La Francophonie: An Opportunity for U.S.-Canada Development Cooperation
November 26, 2014
On November 29, 2014, the International Organization of la Francophonie’s (IOF) 56 member governments and 20 observer countries of will meet in Dakar, Senegal for the 15th Francophonie Summit. Established in 1962 as a multilateral institution for French speaking countries, La Francophonie’s mandate has expanded over the years to include the promotion of democracy and human rights, education, and sustainable economic growth. Over the two day meeting, representatives will seek to adopt an economic strategy focusing on empowering women and youth as agents for peace and development. Members will also focus on sustainable economic growth, free market access, management of revenues from extractive industries, governance, and newborn and maternal health.
If successfully implemented, the forthcoming economic strategy could have broad development implications in a critical, but often underappreciated, demographic in international development policy. La Francophonie includes 220 million French speakers representing 13 percent of global GDP and roughly 20 percent of world trade in goods. Its largest economies include Morocco, Tunisia, and Cote D’Ivoire. There are 24 Francophone countries in Africa and the strategic importance of la Francophonie will only become increasingly pronounced as Africa’s collective GDP continues to grow. Roughly 70 percent of Francophone citizens are under the age of thirty, and their economic well-being will be critical to the region for decades to come.
The development challenges of the La Francophonie are immense. Almost half of la Francophonie member countries are in the lowest rung of the United Nations Human Development Index, faring poorly in areas such as health, education, trade, and employment. The lowest ranked in the index include Haiti, Guinea, Chad, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – critical flashpoints for international development and security. In the 2015 Doing Business report, la Francophonie countries made only modest improvements in indicators such as access to electricity, tax mobilization, and registration of property which are critical to ensuring broad based economic growth and encouraging foreign direct investment. Finally, la Francophone countries continue to lag behind their Anglophone neighbors in terms of economic growth and political reform. Slow development on these indicators is particularly glaring given that countries belonging to the largely French-speaking Economic and West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) have experienced 3.4 percent GDP growth per year while those of mainly Anglophone East Africa Community have experienced 6.2 percent GDP growth.
For its part, the United States does not have the same “cultural fluency” in la Francophonie that donors such as Canada have. Thus, effective approaches to development issues facing the Francophonie issues will require:
- Coordinated development efforts with traditional Francophone donors such as Canada – the second largest contributor to the Francophonie—to strengthen la Francophonie as global institution
- Strategic triangular and south-south cooperation mechanisms with leading Francophone governments
Canada as a Development Partner for the United States in the Francophonie
Now is the moment for the United States to partner with donors that have cultural and historical ties to the Francophonie to implement the forthcoming economic strategy. Currently, the United States does not have a policy framework for broadly engaging la Francophonie beyond bilateral programs with select countries. However, the recent merger of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFAT), offers an opportunity for the U.S. and Canada to partner on select issues such as extractive resource management expertise, government capacity building, anti-corruption measures, private-public partnerships, and health policy. Doing so could catalyze economic growth in la Francophonie and strengthen institutional capacity in ways that could help the grouping follow through on its political and developmental mandates.
For decades, Canada has been one of the most reliable donors in global development and was a founding member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2012, Canada disbursed over $5.6 billion in official development assistance (ODA), ranking sixth among all OECD/DAC members, behind only the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan, all countries with a significantly larger gross national income than Canada. Francophone countries receive close to 50 percent of these funds. Canada is also the third largest source of remittances to La Francophonie, providing $24 billion in 2012.
In 2004, Canada spearheaded the adoption of a 2005-2014 policy framework for La Francophonie that consolidated governance structures and defined practical issues members mobilized around democratic governance, economic development, and results-based management in a way that aligned with the broader international development agenda.
However, overlapping mandates, sparse resources, and a lack of strategic direction continue to be an issue for the institution.
As La Francophonie continues to consolidate its governing mechanisms to meet its growing mandate, U.S.-Canada development cooperation could help support an organization that could be a much needed force multiplier for development in this grouping. For donors, supporting similar efforts following the November 2014 Summit is necessary step to solidify a working relationship with La Francophonie as an institution.
Triangular and South-South Cooperation in La Francophonie
A U.S.-Canadian partnership could play a catalytic role in la Francophonie’s development by facilitating opportunities for south-south and triangular cooperation. These initiatives may include technical and financial assistance around agribusiness, government capacity building, trade, infrastructure, and business climate reform – areas of particular importance to the United States and Canada, and for broad based economic growth in la Francophonie. Recognizing that some countries will have different political and economic constraints that may limit the scope of these types of activities, the United States and Canada can also broker deals in a systematic and coordinated way.
Moreover, south-south and triangular initiatives could be an entry point that allows the United States to leverage expertise and resources in conjunction with Canadian institutional and regional knowledge. Canada’s Minister for International Development and La Francophonie Christian Paradis has been at the forefront of these efforts, and the U.S. should consider further collaboration with DFATD to enhance development efforts in la Francophonie. In an era of limited development dollars, these mechanisms pool comparative strengths and experiences of donors, developing country partners, and private actors, and help strengthen the institutional capacity of developing country governments. Within the U.S. interagency system, the U.S. Agency for International Development is well-poised to bridge stakeholders traditionally outside La Francophonie’s orbit, including U.S. companies, into the policy dialogue.
There is tangible demand for triangular and south-south efforts within La Francophonie, particularly in areas that require technical cooperation such as food security. A handful of developed Francophone countries already actively support their developing counterparts through south-south and triangular initiatives, and could be partners for Canada and the United States as they establish broader mechanisms for partnerships. For example, Morocco, the second largest investor in Africa, recently signed a deal with Guinea that provides technical assistance around sustainable agricultural production, natural resources management, and capacity building for Guinea’s Ministry of Agriculture. Morocco is the world’s leading phosphate supplier– a key ingredient in fertilizer – and has achieved the Millennium Development Goals’ hunger target.
Triangular and south-south cooperation approaches can also be used as a “transmission belt” for governance and human rights best practices from countries that have championed their own political reforms— such as Tunisia—to donor priority countries that continue to struggle with these issues— such as Haiti. By working with regional leaders in la Francophonie, the United States and Canada can facilitate partnerships that better identify development priorities of host country partners, align these priorities with donor governance and human rights-related strategies while defusing potential suspicions of western overreach. Most importantly, south-south cooperation allows developing country partners to focus on high-priority demand-driven issues. Ultimately, these partnerships strengthen the capacity of partner to address these issues proactively.
As intra-African investment as a share of total investment in the region continues to grow, and investors look beyond the more established markets of South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, Francophone countries such as Morocco will look to similar arrangements to bolster competitiveness and attract foreign investment. Initiatives jointly supported by Canada and the United States through the IOF, could help meet this demand. For a country like Morocco, south-south mechanisms help meet economic needs at home – by strengthening supply chains, trade, and creating markets -- and get them noticed on the world stage. Donors should play a role in facilitating more of these programs.
La Francophonie both as a regional grouping and multilateral institution has not been at the forefront of international development policy. However, if donors are serious about meeting today’s most pressing development challenges, it should. The 15th Francophonie Summit is a critical point of entry for donors including the United States to work with regional leaders like Canada to address the immense development challenges facing La Francophonie, learn from development practice, and apply these lessons to the broader development agenda. The task is a daunting but necessary one, and engaging now will set the stage for sustainable development in the future.
Daniel F. Runde holds the William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis and directs the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
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