Africa is a huge continent with many people, countries, and tribes. It is also the second largest and most populous continent on earth. The continent boasts of an estimated population of over 1.216 billion people who belong to different native tribes and speak various languages.
Like in other continents around the world, some languages and beliefs are famous in most parts of Africa while others are just spoken by a few people. In this article, we will be sharing an updated list of the top 10 most spoken languages in Africa today.
How Many Languages Are Spoken In Africa Today?
Before taking a look at Africa’s most spoken languages, it is very important to know the number of languages currently spoken on the African continent as we speak.
According to multiple sources like the FMPRC and Africa.com, Africa is currently estimated to have over 2000 languages spoken by its inhabitants.
Top 10 Most Spoken Languages In Africa
With concentration mostly in Northern Africa, Arabic is spoken by more than 160 million Africans. This makes it the biggest and most spoken language on the continent of Africa.
Arabic is also the official language of most countries in Northern Africa namely Egypt, Comoros, Djibouti, Chad, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Libya.
This language is mostly spoken by Africans who practice Islam (Muslims) and Africa makes up about 62% of the total speakers of Arabic in the whole world. Little wonder why it is the most spoken on the continent.
Swahili is also known as Kiswahili in Africa because it means the language of the Swahili people. It is a Bantu language spoken by more than 150 million Africans in the Great Lakes region of Central and Southern Africa.
This language is used as a lingua franca(common language) in most East and Central African countries.
Swahili-speaking countries include Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). However, in Tanzania, it is the country’s official language and it is used for education and complete day-to-day communication.
Although not the most spoken language on the continent, English is a well-known language in Africa that is spoken by millions of people daily.
It became a very popular language in Africa as a result of British colonial masters which in turn affected the modern-day English-speaking African countries as they had to leave their mother tongue (as an official language) for English after gaining independence.
Countries that were colonized by the British colonial masters are often referred to as Anglophone African countries. They include Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
English has come to be a very popular language in urban and developed areas although people still adopt their mother languages as secondary languages which are mostly used in non-urban settings.
French is another language that was developed and accepted in Africa due to the colonization of some African countries by the Frenchmen.
These countries that took French as their official language are called the Francophone countries. They include Togo, Seychelles, Senegal, Rwanda, Reunion, Niger, Mauritius, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, The Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of The Congo, Comoros, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Benin Republic.
There are approximately 90 million French-speaking Africans and 26 African states with French as their official language.
The Hausa tribe is considered the largest ethnic group in Nigeria and Africa. With origin from the Fulani tribe, the Hausa language has grown to become one of the most spoken languages in Africa.
Hausa is majorly spoken in West African countries which are Nigeria, Chad, Togo, Niger, Ghana, Benin, and Burkina Faso. It is also spoken (but by a small populace) in East African countries such as Eritrea and Sudan and Central African countries such as Congo, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic.
Amharic is one of the Ethiopian Semitic languages, which are also under the Afroasiatic languages. It is spoken as a first language by the Amharas and as a common language for other citizens who live in major cities and towns of Ethiopia.
The language serves as the official working language of Ethiopia and is also the official language of several of the states within the Ethiopian federal system.
Amharic is also one of the very few languages that has its own set of alphabets and it is greatly used in Ethiopian literature such as poetry, novels, and journals
The Oromo tribe is an ethnic group that originated from Ethiopia. They are also one of the largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia and represent more than 40% of the overall Ethiopian population.
The Oromo people speak the Oromo language as a mother tongue. This language is also called Afaan Oromoo and Oromiffa and it is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family.
This is the language or mother tongue of the Igbo people which is an ethnic group in South-Eastern Nigeria. With over 44 Millon Igbo-speaking Africans this language is one of the most spoken languages in Nigeria and Africa.
The Igbo tribe are majorly Nigerians, but a handful of them can be found in Benin Republic and some other countries in Western Africa. Igbo people are often referred to as Ndi-Igbo and the land in which the Igbos come from (South-Eastern Nigeria) is called Ala-Igbo
The Yoruba tribe is one of the tribes with origin from the great Ile-Ife land in Nigeria. Although not the official language used in Nigeria, Yoruba is one of the most spoken languages in Western Africa such as Nigeria and the Benin Republic, with few communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and some parts of Africa.
The number Yoruba speaking Africans is estimated to be around 30 million and it is one of the most spoken languages on the African continent right now. Although not an African country, there are also some Yoruba speakers in Brazil.
There you have it, a list of the most spoken languages on the African continent.
The Arabic language which is mostly used in Northern Africa remains the most popular language in Africa with around 160 Million speakers while Swahili and French occupy the 2nd and 3rd spots respectively.