Why English-Speaking Countries are More Prosperous than French-Speaking Countries in Africa and the Middle East


Countries in the larger parts of Africa and the Middle East have been shown to have the largest populations of youths and comparatively higher unemployment rates. In fact, while some countries in the regions experience higher and sustained economic growth, many of their counterparts remain lagging in economic growth (Faujas 1). However, a growing body of research points out the disparity between the lines of colonial dominance in these regions. In particular, the English-speaking countries have constantly been illustrated to have a sustained and high economic growth while compared to the French-speaking countries in these regions (Melnic 7-11). Much of the recent debate on the topic has been focusing on the effect of the English and French colonizers in the countries in Africa and the Middle East and the associated impacts on the economic growth. Nevertheless, the research has confirmed the disparity between the two post-colonial regimes. This paper, therefore, focuses on establishing the explaining factors towards the disparity.

It is worth appreciating that economic growth, as used in the current paper, regards the increase of the quantities of goods and services produced by the populations over a given period (Cingano 3). As such, the growth would be considered as per the production of an individual in the populations. Among other findings presented to explain the disparity observed has been the relationship between education and employment rates in the countries.

English as a Preferred Language

English language proficiency has been particularly observed as a facilitator of higher and sustained economic growth in African and Middle Eastern countries. The proficient English speakers from these regions would record higher employment rates compared to the French speakers from the regions. In a report by the World Bank in January 2015, many countries in Africa and the Middle East showed great improvement in the education systems (ICEF Monitor 1). Nevertheless, in spite of the improved literacy levels, the countries would still have higher rates of unemployment, especially for the youth. Therefore, the concern was pointed out as being the mismatch of what the students were taught in schools and what the employers wanted (Faujas 1). However, the employers would indicate a higher preference for English-speaking graduates than French-speaking graduates. Although the reason for the preference would not be justified by indicating that the majority of the countries, which embraced the English curriculum, produced highly competent students and employees than the French-speaking countries (Austin 1). Accordingly, the increased productivity of the employees would be sustained and contribute to the respective countries’ economic growth.

Another study in 2012, which targeted the MENA (The Middle East and North Africa) regions, indicated that many of the work related problems would be ameliorated through better language education (ICEF Monitor 1).  In Tunisia, for example, the employees with advanced English skills realized higher salaries when compared to their colleagues who were non-English speakers (ICEF Monitor 1).  Furthermore, the study would establish a correlation between the English fluency levels, political stability, and unemployment.

According to the English Proficiency Index, abbreviated as EPI, the English levels notable in the markets in the MENA region were found to lag behind in many other areas of the world. Besides, students from the French speaking countries in the Middle East and African countries intending to study in the West would lack the opportunity due to the English language incompetence. From the Euro monitor International, English Speakers in the MENA region tend to earn as high as three times the rates of the non-English speaking counterparts (ICEF Monitor 1). As such, the research would confirm that English fluency played a critical role in dictating the income levels in the economies. Therefore, the salary gap, as pointed between the English and French speaking employees, would be used to explain the disparity between economic growths recorded in the English-speaking and French-speaking countries in Africa and the Middle East (Austin 1).  Therefore, among the recommended changes by the research was the improved fluency in English by the employees from these countries because this would facilitate higher gains in salaries and increased employment opportunities than the French speakers. Such income disparities recorded in the past between the French colonies and the English colonies would be explained through the education systems

Colonial Resource Exploitation

 Another factor by which the disparity in economic development between the countries would be explained is the infrastructural development. The disparity would be pointed out between the perceived resource exploitation by the French settlers and the English settlers in the regions of Africa and Middle East (Dupraz 1). For instance, despite Europeans being condemned for grabbing of the native lands and establishing large-scale farming, they would be commended for instituting the right infrastructure for future economic production in their colonies. The production technologies left behind by the migrating colonialists English colonies have been shown to benefit those economies long after the independence. Therefore, the increased economic production would explain these countries’ subsequent and sustained economic growth. On the contrary, the French settlers were accused of being more selfish in that they did not leave the means of production or technology behind (Melnick 31). Therefore, these colonial economies would lag behind before creating the production systems and infrastructures; hence, the perpetual poor economic growth. When the disparities in production persisted over the years, the English speaking nations would realize better and sustained economic growth as compared with other countries from the same regions. Therefore, the English colonizers would be commended for setting the pace to the colonies through introducing better and advanced production technologies, hence, contributing to the higher economic production (Faujas 1). The improved and sustained economic production would then be used in explaining the economic growth of some of the countries as contrasted to others. The French settlers would, however, be condemned for creating more peasants in the colonies. Therefore, the French-speaking countries would spend considerable time before realizing higher and sustainable production after the departure of the colonizers (Faujas 1).

