Welcome to Francophone Africa: Beyond the Archive. Bienvenue sur le site du projet Afrique francophone au-delà des archives. Nous espérons que ce message vous trouve sain et sauf. We hope you are staying safe and well. Project events are on hold for the time being but there are plenty of activities to engage with on the site.
News for researchers and professionals: our government-funded Global Challenges Research project on falling literacy levels among girls in the war zones of francophone Africa is accessible under Gender and Literacy on the RESEARCH page. The data examined at the recent Institute for Modern Languages Research training seminar in London are uploaded in the Gender & Literacy zone and are accessible in a form adapted for Geography classes under LEARN – Geography.


Francophone Africa: beyond the archive       l’Afrique francophone: au-delà des archives   

Welcome to francophone Africa beyond the archive. Bienvenue sur le site de l’Afrique francophone : au delà des archives.

To learn about the background to the project and meet the team members of  Francophone Africa: beyond the archive   l’Afrique francophone: au-delà des archives  please click here.

You have arrived on a multidimensional digital platform housing a unique collection of historical and contemporary resources with a particular focus on gender and social justice in French-speaking Africa. Scholarly materials exploring the impact of French colonisation in Africa and multiple digitised resources related to the aftermath of colonisation are available here for you to view on open access.

Materials designed for scholars, teachers, researchers and development professionals working in sub-Saharan francophone West Africa are located in dedicated spaces on the platform. Many are translated from French into English to help bridge the divide that separates non-speakers of French from the wealth of scholarship published in French.

Among several unique historical resources available here is a digitised archive of documents  from French West Africa in French, with English translations, witnessing the impact of colonisation on women and girls during the 1930s (see SAVINEAU REPORT). Our research on the aftermath of empire continues the themes raised in the Savineau Report with a focus on gender in the contemporary human and sustainable development goals. The findings, including analysis of the latest data on gender and literacy in contemporary Francophone Africa, are accessible in the Gender & Literacy zone under RESEARCH  along with our literacy infographics generated from a comprehensive analysis of current open access data.

Please use the CONTACT page to let us know if you found what you needed, if not please send us your suggestions and enquiries.

Veuillez employer la page CONTACT pour échanger avec nous et, le cas échéant, proposer des ressources ou fonctionnalités supplémentaires en vue d’améliorer votre utilisation de ce siteweb et de ses ressources.  

For a short  introduction to the website from the project director Professor Claire Griffiths click play below.

Rédigé par Denise Savineau lors d’une tournée officielle effectuée en Afrique-Occidentale Française entre octobre 1937 et mai 1938, le rapport Savineau  comprend dix-sept rapports sur les régions et pays visités. Savineau présente l’objectif de ses efforts ainsi: le présent rapport [..] envisage les principaux problèmes: milieux et sociaux, en insistant sur tout ce qui concerne la femme et l’enfant. Selon les directives qui m’ont été données, j’ai signalé les difficultés, les erreurs, sans vaines circonlocutions, mais sans malveillance. […] Ce rapport est le fruit d’une année d’études des coutumes africaines, de sept mois de voyage, et d’une expérience préalable de la vie villageoise. Il porte sur les colonies du Soudan, du Niger, du Dahomey, de la Côte d’Ivoire et de la Guinée.

The Savineau Report is the largest single document stored in this website. It contains over 800 pages of commentary written during a tour of French Africa by Denise Savineau (also known as Denise Moran) a French journalist and government official of the interwar period. The observations recorded here are penned from a Socialist-Communist standpoint and constitute an interesting addition to the growing historiography of the colonial era. At times the Savineau Report resonates with a later postcolonial era as Savineau engages in a bitter denunciation of colonial practices, including what she sees as modern-day slavery. Other observations are very much of their time, over-valuing imported practices to the detriment of local culture. What is exceptional is the trace of African voices just perceptible through the text; as the Mogho Naba of Ougadougou remarked to Savineau, “No-one has ever asked our opinion before”. The complete archive is available here.

