According to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, A majority of the world’s French-speaking population lives in Africa and use French either a first or a second language making African French speakers an important part of the Francophonie.
When you think about it, or experience it, there is no single form of African French. Due to contact with many indigenous African languages French as spoken in Africa is different depending on the country you’re visiting. And because France had colonies in the past in Africa, French spoken in Benin is closer to that spoken in France than to French spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Belgian French).
The classification of French as a second language in Africa is debatable because in some areas (Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, Libreville in Gabon and the Island of Réunion and others) it is a first language and the only language spoken and written in schools, administrations, radio, TV and the Internet.
With a rapid growth in education and demographics, Sub-Saharan Africa is where the French language is most likely to expand. You may find some spoken forms of African French difficult to understand, but the written form is pretty much like the rest of la francophonie.
I really can’t give an exact way to pronounce French in different African countries; each local pronunciation is influenced by the local African. But there are some pronunciations that are quite noticable. For example, You may hear the European French “r” (as in Paris) pronounced like a Spanish trilled “r” (as in perro) instead, but some speakers can also pronounce it as the Arabic letter ghayn (غ). Pronunciation of d, t, l and n, as well as other sounds may be also different. Standard French intonation can be also either maintained or not. Keep your ears tuned, and see what you can imitate.
When it comes to vocabulary, you will see and hear the differences. First, you’ll find words that were borrowed from the local language. And on top of that, each regional variety of African French will have their own local words that are not found in other varieties. Check out this conversation from Senegal where French and Wolof (and some Arabic!) gets mixed together.
Rose: Assalamu Aleykum.
Aminata et Fatim: Maaleykum Salam.
Rose: Mame Fatim!
Fatim: Rose ça va, comment tu vas?
Rose: Ça c’est Fatimata!
Fatim: Ah Fatimata!
Aminata: Ah salut comment tu vas?
Fati: Ça va merci!
Fatim: Prenez place!
Rose: Sinon à Keur Massar?
Fatim: Oui ça va alhamdulliah!
Rose: Ça va!
Fatim: Oui ça va. Tout vas bien.
Rose: Aminata toi, à Sacré-Cœur?
Aminata: Sacré-Cœur tu sais ça bouge quoi
Rose: Ben oui on peut dire ça!
Fatim: Elle est tellement fière de son quartier.
Aminata: Ah, bien sur!
Fatim: N’importe quoi.
Aminata: Ah oui c’est le quartier des boss hein.
Fatim: Ah s’il te plait!
Rose: Ah bon depuis quand?
Aminata: Sacré-Cœur c’est le meilleur quartier au Sénégal, tout le monde le sait, n’est ce pas Fati?
Fati: Ouais, j’imagine, je ne suis pas allée là bas, je ne connais pas.
Aminata: Tu connais pas, d’ou est-ce que tu viens?
Fati: Oh je viens de Saint Louis.
Aminata: Oh Saint Louis!
Fatim: Hum d’accord.
The good thing is, people from other regions or countries switch to a more standard form of French to avoid the vocabulary mixup.
Another thing you will notice the use of some words with a meaning different from standard French. For example, the word présentement (“at the moment”) is used in sub-Saharan Africa with the meaning of “as a matter of fact” or “as it were”. So if you hear a word that seems out of context, see if you can figure out what it does mean by listening to the rest of the sentence. If you’re still stuck, there’s no shame in asking to repeat or explain what the word means in their locale.
If you’re going to mingle among the educated and upper classes of sub-Saharan Africa. Educated people there tend to speak a very formal sort of French which may sound a bit old-fashioned to Europeans French speakers.
Other local vocabulary includes slang (frowned upon by the educated), colloquial usage, and words that originated in slang terms, but then entered into formal use. The French spoken in Abidjan is a good example of these contrasting registers.
Abidjan French vocabulary
French is spoken by about 90% of Abidjan’s population, either as a first language or a second language. There are three sorts of French spoken in Abidjan. The educated classes speak a formal French. Most of the population speaks a colloquial form of French known as français de Treichville (a working-class district of Abidjan) or français de Moussa. Then, you have nouchi spoken by people in gangs (and by those who copy them). New words usually appear in nouchi and then make their way into colloquial Abidjan French after some time.
Here are some examples of words used in Abidjan French:
une go (European French – une fille) – girl or girlfriend.
un maquis (European French – un restaurant or une cantine) – street-side restaurant (a working-class restaurant serving African food). This word exists in standard French too but it’s not known exactly how this word came to mean street-side restaurant in Côte d’Ivoire.
un bra-môgô (European French – un copain) – bloke or dude. Borrowed from the Mandinka language.
chicotter (European French – battre) – to whip, to beat, or to chastise (children)
le pia (European French – l’argent) – a slang word meaning money.
As an example, let’s look at how a sentence would be constructed, depending on a few factors shown here:
English: The girl stole my money
European French: La fille a pris mon argent
Formal, educated Abidjan French: La fille a volé mon argent.
Français de Moussa: La fille-là a pris mon argent.
Nouchi: La go a soutra mon pia. (soutra is an Abidjan slang word meaning “to steal”)
Kinshasa French vocabulary
If Paris didn’t exist, what would be the largest farncophone city in the world? That would be Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a population of 10,076,099 (2010). Contrary to Abidjan where French is the first language of a large part of the population, in Kinshasa French is only a second language, and is influenced by the Lingala language. Here French is the language of business, administration, schools, newspapers and television. French is also the predominant written language.
French in Kinshasa has its own pronunciation and local words borrowed from Lingala. Depending on their social status, some people may mix French and Lingala. Just as in Abidjan, most educated people may frown upon the use of slang or Lingala terms.
cadavéré (European French – cadavre) – broken, worn out, exhausted, or dead.
makasi – strong, resistant. It is a loanword from Lingala.
anti-nuit – sunglasses worn by partiers at night. One of the many slang words related to nightlife and partying. A reveler is known locally as un ambianceur, from standard French ambiance.
casser le bic – to stop going to school.
merci mingi – “thank you very much”. Here’s an example of mixing French (merci) with Lingala (mingi – “a lot”).
un zibolateur – bottle opener. It comes from the Lingala verb kozibola (to open something that is blocked up or bottled) and has the French ending -ateur attached to it.
un tétanos – a rickety old taxi. In standard French tétanos means “tetanus”.
moyen tê vraiment – “absolutely impossible”. It comes from standard French moyen and Lingala
tê (“not”, “no”), to which was added French vraiment (“really”).
 Found at the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages and Five Colleges, Inc. website
View video here: Friends Greeting