The French-speaking countries in Sub-Saharan Africa would account for about 19% of the region’s GDP, while the English counterparts would account for approximately 47% of the GDP. Moreover, the West African French speaking economies in the UEMOA have had a gradual growth of approximately 3.4% annually in a span of the last ten years (ICEF Monitor 1). In contrast, the English-speaking East African countries in the EAC registered an annual growth rate of 5.4 % in the last decade. Therefore, the comparison would be aimed at confirming that the English Speaking countries have had a higher and sustained economic growth when compared to the French-speaking countries in Africa. Furthermore, the World Bank rates the English-speaking economies better on investment environment than the French speaking countries. For instance, trading in the East African countries, which are dominantly English speaking, is relatively favorable and easy compared to the countries in the West African region (ICEF Monitor 1). According to the World Bank, countries such as DRC, Burundi, and Niger rank the poorest in human development. The poor rank would then explain why the productivity per capita in these economies would be ranked the lowest. Accordingly, the economies would realize low or negative economic growth (ICEF Monitor 1).


A comparative study of the infrastructural endowment of the French-speaking economies and the English speaking countries in the African and Middle East regions indicates that the French-speaking economies lag far behind (Faujas 2012). These countries persistently embraced the poor and conservative policies, especially in the disciplines of water, transport, and energy. Therefore, the poor infrastructural policies have contributed to the infrastructural deficit in these economies. For instance, such countries as Senegal and Cameroon in West Africa lag behind mostly in the development of infrastructures (Banerjee 23-27). Such deficiencies and relatively unstable Franc as the currency contributes to lower investor confidence, hence, the perceived low levels of investment and production. Other policy elements are together with the improved regulatory framework by the government (Dupraz 1). Such regulation limits the countries’ ability to engage in international trade. Accordingly, local producers would be restricted to the local markets, hence, contributing to lower market performance (Austin 1). The reduced returns occasioned by poor infrastructure and policy framework explain the poor performance of these countries regarding production per-capita. Therefore, just as noted earlier, these French-speaking countries would realize lower and un-sustained economic development (Dupraz 1).

The comparison would indicate the level of engagement of the governments and international financiers in the English-speaking countries in creating favorable policies and appropriate working environments for the investors (ICEF Monitor 1). The English-speaking East African countries, in particular, have shown tremendous growth in infrastructure. Secondly, the favorable investment environment occasioned by the governments’ goodwill to enhanced investment environment contributes to the improved and sustained economic growth. The higher levels of foreign direct investments as well as the local investments in the countries, contribute greatly to ensuring that the economies realize continuous and sustained growth. In another dimension, the high rates of investments in the English speaking countries contribute to the lower rates of unemployment and subsequently to the increased per-capita production (ICEF Monitor 1). Besides, the English speaking countries such as in East Africa have shown an increased sense of commitment to integration and working as regions. The advantages of the economic integration would be cited to increase production due to improved market coverage. The countries would thus foster entrepreneurship, hence, realize higher productivity. Such production organization improvements were observed in most societies in the regions before, during and after the colonial era (ICEF Monitor 1).

The colonial infrastructures were used to set the pace for the colonies’ political stability and economic growth in the years to follow (ICEF Monitor 1). In fact, scholars would argue that the British institutions had improved institutions and culture to foster poverty alleviation in the colonies as well as facilitate economic growth years after the colonial era. The West African country of Cameroon would be a critical indicator of the differences observed in the colonial infrastructures as observed between British and French colonizers (Melnic 7-11). The rural areas under the rule of British indicated higher levels of wealth as well as improved public provision compared to the French colonized areas. Nevertheless, the uniform development for the urban areas would confirm that the governments directly influenced the performance of the post-colonial economies. Furthermore, the British zones would record higher literacy rates than the French colony zones (Austin 1).  With higher literacy rates and English command, the country would realize considerably higher productivity, especially in those previously colonized zones by the British.

Similarly, the poor performance of the post-colonial French territories in Africa and the Middle East region would be confirmed by various accounts. Among other countries that were formally the colonies of French in the African continent are Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Mali, Senegal and Togo (Melnic 1). Together, these countries use the CFA Franc as currency, and they form members of the Monetary and Economic Union of West Africa. These countries are also known to have relatively low populations,, as the collective population is about 102 million people (Banerjee 77). However, the countries have recorded progressively poor economic performance despite their riches in natural economic resources. In fact, there various reasons pointed out as the primary causes of the poor economic performance of these economies.