A l’occasion du Forum mondial sur l’éducation pour tous, tenu à Dakar en 2000, les leaders des pays de l’Afrique francophone se sont engagés à éliminer l’analphabétisation enfantine dans la sous-région. Et depuis, sans aucun doute, la situation éducative dans ces pays progresse de manière significative. Des millions de jeunes gens ont eu accès à une éducation formelle et de qualité pour la première fois, et de plus en plus jusqu’aux niveaux supérieurs. Mais cette progression évolue de manière inégalitaire. Les privilèges et les désavantages qui caractérisaient les systèmes éducatifs coloniaux en Afrique subsaharienne demeurent visiblement dans les taux d’alphabétisation nationaux. Les plus faibles du monde sont observés en Afrique subsaharienne parmi les populations féminines. Dans certaines regions ces taux déjà faibles connaissent une déstabilisation voire une diminution.

Low levels of  literacy is recognised in West Africa as a huge challenge, but there are signs that the situation for some girls is not improving, indeed it could under threat of worsening in countries of the Sahel bordering the Sahara desert witnessing heightened violence and instability. The team is bringing together new findings and producing  infographics focusing on young women aged 15-24 years. Please click on caption under thumbnails to view these. Veuillez cliquer sur le texte en dessous des images pour accéder aux ressources.

Francophone Africa: beyond the archive collates textual archives and related materials to assist in historiographical and cultural research in and on the areas that came under French rule in Africa. We have uploaded a digital search tool to support new directions in research into historical archives. The space contains bibliographies of published research on the main archival holding, the Savineau report and related  documents from the interwar colonial era in French Africa. It is important to note that discussion and work featured on this platform do not observe a strict separation between the chronological eras known as colonial and postcolonial. The approach here is to read and re-read textual and visual narratives of change and development in the geographical areas known currently as francophone Africa in relation to voice, who is speaking, of what and to whom, and how a change of voice can change our understanding of the history of a region.

Francophone Africa: beyond the archive is a resource for scholars, teachers, researchers and readers interested in  the histories and cultures of the richly multilingual regions of Africa that share French as an international language of communication. You will find teaching materials tagged for AS/A level French and Geography in the LEARN section of the website and more interactive ideas for classes and workshops in the ACTIVITIES section.

In this space we have uploaded a range of activities about life under colonial rule and aspects of life in Francophone African postcolonial nations today. There’s an interactive map showing the extraordinary number of places Denise Savineau visited during her tour of French West Africa (see also Savineau Report), ideas for artwork activities, creative writing and historical research. Interactive language space invites speakers of West African languages to send us African language translations for key terms in the historical glossary. Translations and suggestions for new key terms to be added to the glossary can be sent using the form on the CONTACT page. Thinkspace invites contributors to start a conversation about challenges facing young people in Francophone Africa today, en français, en anglais, ou en langues africaines, c’est à vous de choisir votre langue de communication préférée. 

from the archive…

Amadou Hampaté Ba

Malian writer and ethnologist (1901-1991) , first African scholar at the Institut français de l'Afrique noire (IFAN).

Report 1

Amadou Ba met Denise Savineau in October 1937 in Bamako. She writes about their encounter in Report 1, describing Ba as well educated, a devout Muslim, and influential in the local Peul community. She also identifies the writers that occupy his bookshelves, noting that his books include works by Pascal, Dumas and A Thousand and One Nights.

Call the Midwife

Graduates from the 1939 intake of the Midwifery College in Senegal, French West Africa

Colonial Health Services

French health services in colonial times were first provided by the Navy, and then by a civilian service headed by male French doctors. Gradually African professionals were allowed entry in assistant positions. Initially women were excluded completely, but then midwives and community nurses gained access in the inter-war era, and, as Savineau reports, were making their mark in the 1930s.

Dim Delobsom

One of the first African colonial administrators (1897-1940)

Report 8

Dim Delobsom was the son of a local notable from Ouagadougou in the Mossi country. He was a published scholar and won a major prize for his book entitled ‘Les Secrets des sorciers noirs’ in 1934. He was also criticised in some quarters for strongly opposing the influence of the local, powerful Catholic mission. He died at a relatively young age, the cause of which is not entirely clear.