French speaking Africans felt lost at World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings 2019 Updated for 2021


Updated: March 2, 2021

Madam Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund is from France where the official language is French, however, when she addressed the international community on April 11, 2019, at a press briefing on the state of the global economy, she spoke in English.

Almost all the questions asked at the briefing during the just concluded 2019 World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings were also in English.

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When one reporter asked a question in French, after her reply, the moderator said one or two words in French and everyone cackled. It was something new. It was like a language from Mars.

French speaking Cameroonian minister Alanine Ousmane Mey (middle) lost at Spring Meetings in Washington D.C.

On Friday, I sat down with some French speaking Africans and they marveled that they were finally able to hear some French at a session. Even that session was also mainly in English. But at least, a few speakers spoke in French and they were delighted.

Indeed, English is the dominant language when it comes to business and the World Bank and IMF Meetings are often for business, therefore in English.

There are interpretations being provided but it’s often like hearing from someone else when you’re in the same room with the real speaker.

In the process, many things get lost and not everything is properly translated.

French speakers at these meetings also feel lost in common spaces and restaurants where everything is in English. Even those providing security are all English speakers.

Many publications shared at the event are often in English, and not French.

The World Bank President is always an American and speaks English and conducts business in English.

Indeed, being a French speaker at the Spring and Annual World Bank and IMF Meetings is almost a disadvantage. At least, that’s what I observed.


Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on


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