How to Use French to Conquer Half a Continent?
Did you know that Africa is the continent with the most French speakers in the world? Why is this important for your International SEO? Even though you have a french language website version – are you only targeting people who live in France? OK, you thought of Belgium, Switzerland and Canada as well, good. But there is aprox. 120 million people in Africa who speak French. Such an enormous amount of people knowing the same language is a perfect global marketing opportunity.
120 Million French Speakers in Africa
African countries where people speak French are mostly located in West and Central Africa. It is a consequence of the former French colonial empire. Between the mid 17th century and after the Second World War the language was enforced to be used in official matters and spread into public institutions such as schools and hospitals.
So you’ll know where to target, we created an overview of French speaking countries in Africa based on data from the report of the International Organization of the Francophonie 2014:
Market in Africa by Using Just One Language
Have you wished to conquer the African market, but never knew where to start? Well, language is always a good kick-off. Did you know that in Africa:
- 11 countries use French as the only official language,
- 10 countries use it as a co-official alongside one or more other languages and
- that 27 countries are full member states of the International Organization of the Francophonie?
Just like English around the world, French language is a regional lingua franca in Africa. Lingua franca is a language adopted as a common language between speakers whose native tongues are different. In the Central African Republic, French is a co-offical language beside the native Sango. But there are another 50 African languages actively used in the country. A similar situation occurs in many of the above listed countries. Adopting French as a common regional language is necessary for the efficency of business and official matters.
Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have been thriving in Africa in the past years. An important part of their success is also having a French website version that reaches the widest possible audience. For most retailers and services Africa is still an exotic market that is difficult to approach. But by creating a French based marketing strategy, things can quickly take off in the right direction.
When Targeting, Don’t Forget to Localize
Don’t get too eager by thinking that people in France and in Africa speak the same French. Heck, that’s not even the case in Canada. Each African country has it’s own specific African French. Grammar rules and vocabulary differ. This is a consequence of the evolvement of African French thorough out centuries by mixing with local language influences.
If you are going to target one country or several countries individually, then adapting the content appropriately each time is worth considering. But if you wish to target the entire African French speaking region, then use standard French without local varieties. When customizing your website settings for the market be careful about geo-targeting. Set “fr” (not “fr-fr”) in HTML document language and Hreflang tags.
Also, think cultural wise. In Northern African countries Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria French is the first language among the upper class and only second among the lower classes. In French speaking countries in North Africa the dominant religion is Islam, whereas in Central African countries it is Christianity. All these cultural differences should be respected when devising your marketing and website strategy to avoid cultural-faux pas.
In Any Case, Get a French Language Website
French is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. If you are serious about becoming a global brand, then adding French to your multilingual website is a must. OK, you’re not thinking of targeting African consumers directly, but what if they are looking for you? Don’t forget retail and services are a two way street. Truly global marketing is not just English based.
You believe your products have a real chance of making it in the African market? Let’s put our heads together and figure out how to transform the idea into reality.
Featured image source: Pixabay.com