In 2015, a total of 31 independent states around the world reported French as an official language. If territories are included, the total number increases to 42. Of this total, 21 states are located in Africa, which represents half of the world's French speaking states and territories. There are no French speaking territories in Africa, as most are located in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe.
French Speaking Countries in Africa
There are approximately 434 million people throughout the world who speak French. However, the country with highest French speaking population is not France. Instead, an African nation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tops the list with a total of more than 77 million people. France ranks second, with approximately 67 million people. Madagascar and Cameroon, with 24 million and 23 million people, respectively, rank fourth and fifth.
In the top five African states with the most French speakers, the Ivory Coast is fourth, after Cameroon, with an estimated 22 million speakers. Niger ranks fifth, with an estimated 19 million people. It is interesting to note that African countries dominate the world list by occupying positions four to 13 consecutively.
On the other end of the list, Seychelles has fewest French speakers in Africa, with an estimated 92,900 people. Also in the bottom five of Africa countries are the Comoros (788,474), Equatorial Guinea (845,060), Djibouti (887,861), and Gabon (1,725,300). Again, African nations dominate the world list by occupying consecutive positions from 19 to 25.
To put Africa’s French speaking dominance into perspective, the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone makes up 17% of the total world’s French speaking population. Additionally, Africa makes up more than 70% of the world’s total French speaking population. The top five countries combine to make up more than 35% of the world’s total population of French speakers. Furthermore, 17 of the total 21 African countries have populations of more than one million people that speak French.
Geographically, a large chunk of French speaking countries come from West and Central Africa. This high number in West Africa is explained by the history of colonization in Africa. For example, France and Belgium controlled large parts of West Africa, and consequently those nations now have French as one of their official languages.
Wide Gap Between then Largest and Second Largest French Speaking Countries in Africa
There is a significant difference in population between the largest and second largest French speaking countries in Africa, which are the the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar, respectively. However, the population difference between the other French speaking countries in Africa is less significant.