Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

The French-speaking population is growing in the world... thanks to Africa

Written by Eric Apim on Tuesday, January 12th 2021 à 09:25 | Read 1043 times

The French-speaking world has 524 million inhabitants (map: CERMF)
The French-speaking world has 524 million inhabitants (map: CERMF)
WORLD. Paris is only the second French-speaking city in the world with 11.1 million inhabitants in its urban area. It is far outstripped by Kinshasa (14.6 million). This is what the Centre d'étude et de réflexion sur le monde francophone (CERMF) reveals, based on figures from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), a private American organisation specialising in demography, and UN data from the report "Cities of the World in 2018"...

On 1 January 2021, the total population of the French-speaking world would amount to 524 million inhabitants. This is more than the population of the European Union estimated at 447.7 million on 1 January 2020. Even within its former borders by adding the 66 million British.

The first place of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reflects well the main African source of the progress of the French-speaking world, which has gained 2.3% more inhabitants over a year (2.7% in Africa and 3% in its sub-Saharan part). The African continent comprises twenty-five French-speaking countries with 430 million inhabitants (82% of the total French-speaking population). "This dynamism of French-speaking Africa is notably reflected in the rise of African cities, which now occupy eight of the top ten places in the world ranking of French-speaking metropolises," underlines a CERMF press release. Casablanca (3.8 million inhabitants) is in sixth place behind Abidjan (5.3 million), Montreal (4.3 million) and Yaounde (4 million). Algiers (2.8 million), on the other hand, is narrowly snatched tenth place by Ouagadougou.

French speakers are ahead of Arabic speakers (454 million inhabitants and an increase of 2.0% compared to 2019) and Spanish speakers (470 million and +1.0%).

1 billion French speakers in 2060

The 10 largest French-speaking cities in the world
The 10 largest French-speaking cities in the world
This population, in daily contact with the French language, is spread over thirty-three countries and four continents over 16.3 million km². The DRC, with its 91.1 million inhabitants, is the leading French-speaking country, followed by France (67.9 million), Algeria (44.8 million), Morocco (36.8 million) and Madagascar (28.1 million).

The criteria selected do not allow Lebanon to be included in the French-speaking world. The CERMF considers that in this country, as in Romania or Rwanda, French is not the language of administration, of education for the entire school population, nor the language of business and the media.

"This demographic boom is also accompanied by great economic dynamism, particularly in sub-Saharan French-speaking Africa, which is the engine of African growth, in addition to being globally and historically the most stable area south of the Sahara (with the fewest conflicts, ethnic tensions and less crime)," notes the study centre.

"This set of 22 countries has recorded the best economic performance of the continent in seven of the eight years of the 2012-2019 period, with an annual growth of 4.4% on average (5.0% excluding the very special case of Equatorial Guinea), compared to 2.8% for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. This dynamism is due in particular to the numerous reforms carried out by a majority of countries in order to improve the business climate and make progress in terms of good governance, and is particularly important in the WAEMU countries (most of French-speaking West Africa), which continues to be the largest area of strong growth on the continent as a whole (6.4% annual average over the period 2012-2019), in addition to being the most integrated area, ahead of CEMAC (which covers part of French-speaking Central Africa). These two examples of advanced integration, far ahead of the other regional groupings, show that pan-Africanism is above all a French-speaking reality," the CERMF continues. It denounces a "certain lack of interest on the part of France in French-speaking Africa, which represented only 3.6% of its foreign trade in 2019 (including 1% for the sub-Saharan part)". And points to "the weakness of the productive investments made in this vast region, with the exception of Tunisia and Morocco". Moreover, the public development aid paid by Paris only marginally benefits the French-speaking world. The 27 countries concerned receive only 15 to 20% of the total amount of this aid, which is mainly reserved for EU Member States.

According to the CERMF, the French-speaking population is expected to reach one billion in 2060.

In the same section
< >


About is an independent media that deals with the daily economic news of the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Economic cooperation, business news by sector (Industry, Services, Transport, Environment, Society/Institutions), thematic files, airport news, airlines and shipping companies (new destinations)... are treated and analysed by a team of journalists present in the Mediterranean basin. Subscribe to To be the first to know, with unlimited access to all articles. To receive the weekly newsletters and special newsletters sent as soon as our files are published. Automatically renewable subscription, but the reader keeps control of it or yearly subscription. For individuals or professionals...