Emmanuel Macron has pledged to make French the most spoken language in the world.
Speaking to students in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, the French president said his native tongue would "be the first language of Africa" and "perhaps of the world."
Mr Macron, who is currently on a tour of west African nations added that it should not be viewed as a “relic of a colonial power”.
He said: “It is not just a heritage to be protected. It has a future and this future is playing out in. The radiance, the attractiveness of French does not just belong to France.”
French is spoken by 274 million people worldwide, making it the fifth most-spoken language.
He told the students in Ouagadougou that slavery and human trafficking in Libya was “crime against humanity”.
He said he wanted a “European-African initiative” to end the “terrorists and human traffickers' strategy” and proposed a crackdown on smuggler networks between the Africa and Europe.
Paris would not attempt to meddle in local politics, to end a history of “Francafrique” - a term often used to criticise France’s relations with its former colonies - he added.
“I haven’t come here to tell you what is France’s African policy because there no longer is one, there is only a continent that we need to look straight in the face,” Mr Macron said. "The crimes of European colonisation are unquestionable . . . It’s a past that needs to pass.”
Shortly before his arrival in Burkina Faso, authorities said several people were wounded by a hand grenade aimed at French soldiers, the Associated Press reported.
Eyewitnesses said two people on a motorcycle threw the grenade late in a neighbourhood of the Ouagadougou, but the assailants missed their target - a bus carrying members of the French military.
Police said several others were hurt.
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