Gabon's President Ali Bongo wants to boost the use of English in his country, a former colony of France where French is widely spoken, his spokesman said Monday.
Bongo is to go to Rwanda from Friday to Saturday to study at first hand its experience with bilingualism.
"Gabon wants to look closely at Rwanda's experience with the introduction of bilingualism," Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nzesai said.
"Rwanda used to be a French-speaking country and part of the Francophonie (French-speaking international community)," he said. "Today it is part of two communities: the Francophonie and the Commonwealth."
"The president of Gabon plans to introduce English into our country," he added. "If the Rwandan experience is conclusive why should we not draw inspiration from such an experience to see how Gabon, a French-speaking country, could in the years ahead decide to introduce English in the first instance as a necessary working language?"
Later on it could be seen how it might become a second language.
Gabon is one of France's closest African allies and a privileged channel for France's influence on the continent.
Bongo's visit will take place a week before the Francophonie summit in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo on October 12, which French President Francois Hollande will attend.
"Don't link the cooperation between Gabon and France to the question of the Francophonie. Gabon wants to develop and give itself the best opportunities," the spokesman said.
"When you leave the French-speaking space, if you don't know English you are almost handicapped. It's a question of diversifying our partnerships, ensuring that the people of Gabon are armed and better armed," he said.
"French researchers publish in English and in most international conferences French experts contribute in English, while Africans have become practically the only people to contribute in French.
"If the French themselves are turning towards English why would you want the Gabonese to forbid themselves to do so?", he added.
The vast majority of Gabon's 1.5 million people speak French, which is not only the language of government.
Rwanda is a former Belgian colony and member of the Francophonie which joined the Commonwealth, an association chiefly composed of former British possessions, in 2009.
After the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, Tutsis who had lived for years in Uganda, Rwanda's English-speaking neighbour, took power and Kigali encouraged the use of English in schools and the administration.© ANP/AFP