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French in Africa: 29 Countries Where French is Spoken

Did you know that they speak French in Africa?  The French language was brought to the African continent through colonialism. During the 1950s and 60s, France and Belgium lost control of their African colonies, however, French is still spoken in at least 29 African countries. According to some estimates there will be 700 million French speakers by the year 2050, and 80% of them will be in Africa.

How is that for French in Africa! So, if you are a student of French in the 21st century, you need to learn about Africa and the countries where French is spoken there.

There is so much to learn about this magnificent continent! Here we will focus on language, but you will also get a mini geography lesson. Who doesn't love a bonus lesson?!?

So, where exactly do they speak French in Africa?

French in Africa: 29 Countries Where French is Spoken

French is the official language of 21 countries in Africa.

1. Benin

Benin, located in the west, is one of Africa’s most stable democracies. French is the official language of this country of 11 million people. The people of Benin speak Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba, and Dendi, as well.

2. Burkina Faso

With a population of 18.6 million, this is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It is located in the west and is landlocked. French is the official language, although other indigenous language are also spoken.

3. Burundi

Burundi is another one of the poorest countries and has a population of about 10 million. You have probably heard of the conflicts between the Tutsi and Hutu groups, some of this is in Burundi. It is located in the east and the official languages are French and Kirundi.

4. Cameroon

This country located in central Africa has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent and is known as “Africa in miniature” due to its diversity. With over 200 linguistic groups, the official languages are French and English. They also speak the languages of Bantu, Semi-Bantu and Sudanic groups.

5. Comoros

Comoros is a country located off the eastern coast of Africa, east of Madagascar. It is made up of the islands of Grande Comore, Moheli, Anjouan, and Mayotte, as well as many smaller islands. The population is 813,000 and the official languages are French, Arabic, and Comorian.

6. The Republic of Congo

This country of 5 million people and is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s major oil producers. The official language is French.

7. The Democratic Republic of Congo

With a population of 81.5 million, this huge central African country has been plagued by civil war and corruption in the recent past. The official language is French while Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo,  and Tshiluba are also spoken.

8. The Ivory Coast

Located in western Africa, The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans. French is the official language in this country of 23.7 million people.

9. The Republic of Djibouti

Many countries have military bases in this important coastal nation. Djibouti is the gateway to the Suez Canal which is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. French is the official language of this country of just under 1 million. Arabic, Somali and Afar are also spoken.

10. Gabon

One of the most stable countries in western Africa, Gabon has a population of 1.5 million people whose official language is French. Other Bantu group languages are also spoken here.

11. Guinea

This country of 10.5 million, located in western Africa, has the potential to be one of the richest countries in Africa due to its vast mineral wealth. Nonetheless, its people are some of the poorest in the region. The official language is French, and Susu, Fulani, and Mandingo are also spoken.

12. Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is found, you guessed it, near the equator just to the north of Gabon. It is a small country with 1.2 million people. The official languages are Spanish, French, and (as of 2010) Portuguese.

13. Madagascar

25 million people live on this large island off the east coast of the African continent. In fact, it is the 4th largest island in the world! Madagascar is known for its wildlife. The official languages are Malagasy and French.

14. Mali

Many westerners have heard of Mali and the northern city of Timbuktu. Mali is one of the largest countries in Africa. The population of 18.5 million speaks French as the official language. Other major languages spoken include Bambara, Berber, and Arabic.  

15. Niger

Niger is located to the east of Mali and is on the edge of the Sahara desert. It has a population of 16.6 million people and is noted as being a major transit route for migrants heading to Europe. The official language is French, and people also speak Hausa, Songhai, and Arabic.

16. The Central African Republic

This is a landlocked country in central Africa that is rich in diamonds, gold, oil, and uranium. The population of 4.7 million has been operating under a transitional government since 2014. French is the official language, but Sangho is the lingua franca of this country.

17. Rwanda

Rwanda is located just north of Burundi and has suffered much from the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu groups. There is a great film called, Hotel Rwanda, that will help give you an idea of what happened here. Kinyarwanda, French, and English are the official languages of this country of 11.2 million people.

18. Senegal

Senegal is known as one of Africa’s model democracies. It is in northwest Africa and has had a tradition of stable governments. Dakar is the capital city of this country of 15.5 million people. French is the official language and Wolof is the lingua franca.

19. The Seychelles

This group of islands lies to the north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The 94,000 inhabitants speak  French, English, and Seychellois Creole as their official languages. The Seychelles enjoy a high per capita income as well as good healthcare and education systems.

20. Tchad

Tchad, or Chad, is Africa’s fifth largest country and has become an official oil producing nation as of 2003. French and Arabic are the official languages of this country with 11.8 million people.  

21. Togo

The Togolese Republic is in western Africa. It has struggled to become a stable country since it gained independence from France in 1960. The population of 7.6 million people speaks French as their official language. There are several other countries where they speak French in Africa, although French is not the official language. These countries include Algeria, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Qatar, and Tunisia.

As you can see, they speak French in Africa in about half of all the countries! Oh là là!  

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