Political Instability

The majority of the former colonies of the French in Africa have recorded continuous political turmoil and instability (Melnic 1). Disputed political patterns, in particular, would result in stagnation of the economies, as lower economic production would be witnessed. Political volatility would also explain the low investment rates, as investors would not want to invest in high-risk areas. Besides, mass exile by the nationals would imply denied productivity; thus, the production per capital would persistently be low compared to other stable countries. Furthermore, the support of the international donors would be restricted in such politically volatile economies, hence, explaining poor or less capital intensive projects such as in infrastructures. With such least support towards these countries, the donors and international funding agencies like the IMF would channel the resources to the other relatively stable countries such as the English speaking countries (Banerjee 33). Therefore, the comparison would explain the perceived higher, and sustained economic growth noted in the English-speaking nations, especially in Africa, than the records in the French-speaking countries.

French Economic Control

The French economies experienced increased developmental disparities and thus exhibited great regional developmental inequalities (Melnic 1). First, it would be noted that the French colonizers created systems that, even after colonization was over, the economies would continue to depend much on the country for economic development. Therefore, the French colonies in the West African region and the middle east have remained underdeveloped and have low economic growth due to the over-reliance on France for economic aid (Banerjee 23-27). Such reliance on the economic aid does not help the economies in the modern times to realize economic growth as would have been expected. Besides, the French government’s imposition of the economic checks, vetoes, and balances to the UMOA countries would contribute to lower economic performance. In fact, some countries realize total control from the former colonizer after discovering that the colonizers continue to benefit while condemning their economic performance (ICEF Monitor 1).

For example, while the British colonizers left their colonies to operate completely independently, the majority of the French West African countries would not print own currency and would have to rely on Franc printed in France (Banerjee 17). Besides, the French administration would appoint financial directors from the France to run the domestic banks in the colonial countries, thereby imposing vetoes and influence on financial decisions in the countries. Besides, approximately 65% of the assets in these countries are kept as reserves in France, generating interest for France as against the countries (Dupraz 1). Therefore, such economic injustices leveled against the former French colonies have contributed greatly to the recorded poor economic growth as compared to the rest of the colonies, which were under the British. The English speaking countries would realize higher and sustained economic growth as facilitated by independent decision-making.

Difficulty in Cross-Border Trade

The Franco countries in Africa have noted considerably lower economic performance because of the over-reliance on the domestic market (Melnic 1). As would be associated with poor infrastructure, the countries have very little interstate connectivity, especially in transport corridors. The result has been low levels of investment and trade while their English-speaking counterparts realize booming businesses and economic growth. As presented earlier, infrastructure would be perceived as a critical facilitator of trade and domestic production, and therefore, when the Franco countries lag behind in the infrastructural endowment. They would realize perpetual lag in economic growth (Austin 1).  Nevertheless, one would appreciate that each country would have own challenges in infrastructural development. Therefore, such would not be considered common to all of the French-speaking countries in Africa and the Middle East. However, replicating the challenge across the different economies would then be contrasted with the fewer challenges to the English-speaking countries in these regions compared to their French counterparts, hence, pointing out probable generic differences from the two economic regimes (Austin 1). 


This report confirms that French and British colonizers dominated many countries in the Middle East and African regions. Therefore, the colonies adopted English and France as main languages after the colonial era. Adopting these languages meant that they would be used in business communication and as the education language. Therefore, the countries would be regarded as English or French-speaking states. However, over the years, a disparity between the economic performances of these countries has been observed. In particular, the English-speaking countries have realized perpetual and sustained economic growth as compared to the French speaking countries. This paper evaluated the underlying factors to this disparity and highlighted various possible reasons. First, English was shown to be a preferred employment language. Secondly, resource exploitation by the colonizers differed in these countries, causing English speaking countries benefit from higher infrastructure and systems of production in the postcolonial era. Besides, the French economic control in the post-colonial era has been attributed to poor economic performance in these countries. Finally, the other elements noted include low levels of interstate trade, especially for the French-speaking countries, which is caused by the poor or inadequate infrastructure to connect the countries. Accordingly, this paper justifies that the English speaking countries have realized sustained and high economic growth over the years compared to the French speaking countries.


Works Cited

Austin, Gareth. “International Development Policy | Revue Internationale De Politique De Développement.” African Economic Development and Colonial Legacies. 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Banerjee, Abhijit V., and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011. Print.

Cingano, Federico. “Trends in income inequality and its impact on economic growth.” (2014).

Dupraz, Yannick. “French and British Colonial Legacies in Education: A Natural Experiment in Cameroon.” Yannick Dupraz – Research – Paris School of Economics. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Easterly, William. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done so Much Ill and so Little Good. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

Faujas, Alain. “Africa: Why Francophones Are Lagging behind Anglophones.” Africa: Why Francophones Are Lagging behind Anglophones. 2012. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

ICEF Monitor. “English Skills a Key for Mobility and Employment in the Middle East and North Africa.” ICEF Monitor Market Intelligence for International Student Recruitment English Skills a Key for Mobility and Employment in the Middle East and North Africa Comments. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Melnic, Annie. “Why Francophone Africa Economies Trail.” Matchdeck. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

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