What Is Francophonie?

French is spoken by 274 million people throughout the world. It is the fifth most widely-spoken language, after Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and according to estimations, Arabic and Hindi.


French is the fourth most common language on the Internet, the second most used language for international news in the media, the third most used language in business, the second leading working language of most international organizations and the second most learned language in the world with 125 million students and a half a million French teachers abroad.


It is a tool of international communication, serving as a working language in African, European and multilateral forums (e.g. UN, WTO, OECD, ILO).

The appeal of the French language in figures:
 50 million learners of French as a foreign language.
 342,000 students, including 63% non-French nationals, in 495 French schools abroad.
 1.7 million students in bilingual schools including 70,000 students in 158 schools in the LabelFrancÉducation network.

Economic potential of La Francophonie

In 2012, all the French-speaking and Francophile countries accounted for 16% of the world’s GDP in 2012 with an average growth rate of 7%, and accounted for nearly 14% of the world’s mining and energy resources despite the fact that French speakers only account for 4% of the world’s population.

La Francophonie is the 6th largest geopolitical area in terms of its population and could become the 4th largest geopolitical area in 2050.

In order to promote French and the French-speaking world, furthering France’s influence abroad, the actors of French diplomacy have established the following:

  1. a bilateral policy which aims to raise the profile of French abroad through cooperation projects with local authorities to promote French within their education systems (campaigning for the teaching of at least two foreign languages, teacher training, development of bilingual education, etc.), and through teaching provided directly by the French school and cultural networks.
  2. a multilateral policy which aims to bring French-speaking countries together as a political community. France supported the creation of the International Agency of La Francophonie in 1970. Today, the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) has 84 Member States and observers with French as a common language. This institution contributes to peace, democracy, human rights, the promotion of French and cultural diversity, and the development of shared and sustainable prosperity.

The term Francophonie appeared for the first time around 1880, when a French geographer, Onesime Reclus, used it to designate all people and countries speaking French. We now speak of Francophonie with a lowercase "f" to designate French-speaking people and Francophonie with a capital "F" to represent the institutional mechanism organizing relations between Francophone countries.

300 million French speakers

 The French-speaking world today brings together more than 300 million people across the five continents, making French the fifth most spoken language in the world after Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic.

 It is a dynamic linguistic space. French is today the second most learned language in the world. 900,000 teachers teach it to more than 125 million people. French is also the third most used language for business, and the fourth language on the Internet.

Institutional Francophonie

 The International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) was created in 1970. Its mission is to embody the active solidarity between its 88 member states and governments (61 members and 27 observers), which together represent over one-third of the United Nations’ member states and account for a population of over one billion people.

 Beyond a single language, Francophone speakers share a common ground of values in the areas of peacekeeping, democracy and sustainable economic development.

 With an annual budget of 85 million euros, the OIF organises political activities and actions of multilateral cooperation that benefit French-speaking populations. Its actions respect cultural and linguistic diversity and serve to promote the French language, peace and sustainable development.

 The Secretary General of La Francophonie is the keystone of this system. Louise Mushikiwabo was appointed to this position by the Francophonie Summit in 2018 in Yerevan (Armenia).

 The International Organization of La Francophonie implements Francophone multilateral cooperation alongside four operators:

  • University Agency of La Francophonie
  • TV5Monde, the international television channel
  • The International Association of Francophone Mayors
  • Senghor University of Alexandria

La Francophonie also has an advisory body: the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.

The IOF has its head office in Paris as well as four permanent representations in Addis Ababa (at the African Union and at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), in Brussels (at the European Union), in New York and in Geneva (at the UN).