To what extent is La Francophonie a neo-colonial institution?

[1] Map of the La Francophonie – current and former participatory states.

Before I leave for Germany tomorrow on a trip, I thought I would return with a blog post about something historical and political again. This time, as you can see, I am going to be analysing how La Francophonie could be considered as a neo-colonial institution. I must note that I am not here to glorify this institution in its prestige, but I am here to discover and learn something and hopefully, by doing so, help you understand something as well. I hope you like my post and have fun reading – as usual any comments for improvement is much appreciated 🙂

I have already mentioned my love for empires before, and this is like no other topic for me. It is needless to say that when you look at the map covering the countries within this organisation, you basically see the remnants of the former ‘First’ and Second French Empires. Under La Francophonie, we have 77 participatory countries respectively, spanning from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The main idea of these institutions are primarily to connect Francophone people together, tackling economic, social, political and environmental problems on a bigger, more globalised scale, promoting notions of democracy, free trade and justice. Recently, there has been a polemic about the abuse of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, thus challenging the liability of its membership in the Francophonie. [2]

Firstly, we could say that La Francophonie is purely an exmaple of neo-colonialism, as it tries to assert power over former territories. For example, the French Empire used to rule over Pondicherry in India. This is significant, as the Indian government are seriously considering to be part of the French institution, but with Canada in a similar situation of having a dual identity tugging between the Anglo-French influences, does this not equate to more competition for sphere of influence and eventual internal conflict? Would Pondicherry prosper better, because of its relatively small size, as a condominium or another federal state, sharing power ‘equally’ and constitutionally in theory, amongst national government and La Francophonie itself? If we shift our attention to another European power in India, namely Goa under Portuguese rule, has the Indian Prime Minister at its helm, but it does retain some form of Portuguese law and autonomy, within it since its decolonisation campaign around the 1960s [2].

At first, La Francophonie was once built around the idea of promoting cultural and educational similarities, say through cultural and sport competitions like Jeux de la Francophonie, where the countries would be administered by Paris. However, in recent summits amongst the Francophone countries, Guinea-Bassau, Mali, Madagascar have left the institution, feeling it was becoming too political and influential in its domestic affairs [4]. This is significant, as we could say La Francophonie is a neo-colonial institution, where France sees the importance of retaining its African members, as there are many foreseen statistics that by 2050, approximately 85% of the 750 million Francophone speakers will be of African origin [3]. With many civil and political unrest in the aforementioned colonies, this perhaps explains the tightening of foreign affairs in establishing socio-political order against the Malian rebels recently?

An example of La Francophonie not being a neo-colonial insitution could be explained through the observatory states. There are many observatory states in Balkans and from other empires – Spanish and Portuguese in Uruguay and Mozambique respectively. In these countries, poverty and post-colonial effects whether it was under the imperial powers or under the Communist sphere of influence, has drastically struck the economy. This is significant, as in Mozambique, we have an example of a country being tormented under civil war and only its recent democratic turn of government in 1994. There are many more investors from Brazil and China, who are injecting billions of dollars in its rich coal and gold resources [4]. However, with France and Britain under their respective institutions, the question remains of who is the dominant and most influential politico-economic power in the south-east African country itself.

Another example of La Francophonie not being purely a neo-colonial institution can be shown through its administration. Unlike its British counterpart which has the Queen has its main figurehead, La Francophonie has Abdou Diouf as Executive Secretary, former Senegalese president as the head, whilst Jacques Legendre is at its General Secretary. This is significant, as with the different styles of government amongst the British and French, the former having a monarchical and the latter having semi-presidential elements, this shows more equality and shift of being a neo-colonial administration.

In conclusion, La Francophonie, like other colonial powers, say the Portuguese under the Communities of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and the British under the Commonwealth of Nations, is trying to preserve its former French colonial interests and entities around the world. It has to be remembered that French, despite being overshadowed by English, Mandarin and Arabic as the three most dominant languages in the world, remains as one of the most important countries in Europe, if not the globe itself. There were recent politico-economic alliances with some Francophone countries or regions like Québec, and at times, a more isolationist role in other former colonies, but it cannot be mistaken that France’s main political influence and area stays in the African continent due to its ever increasing French-speaking population. However, until the French government has realised to carefully divide the social and political benefits and interests for its participatory countries, there might be even more states deciding to disband from La Francophonie. Does this potentially mean a return for any of the three countries (Guinea-Bassau, Mali, Madagascar) who left the institution in the next summit in Dakar 2014? Will another civil war stir up in preventing the togetherness of the organisation itself or will stability be maintained properly and fairly? Hopefully, time will tell. Hope you had a knowledgeable read here, till next time and see you soon! Have a good easter 🙂 Peace!








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