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Hassan Hachem: construction of the French Institute of Bata (Equatorial Guinea)

The African continent, long underestimated, could well become the China of tomorrow. Seen from Europe, this forecast may seem hazardous in a context where we hear more often about the wars ravaging some countries of the continent than growth rates of 7% or 8% of some countries. Yet, it is a reality: Africa is home to future emerging countries. This dynamism can be a real opportunity for France provided that it continues to promote the development of its historical ties with its African partners. One of the ways to maintain these links is to ensure that we continue to speak French in a large number of countries: Francophonie is one of the keys to the economic integration of emerging African countries with France.

We interviewed Hassan Hachem, one of the many discreet artisans of Francophonie.

Hassan Hachem is a Franco-Lebanese entrepreneur who has contributed to the dissemination of the Francophonie by pushing "francophile" projects several times.

He is at the origin of the French Cultural Center of Bata and the first French School of Malabo.

What is the history of the French Cultural Center of Bata?

It is a prestigious achievement. Some say it is one of the jewels of the francophone presence on the mainland of Equatorial Guinea. Since it opened in 2008, this center has been welcoming artists (musicians, storytellers, comedians ...), Francophone cultural personalities. The center also hosts tens of thousands of books in French (novels, school books, children's literature ...) made available to the general public.

A small school is located in the Cultural Center. It is managed by the French Secular Mission. It is frequented by the children of Equato-Guineans and expatriates.

Why learn French abroad ?

The situation of each country is different. In Equatorial Guinea, this desire to promote French is directly linked to the desire to better integrate the country into the regional economic tissue of Francophone countries. Speaking French is not simply a gateway to knowledge, a springboard to French culture that continues to be a reference throughout the world, but also, in this case, a tool for economic integration.

Are Africans motivated to learn Chinese?

Yes and no: the relations between China and Africa are of a different nature. Africans appreciate two things about China. On the one hand, it treats them as equals or, in any case, claims to do so. On the other hand, it gives them access to consumer goods and equipment at much more competitive prices than those offered by Western companies.

But Africans are much less interested in Chinese culture than in French culture, and Mandarin is a much more difficult language to access. Also, de facto, the motivation of Africans to learn Chinese is weaker than that of learning or using French.

About The French Institute of Equatorial Guinea

The French Institute of Equatorial Guinea - ICEF is part of the worldwide network of French institutes. Its main office is based in Malabo, the country's capital. The branch of the French Institute of Equatorial Guinea in Bata completes its network in the country.

The French Cultural Center of Malabo was created in 19853, then renamed the French Institute of Equatorial Guinea - ICEF in 2011 during the worldwide reform of the cultural and cooperation network of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs initiated by the law of July 27, 2010, replacing the French cultural activities which, in the country, were hitherto united within the Culturesfrance association. The two branches maintain close ties with the Consulate General, the Honorary Consulates, the Alliance Française office as well as with the administrative, cultural and university authorities of the country.

Every year, the institute welcomes around 1,000 students in French or FLE classes as well as 200 executives or employees of companies training in French. In addition to its linguistic teaching activities5, the Institut français is also a cultural center, active on the island of Bioko (Malabo) as well as on the mainland of the country, in Bata (Equatorial Guinea). Thus, the two cultural centers of the institute participate in the national cultural scene, creating events with national, regional or local objectives, according to the projects6; The ICEF offers dozens of annual cultural events. The institute also participates in external events, as part of the promotion of culture and exchanges between France and Equatorial Guinea, and develops partnerships with other governmental or non-governmental entities present in the country3.

The Institut français also houses two libraries offering a choice of more than 18,000 documents, books and periodicals.

In 2011 during the global reform of the cultural and cooperation network of the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs initiated by the law of July 27, 2010, replacing the French cultural activities which, in the country, were hitherto united within the Cultures France association, the French Cultural Center is renamed French Institute of Equatorial Guinea - ICEF. He maintains close ties with the Consulate General, the Honorary Consulates, the Alliance Française office and the administrative, cultural and university authorities of the country. Every year, the institute welcomes around 1,000 students in French or FLE classes as well as 200 executives or employees of companies training in French.

In addition to its linguistic teaching activities, the French Institute of Malabo is also a cultural center, active on the island part of the country in Malabo, as well as in the mainland in Bata. He participates in the national cultural scene, creating national, regional or local events according to the projects; The ICEF of Malabo offers dozens of annual cultural events. The institute also participates in external events, as part of the promotion of culture and exchanges between France and Equatorial Guinea, and develops partnerships with other governmental or non-governmental entities present in the country. The Institut français hosts two libraries offering a choice of more than 18,000 documents, books and periodicals.

About Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea or Equatorial Guinea, in long form the Republic of Equatorial Guinea or Republic of Equatorial Guinea, in Spanish Guinea Ecuatorial and República de Guinea Ecuatorial, in Portuguese Guiné Equatorial and República da Guiné Equatorial, is a country in Central Africa. It is made up of two parts, one continental, bordered by Cameroon and Gabon, the other insular with the island of Bioko (where the capital Malabo is located) and the island of Annobón.

According to the 2016 United Nations Human Development Report, Equatorial Guinea had a per capita gross domestic product of $21,517, one of the highest levels of wealth in Africa. However, it is one of the most unequal countries in the world according to the Gini index, and 70% of the population lives on $1 a day.15

After its independence, Spanish became the only official language of Equatorial Guinea, although the majority of the population speaks fang.

Equatorial Guinea is landlocked between two French-speaking countries, Cameroon and Gabon, which are themselves part of a large area where French is the official language. In addition, Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa.

French was therefore adopted in 1997 as the country's second official language and the presidency uses both French and Spanish. As a result, French has become a compulsory language of learning in secondary school - although only 10% of young people have access to it [ref. necessary].

Today the development of the French language in Equatorial Guinea is notably defended through the France-Equatorial Guinea Parliamentary Friendship Group of the National Assembly21 chaired by Deputy Jacques Valax. Equatorial Guinea is part of the International Organization of the Francophonie and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie.

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