THE BLOG
12/02/2014 09:12 am ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

The Francophone Community Must Believe in Its Economic Potential

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Too often, the Francophonie is reduced to a purely cultural dimension. However, the French language, which links more than 220 million people from all four corners of the globe, is actually a formidable economic trump card for the 57 state members of the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF).

For the first time this year, the Senegalese president Macky Sall, host of the Summit of the Chiefs of State, decided to prolong the 15th Summit of La Francophonie (which takes place in Dakar on November 29-30) with an economic forum on December 1-2.

Far from being an anecdotal decision, it is one which symbolizes a new ambition for these countries: to transform the Francophonie organization into a veritable economic community.

For a long time now, the geographical breaking-up of francophone areas and the huge socio-economic disparities between their members have been considered insurmountable obstacles to developing long-lasting and competitive economic trade.

But the nature of the globalized and, at least in part, dematerialized world economy has completely changed things. Synergies -- particularly cultural and human -- are at the very heart of the economic wheel of today's global community.

In this context, La Francophonie economic forum values the mutual voluntarism of members of the IOF to find the maximum potential of economic area as vast as it is complimentary.

Here are some figures to put the economic clout of the IOF into perspective: Their 57 member states comprise of 720 million inhabitants (220 million of whom are francophone) who have generated GDP of $7.2 billion in 2012. In the past five years, the average growth of the francophone area has risen by 3.2 percent, in spite of the 2008 global economic crisis.

There is an economic dynamism that is further reinforced by the balance between mature economic industries which require outlets, and younger economies which are rapidly growing and in search of investment.

The meeting in Dakar is the first step toward the creation of an economic community of French-speaking countries that could already position itself in the medium-term towards economic areas of great potential with a strong linguistic dimension.

This could be the case, for example, with the media -- the Internet in particular. When you know that, at this moment in time, only 5 percent of all online content is in French, you can see the margin of increase required for the francophone internet to build its identity.

Is the French-speaking community, strengthened by its internal market of more than 200 million individuals, simply obliged to allow the giants of the Anglophone world to monopolize the cultural and digital economy?

Can we not imagine, for example, the creation of a francophone platform much like Netflix, for the production and distribution of French-language films and series?

But the francophone community must also face up to the issues of today that penalize integration and throw up barriers and legal checks which still too often limit trade within its boundaries.

Simple and easy solutions do exist to make the economic markets more fluid. In 1999, APEC -- a zone of economic cooperation around the Pacific Rim -- abolished visas for business travelers to facilitate investment.

More effort should also be made toward legal harmonization between member states of the IOF and matters of both business and public law. This can be achieved by building a coherent legal framework so that investments and business partnerships can thrive throughout francophone countries.

I am convinced that here we hold a true ideological territory which can be a platform for economic, social and cultural development.

As a French citizen living in the United States, I am happy to contribute to the construction of this project here in Dakar, Senegal.