Ghana’s president wants to make French a formal language, but it’s not a popular plan

Ghana was one of the first British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence in 1957 and as such has had strong ties to the English language as a modern country for over a hundred years. Most Ghanaians who’ve been through some level of formal education learn to speak English alongside their regional language.

But since coming to office in 2017, Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo has been pushing for Ghanaians to also learn French and one day make it the country’s official second language.

To outsiders, the president might seem like an unlikely champion for Gallic influences; after all he is known for his unplaceable English accent; he descends from a Ghanaian political aristocracy with long ties to Britain and was partly educated in England from a young age.  

But Akufo-Addo also speaks French fluently, learned when he lived in Paris in the 1970s, and is always happy to flaunt his language skills given the chance. 

The president has announced plans to make French a compulsory subject for high school students and in a 2018 speech (given entirely in French), he told colleagues at La Francophonie Summit, “our goal is to live, one day, in a bilingual Ghana, that is English and French, together with our own indigenous languages.”

“The promotion of the French language is a major education priority,” foreign affairs minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway said last month. French is expected to feature prominently when details of Ghana’s new basic school curriculum are announced in the coming weeks.

Akufo-Addo’s support for French comes as France’s president Emmanuel Macron is also making a soft power push to raise the status of French across Africa, starting with former French colonies.

“As France represents only a fraction of the active French speakers, the country knows the fate of French language is not its burden alone to carry,” Macron said in March 2018 as he launched a bold new ambition to increase the number of speakers of the language of Molière. That speech in Paris predated an earlier one in Burkina Fasowhere he pleaded with students not to ditch French for English and urged them to help make French “the number one language in Africa and maybe even the world.”

Thanks to Africa’s youth, French is now the fifth most-spoken language in the world and by 2050, 80% of the projected 700 millionFrench speakers will be in Africa.

While there is no denying the push for French in Ghana has a lot to do with the president’s personal affinity for the language translating into national policy, there is a good case to be made for increasing the number of Ghanaians who can speak French.

Read more on QUARTZ AFRICA

Send by Edouard Bustin

Call for Chapters: Schools and national identities in French-speaking Africa: political choices, means of transmission, and appropriation


Call for book chapter contributions:

Schools and national identities in French-speaking Africa: political choices, means of transmission, and appropriation


Linda Gardelle, ENSTA Bretagne (FR)

Camile Jacob, University of Portsmouth (UK)

Please send a one-page outline of your proposal for a 5,000-6,000 words contribution to the volume by 4 May to and

Authors will be notified by 20 May, and full chapters will be due on 18 August 2019.

The volume will be published by Routledge in the Series “Perspectives on Education in Africa” in 2020.

The aim of this volume is to provide an in-depth and transdisciplinary understanding of the role of schools in the various processes of identity-building, and to showcase research from and about countries outside the former British empire, either as individual case studies or through a comparative framework within or beyond the continent. It will include contributions focusing on the multiple and changing role of schools in the construction of collective identities and the (re)production of national imaginings in francophone Africa. It will also consider how different actors (media, diasporas, social networks, religious communities) shape the appropriation, formulation and implementation of curriculums and discourses about education. Chapters can be empirical or theoretical, based on one case study or on comparative work, and should reflect critically and reflexively on the data, methodologies or conceptual frameworks used. While the term “Francophone Africa” is problematic, erasing the multilingual and translingual realities and reproducing a Euro-centric lens, there is comparatively little published in English on countries which were not formerly colonised by Britain, and the particularities of French and Belgian colonial rules and continued French influence is helpful in providing an initial focus. This volume which will be published in the Routledge series “Perspectives on Education in Africa” and aims to foreground research from countries often overlooked in Anglophone publications. Chapters questioning the relevance of this colonial frame of dividing the continent, whether through comparative or single case studies, are encouraged.