Languages & Cultures in Africa
Africanity: The Cultural Diversity of Africa
Africa, the cradle of human civilization, with a population of 1.2 billion, or 16% of the world’s population, in 54 nations, is the most culturally diverse continent. It spreads over about 6% of Earth’s total surface area and 20% of the land area, yet, Africa is home to almost a third of the world languages. A dignified 2,000 distinct languages! Spoken by less than a seventh of the world’s population. As an old continent, Africa’s unrivalled cultural diversity, and its contributions to world civilization, is a key to the eternal youth that draws us back to that place where the human race set off to discover our planet. By the same token, without culture and the relative freedom it implies, the stories of Africa would cease to be vibrant, for culture, in its novelty, embodies the credo, outlook, philosophy, arts, and institutions so dear to Africa. It may be divulged that today, Africa’s cultural diversity is much over mingled with European traits. And this is true, considering her history. But, her diversity, sometimes referred to as Ubuntu (I am, because you are), more proper Africanity – the quality or state of being African or of having African origins – is the fundamental pillar for the assembly of her social fabric. It has, and continues to, credibly contribute to the survival and revival of the identity of the untold cultures; some confined to as small a geographical precinct as a village. It then may come as a surprise to realize even in Africa, a language is lost every three months, and, if ethnographers forecasts are spot on, that 50% of the world’s languages will be lost in the 21st century. This comes at a time when there’s renewed interest in preserving dying dialects.
About the Languages & Cultures in Africa
The purpose of this article is to give a simple knowledge of the cultural diversity in Africa as they are today. What we now call Africanity is a rare adjective that is derived from the unity of Africa: Arabity (North Africa) and Black Africa (Sub Saharan Africa). It is meant to give the reader an introduction to the sprightly essence of Africanity. It looks at all the 54 countries in Africa and gives simple narratives on the language composition of each, learning about the ethnicities, history and unique languages. Much of the narratives are a result of research by the author and meant to serve as appetisers for the reader and traveller to learn and discover more about Africa. Despite the fact that Africa is an increasingly attractive context for business organizations throughout the world, only a hand ful of studies have examined the impact of culture on business in this context. And although the African continent is made up of 54 nations, only 12 have been included in at least one of the middlebrow cross-cultural studies in recent years.
As we now know, the total number of languages spoken natively across Africa is 2,000, although this can be variously estimated depending on the delineation of language versus dialect, at between 1,250 and 2,100, and by some counts almost 3,000. Making the language and cultural mosaic of Africa an indispensable part of the global diversity. Just the same, the entire principality and association of the languages in Africa is small, all its languages falling into four large phyla or language linguistic groups: Niger-Congo (Niger-Kordofanian), Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan. “This four-way division is overly simplistic, and the true number of African language families likely surpasses twenty, including a number of isolates and sign languages”. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that includes West Africa, over 1,500 languages are spoken, most falling under Niger-Congo family. Many of the prominent languages spoken across Central, Eastern and Southern Africa belong to the Bantu language family, the largest subgroup of Niger-Congo. In North Africa, across the Arabic belt, the main language family is the Afro-Asiatic, which includes languages spoken in both the Middle East and Africa. Subgroups of Afroasiatic include Berber, Cushitic, Omotic, Chadic, Semitic and Egyptian. Berber languages such as Tamazight, Kabyle, and Tuareg are spoken in North Africa. Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken mainly across the Sahara to eastern Africa, in countries like Mali, Chad, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia. “The Khoisan languages are not one family, but rather are consisted of Kx’a, Tuu and Khoe-Kwadi families in and around the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, and isolates Hadza and Sandawe spoken in Tanzania.
Non-native languages also play a role in Africa, especially the European languages of the former colonizers, French, English and Portuguese, but also Afrikaans, an originally Germanic language which diverged through contact with southern African languages; and Malagasy, spoken in Madagascar, related to Austronesian dialects of Indonesia.
Cultural Diversity in Africa
To a great extent a Muslim state, Algeria has a tiny population of Christians. Total population was 43 million (2019). Ethnically, the societies are fairly homogeneous, with majority Arabs (80%), and minority Berbers (20%). Settler ‘Europeans’ make-up less than 1%. Furthermore, the Berbers are forked into four major groupings, the largest of these, the Kabyles, living around Kabylia Mountains east from Algiers. The Chaouias live around Aurès Mountains, the M’zabites near northern Sahara and the Tuaregs in the S. Desert
Formerly divided into different kingdoms, Angola, discovered in 1482 by Portuguese ramblers, was a veritable trade outpost for India and Southeast Asia thanks to its lengthy coastline. Later, it became a major source of slaves for Portuguese Colony of Brazil. With a population of 32 million (2019), Angola is well culturally diverse with nearly 100 cultures and languages. The larger ethnic tribes are the Ambundu (25%), the Ovimbundu (30%) and the Bakongo (9%) Chokwe, Fioti and Avambo among vast tribes. Angolan culture is mostly Bantu, mixed with Portuguese culture.
Benin, 114,763 km2 in area, is a key-shaped nation with its sharp tip thrust into the Gulf of Guinea. It’s mostly a flat nation with sand banks that make access to the 121 km coast a bit difficult. Known as Dahomey (its French name) until 30th November, 1975, it is home to 12 million (2019). The national language of Benin is French, with eight notable ethnic tribes: Fon, Yoruba, Mina, Goun, Dendi, Bariba, Ditamarri, Edo, and the Fulfulde. Each tribe has its unique, recognizable attire, with different colour patterns, mainly dorned for occasions. The largest religious families are: the Roman Catholics, Voodooism, and Islam.
