Africa EENI Global Business School
African Languages

African Languages: Afro-Asiatic, Nile-Saharan, Niger-Congo, Khoisan, Austronesian (Doctorate Africa)

EENI Commitment to the African Development: empowerment of the African Languages

The estimated total number of native African languages is between 1,250 and 2,100 (according to the language definition in relation to the dialect).

Almost all the African countries have an enormous linguistic richness:

  1. More than 500 languages are spoken in Nigeria (190 million inhabitants): Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo
  2. In Burkina Faso there are sixty national languages: Mooré, Fulfudé (Fula) or Dyula
  3. The most important South African languages are Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans

In Africa, a hundred languages are used for inter-ethnic communication: Arabic, Somali, Berber, Amharic, Oromo, Igbo, Swahili, Hausa, Mandinka, Fulani and Yoruba.

  1. 17% of Africans speak an Arabic dialect
  2. 10% of Africans speak Swahili, the East African lingua franca
  3. 5% of Africans speak a Berber dialect
  4. 5% of Africans speak Hausa, a lingua franca in a large part of the Sahel
  5. Other important West African languages are Yoruba, Igbo and Fula
  6. The main languages of the Horn of Africa are Amharic, Oromo and Somali

The African Union declared in 2006 the “Year of the African languages”.

In accordance with the Constitutive Act of the African Union, their working languages are Arabic, English, French and Portuguese, and the African languages “if possible”. A protocol amending the Constitution, adopted in 2003 but not yet ratified by a two-thirds majority of the member states, would add Spanish, Swahili and “any other African language.”

African language groups

Most of the spoken languages in Africa belong to one of the five great African linguistic families:

  1. Niger-Congo Languages (the largest in Africa)
  2. Afro-Asiatic Languages (Camito-Semitic, 300 languages, 350 million people)
  3. Nile-Saharan Languages (60 million people)
  4. Khoisan Languages (South Africa, Kwadi-Khoe, Kx'a, Tuu and Sandawe)
  5. Austronesian Languages (the Malagasy)

The “imported” languages (or associated languages or colonial languages) are: French (115 million), English (130 million), Portuguese (30 million) and Afrikaans. Arabic could be considered as an imported language.

Official African languages by country


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