In September 2006, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, currently the incumbent President of the Republic of Ghana, H. E. Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo signed Ghana onto the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF). There are practically three (3) types of membership status in the OIF: A country first joins as an observer, then moves to associate member after which it transitions to a full member State.
However, when Ghana first joined this international French body, we were made to skip the observer status which is the least status, to an associate member State. This action by the leadership of la Francophonie was to possibly encourage us as a country to feel much accepted by the organisation. Let’s note that the Francophonie is purely meant for all French colonies worldwide just as the Commonwealth is purely meant for the English colonies. So for a strong Commonwealth country like Ghana to take such a bold decision to explore the francophone world, the reaction of the Francophonie under the leadership of the former Senegalese Head of State H.E. Abdou Diouf who was then the Secretary General of the organisation was unquestionably obvious.
To be honest, less has been done to make the country embrace the French language even after joining the organisation due to acute shortage of French teachers leading to a very low number of schools offering French as a subject in the country.
Approximately twelve (12) years down the line, in October 2018, His Excellency the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo led a delegation to the 17th Summit of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie in Erevan-Armenia where he officially declared Ghana’s intention to transition from Associate Member status into a Full Member State of the organisation. The Summit also saw the Rwandan former Foreign Affairs Minister H. E. Louise Mushikiwabo elected as the Secretary General of la francophonie in succession of the Canadian, H. E. Michelle Jean who failed to concretize her second term bid for the post.
As much as this news of Ghana’s transition was a good one to us as a country, especially considering the many advantages the situation presents, it is equally surprising considering the relatively weak level of commitment our leaders have displayed towards this course in terms of its practicability over the years.
As a linguistic activist myself, I think the way forward to properly address this matter and justify Ghana’s inclusion in the OIF, is to put measures in place to embark on a massive recruitment for French teachers; in order that the French language could get the attention it deserves in line with the agenda 2050-50 of Français Pour Tous (French For All) which seeks to make at least 50 percent of Ghanaians speak and write basic French by the year 2050. Otherwise, a time will come when our country would have no choice than to send a delegation full of English monolinguals to the OIF’s Summit.
French being the official language of the Francophonie, it is thus a taboo to translate into any other language than the French, during official functions of the organisation as it was clearly made known to H. E. Paul Kagame at the recently held 17th Summit of the Francophonie before he took the floor to present his Foreign Affairs Minister’s candidature and campaign for her; and this he did in French.
As His Excellency Nana Addo has once again demonstrated his unreserved commitment towards making Ghana an English-French bilingual State, it dawns on us as a people to take up the challenge and work together in achieving it. Until then, French promotion in Ghana would still be seen as a one man show.
Emmanuel Amegavi Sosu
(A Linguistic Activist and President of
Français Pour Tous)