The institutional construction of Francophonie was forged around the French language with the majority of the Francophone African countries which became independent in the 1960s as its members, together with France. The Francophone space now includes 77 States and Governments, with 220 million speakers and, if the demographic forecasts are confirmed, 700 million by 2050.
Two Presidents — Senghor of Senegal and Diori Hamani of Niger — were among those to promote the creation of the Francophone space. Language and culture, the cement of the reciprocal relations between Africa and its former colonies, initially presented themselves as the most natural links and the least likely to cause controversy. The Cultural and Technical Cooperation Agency, created in 1970 at the Niamey conference, promoted cultural exchanges between Africa and France. Along the way it became the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIT, International Francophonie Organisation). Later, it acquired a political dimension with the establishment of a political Secretariat, decided at the Hanoi summit in 1997. This General Secretariat ensured respect for democratic governance and contributed to conflict resolution in a number of African countries in the 2000s.
The economic wing was the poor relation in the construction of the OIF, despite the creation of a Francophone Business Forum in 1987. In the modern world marked by the globalisation of trade, we are seeing – paradoxically – an acceleration of regional groups which connect political vision with economic strategy. This is the case of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico which came into force in 1994.
The European Union groups together 28 countries around a single market or “big market” governed by the free movement of capital, goods, services and persons. In 1999, eleven members of the Union (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) created the eurozone distinguished by the launch of a single currency in 2002; they were joined later by seven other member States: Greece (2001), Slovenia (2007), Cyprus and Malta (2008), Slovakia (2009), Estonia (2011) and Latvia (2014); Lithuania is scheduled to join in January 2015.