The African diaspora in France

The law of 6 January 1978 on data processing and freedoms prohibits information giving direct or indirect indications on “race” or ethnicity as well as religious affiliation from being collected in France. It is therefore very difficult to understand and quantify the African diaspora(s) in France.

How can we actually define an African diaspora? The African Union Commission gives the following definition, “people of African origin living outside the continent […] who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent”, which is both very broad – in France’s case, a large proportion of inhabitants of its overseas departments and territories who have African roots would be included in this definition – and very narrow because it supposes an ongoing tie or contribution to the continent or country of origin.

The best way to get an idea of the African diaspora in France is doubtless to refer to legal immigration statistics and the successive generations of foreign and/or French nationality.

In 2015, according to this definition, 619,000 nationals of African States were legally resident in France with the largest group coming from Mali (76,500 individuals) followed by Senegal (67,000) and the DRC (64,000). According to various data sets from the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, some 3 million French nationals of sub-Saharan African origin live in France as naturalized citizens and/or second-generation immigrants. The OECD and AFD estimations are similar.

Multiple links, keys to reducing poverty

Research on migration in France has shown that some members of these populations – born and/or resident in France – maintain sociocultural, economic or political ties to their country of origin. These links vary according to geographical origin, socio-economic profile and time spent France. They also show the capability of diasporas to create a double presence both in their country of origin and country of residence.

Remittances from diasporas are estimated to be three times the total sum of official development assistance around the world ($429 billion in 2016). They therefore play a very significant role in reducing poverty and contributing to growth in countries of origin.

According to data from the Banque de France, remittances from migrant workers residing in France increased significantly in 2015 to €9.5 billion (an increase of 18.75% on 2010).

French support for solidarity

France is helping to support the solidarity of migrants in three key areas:

Capacity-building for the International Migration Solidarity Organization (OSIM)

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) works closely with the national platform for OSIM federations and groups, the FORIM, which represents over 700 migrant associations committed to co-development action, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. Examples of such cooperation include a support programme for international migration solidarity organizations (PRA-OSIM) created in 2003. The FORIM facilitates the implementation co-development projects (up until 2016 it was financed by the MEAE for a total €5.1 million and is now supported by the Agence Française de Développement, AFD).

Implementation of mobility, migration and development programmes in a bilateral framework

These programmes co-finance, together with countries of origin, initiatives led by migrant associations, such as the Program to Support Solidarity Initiatives for Development (PAISD) in Senegal which received French financing of €11 million from 2009 to 2016, managed by the AFD since 2017.

Support for business creation and productive investment by diasporas

Business creation is one of the ways that migrants can contribute to development in their countries of origin. France supports specific actions to promote business creation and productive investment by diasporas in order to create jobs, promote growth and make the most of experience and knowledge acquired in France by diasporas. The Mobilisation Européenne pour l’Entreprenariat en Afrique (MEET Africa) programme, financed by the European Union and France, supports entrepreneurs from the African diaspora having completed their higher education in France or Germany, in creating businesses in their countries of origin that are predominantly technology focused or the source of innovative solutions.

France is also committed at the national and international level to cutting costs of migrants’ remittances.

Within the framework of the G7 and G20, France is committed to facilitating these remittances and especially to reducing their costs.

The concrete actions implemented to reach the national action plan objectives including:

  • the www.envoidargent.fr website, financed by the MEAE and AFD providing price comparison and practical services from 19 financial institutions in France in 26 countries. This website was approved by the World Bank in 2013. The website is expected to be evaluated in coming months in order to enhance collective strategy and governance for the website;
  • €7 million in support for the multi-donor Migration and Development Trust Fund hosted by the African Development Bank. This fund aims to support projects enabling innovative solutions to be drawn up in fund transfers and the creation of productive activities by diasporas;
  • improving migrants’ access to financial projects and services, especially payments by mobile telephone, enabling them to invest in their countries of origin from their countries of residence. This is one of the aims of the act July 2014 on development and international solidarity policy strategy.

This has brought down the costs of money transfers from France to an average of 6.82% in 2016, down 41% on 2011. Average costs for money transfers from France are lower than in any other G20 country and lower than the global average.


Updated February 2019