CFI is a public sector operator funded primarily by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. The Ministry's annual subsidy (which comes under budget programme 209 – Solidarity with developing countries) accounts for around 85% of the agency's budget. CFI's mandate thus comes under France's policy of state aid for development.
CFI was founded in 1989 by the Ministry of Cooperation with a 'cultural assistance mission': to supply overseas television stations with French television programmes free of charge. Since then, the State has entrusted CFI with a series of tasks, including, in the main, a database of television programmes, pan-African television channel, satellite package operator, and, lastly, cooperation agency in the media sector. The latter has been CFI's sole mission since the early 2010s.
CFI is a member of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), a body set up in 2004 to coordinate and lobby on behalf of those working for media cooperation, to coordinate the actions of its members in the service of development in countries in receipt of international aid.