and challenges of working in a cross-cultural setting.
The day commenced with the finals of the nationwide Francophonie competition which capped off several weeks of preparation and selection of students at the University level. There were four finalists from three universities for this year’s grand finale held under the high patronage of the Ambassador François Pujolas, the Head of Cooperation at the French embassy, Dr. Jean-Luc Mure and the Director of Alliance Française, Frederic Dart. The finalists had to demonstrate their proficiency in French language and their knowledge of general Francophone culture through a variety of word and vocabulary games, oral expression and MCQs. This year’s competition won by Kamba Kombat of the University of Education, Winneba, attracted an audience of representatives from the Ministry of Education, educational institutions, civil society institutions as well as students of the French language.
The contest which was also held in Kumasi was sponsored by the French Embassy, the Consulate of Belgium, the Canadian High Commission, Sam-Woode Ltd., Fanmilk Ltd and Café Mondo.
In Kumasi, the day was marked with a drawing exhibition of the works of George Adu Poku as well as a fantastic French Movie Festival which run the entire day showing movies for all genres for all ages.
Globalisation and cross-cultural work settings
The second part of the event featured a panel discussion drawing on the experiences of four illustrious personalities to address the topic “what people from Anglophone countries should expect when working in a Francophone setting”. The panelists were Mrs. Maa Adoma Afoakwa, a Business Development Officer with Cirrus Oil Services Ltd., Mr. Jean-Pierre Diassouka, Founder and CEO of DIAS Consulting, Mrs. Delphine Adenot-Owusu, Head of France Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Samuel Owusu-Baafi, Communications Head at the West Africa Civil Society Institute.
The forum centered on the cheers and challenges involved in adapting to a different cultural working environment with specific focus on the Anglophone to Francophone transition. Panelists shared in great detail the differences observed in their experiences with both Francophone and Anglophone working environments and encouraged participants to make the best of their bilingualism to profit from both cultures.
Time to join in the fanfare
All too soon came the final day of la “Quinzaine de la Francophonie” and to bring the curtain down on a spectacular two week celebration, fun fairs and food bazaars were organised on the premises both Alliance Françaises in Accra and in Kumasi. Not only was there a variety of francophone gastronomy but there were also lots of handcrafts, clothes, music, drama and dance on display. At the end of the day in Accra, Mali was awarded the “best stand” whereas the winners for the French Essay competition in the “general public” and “primary school” categories also received a wide range of prizes presented by Julie Fournier-Angelo of the French embassy and Amelie Bordeleau representing the High Commission of Canada. Mrs Sewoenam Chachu took home first prize for the general public category, whilst Spencer Dodoo won the primary school category.
The final act of this year’s festival was punctuated with rib racking laughter as the Cameroonian comedian Charlotte Ntamack put up a vintage stand up performance to close what has been an exciting journey of la Francophonie. She is a member of the famous “Parliament of laughter” that is aired on Canal+ Africa and boasts of other famous humorists such as RFI’s Mamane and Michel Gohou of Cote d’Ivoire.
La Francophonie Benchmarks
The term “Francophonie” refers to all of the states and governments worldwide who share the French language. The International Organisation of La Francophonie, created in 1970, represents one of the biggest linguistic zones in the world. Its mission is to embody the active solidarity between its 84 member states and governments (58 members and 26 observers), which together represent over one-third of the United Nations’ member states and account for a population of over 890 million people, including 220 million French speakers.
IOF organizes political activities alongside the four main objectives which it has been assigned:
ü To promote the French language, cultural and linguistic diversity,
ü To promote peace, democracy and Human Rights
ü To support education, training, higher education institutions and research
ü To foster cooperation in favour of sustainable development.
Its head office is in Paris, France, with regional offices all over the world, including one in Togo.
- 274 million French speakers worldwide
There are an estimated 274 million French speakers worldwide, among them 212 million with a daily use, 54.7% living in Africa.
- 60% of French speakers are under 30 years old
In most of the IOF member countries, 60% of the population is under 30 years old.
- French is the 2nd foreign language studied and the 3rd most widely used language on the Web
French is the 2nd most studied foreign language in the world, after English
French is the 3rd most widely used language on the Web with 5% of Internet pages, after English (45%) and German (7%) and ahead of Spanish (4.5%).
- French is an official language in 32 member states and governments
French is either the official language, or one of the official languages in 32 of the IOF’s member states, governments or observers.
- 19 countries have French as a language of instruction, 13 in Africa at the pre-tertiary level while other countries have French or bilingual studies at the tertiary level of Education
- French is the 2nd most widely spoken mother tongue and the 2nd most widely spoken foreign language in the European Union
French is the second most widely spoken mother tongue (16%) after German (23%) and ahead of English (15.9%) in the European Union
- French is the 2nd most widely spoken foreign language (19%) after English (41%) and ahead of German (10%) and Spanish (7%) in the European Union.
- 900,000 French teachers worldwide
There are an estimated 900,000 French teachers worldwide.
- March 20, 1970: the birth of an intergovernmental organization of French-speaking nations
March 20, 1970 saw the birth of an intergovernmental organisation of French-speaking nations, with the creation in Niamey (Niger), of the Agency of Cultural and Technical Cooperation. This organisation adopted a new Charter of Francophony in 2005 and was renamed the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) as it is still known today.
- The IOF: 84 States and governments
The IOF has 84States and governments (including 26observers) across the five continents.
- IOF’s community: 890 million people
In 2008, the IOF’s 80 States and governments represented a total of 890 million people, or 13% of the world’s population.
- The IOF: over one-third of the UNO’s member states
The International Organisation of La Francophonie’s 75 member states and governments represent over one-third of the United Nation’s member states.
- The French-speaking zone accounts for 19% of world trade in goods
With 18.9% of world exports and 19% of world imports, French-speaking countries account for 19% of world trade in goods
- French is the 3rd language in business
- TV5 is broadcast in 202 countries
TV5MONDE, the multilateral French language television channel, has the 3rd largest international television network and is broadcast in 202 countries.
- 215 million homes: TV5’s audience
TV5MONDE broadcasts French productions 24 hours a day to an audience estimated at over 220 million homes.
- IOF has partnerships with 31 international and regional organisations.
The IOF has signed cooperation agreements with 31 international and regional organisations including the UNO, the European Union and the African Union.
- 78 French-speaking parliaments or inter-parliamentary organisations.
The Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie comprises 78 parliaments or inter-parliamentary organisations.
- 880 French-speaking establishments for further education and research
The Academic Agency of La Francophonie federates 880 establishments for further education and research in 94 countries.