Republic of Botswana, evenly about the same size as Kenya or France – 581,730 km2 in area – is among the sparsely populated countries in Africa, with just 2.5 million persons (2019). Even so, flourishing Botswana is home to more than 20 ethnic groups who voice languages belonging to two of the four weighty lingua-franca families of Africa: Khoisan and Bantu. Botswana’s main Bantu language Setswana spoken as a first language by at least 80% of the populace, is also considered as national. English is the official government language. The eight main ethnic groups are Tswana, Kalanga, Bayei, Batswapong, Babirwa, Basarwa, Bukushu, Basubia. Other cultures include the Bherero and Bakgalagadi.
In the heart of West Africa, 1000 km from the coastline, Burkina Faso, with a land surface area of 274,200 km2 and a population of 20.1 million (at 2019), is home to more than 60 ethnic groups, each with its especial cultural customs and patterns of organization. The history of Burkina Faso is rich in the existence of structurally well ordered kingdoms, like: Yatenga, Ouagadougou, Tenkodogo, and N’Gourma. Mossi (40%) are the largest ethnic group, followed by the Fulani (10%), Bobo (7.5%) and Lobi (7%). Other groupings include – Bissa, Bwa, Dioula, Gourounsi, Mandé (r) and the Sénoufo. French is the national language, but Mooré (the lingo of the Mossi), is also widely spoken. Smaller groups include: Dioula, Gurmanche and Fula. Most of these cultures still maintain their traditional systems of hierarchy.
The significant ethnic groups in Burundi are the Hutu (84%), Tutsi (14%) and the Twa (1%). Burundi’s diversity is pegged on local traditions and the influence of neighboring countries. So that, this is one of a handful of African nations with a sense of ‘linguistic homogeneity’. The inhabitants of Burundi Rep. (with a population of 11.5 million in 2019) all speak the same national language, well known as Kirundi. French is the first foreign language of Burundi, but English is progressively being affected. Swahili is also spoken in towns and around L. Tanganyika.
Cape Verde, an island country of a chain of 10 volcanic islands, with a gross area of 4,033 km2, lies 570 km off the west coast of Africa in central Atlantic Ocean. Since achieving independence in 1975 (a colony of Portugal from 1460) it has evolved into a stable democracy, making considerable progress in domestic growth. The islands hosts a scattered citizenry of 543,767. Whilst Portuguese is the national language, Creole, a merge of Portuguese vocabulary and African locution, is the most widely spoken. Each island has a clear-cut variant of the language, generally split from two primary branches: Barlavento Creoles and Sotavento (Brava) Creoles
Cameroon 475,412 km2 in size with a population of 25.7 million (2019) – is home to not less than 240 languages. These include 55-Afro-Asiatic languages, 2 Nilo-Saharan dialects, 4 Ubangian languages and 169 Niger Congo languages. This latter comprises: 1 Senegambian dialect known as Fulfulde; 28 Adamawa (h) dialects and 142 Benue-Congo languages – 130 of these being of Bantu roots. French and English are the state’s legal languages: A ‘heredity’ of Cameroon’s colonial past as colony of both France and Britain, from 1916 to 1960. Eight out of the ten areas of Cameroon are primarily francophone, which accounts for close to 83% of the population. Anglophone are 17%.
Plausibly the centermost country in Africa, the landlocked 622,984 km2 Central Africa Republic, with a population of 5.12 million (2019), engulfed by Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, DRC & Cameroon, is among the shrouded places in Africa simply because the effects of skirmishes and warfares have rendered is one of the poorest in Africa and globally. Be that as it may, C.A.R is elegantly culturally diverse with about 83 languages utilized across it. The biggest of these are: Gbaya (33%), Banda (27%), Mandjia (13.1%), Sarra (11.2%), Mbum (7.5%), Ngbaka (4%). Smaller groups include the forest-dwelling Pygmy, Greek, Yakoma & Yemeni. The nation lingos’ are French and Sangho.
Chad, a landlocked country in North-Central Africa, spanning 1.284 million km2 – of vast, arid plains in center, desert in north, dry mountains in northwest, and tropical lowlands in south – only has 3% of arable and fertile land, and none of it has perennial crop. Remarkably, over 190 indigenous dialects are spoken across Chad, by the 16.1 million inhabitants. A vernacular adaptation of Arabic, Chadian Arabic, is the national lingua franca and the language of business, spoken by 40 to 60% of the citizenry. Chad’s two national languages have slighter speakers than native Chadian Arabic, with French being concentrated in the capital (N’Djamena) while usual Arabic is ubiquitous in the north.
The state languages of the Union of Comoros are French and C. Arabic. Although each language holds alike recognition under the constitution, language use varies across Comoros. Their unofficial minority languages, in particular Malagasy and Swahili, are also spoken on the Island with limited use. Located in the Indian Ocean, betwixt Republic of Mozambique and Madagascar, with four major islands (Ngadizja, Mwali, Maoré and Ndzouani), the Comoros has a land surface of 2,236 km2 with almost 340 km of coastline. The citizenry as at 2019 was 835,000.
Democratic Republic of the Congo is a multilingual nation, where an deemed total of almost 250 unique linguas are used. The official language is French. Four of its natal dialects have the clout of national language: Kituba (or Kikongo), Lingala, Swahili and Tshiluba. Claimed as the cradle of the widespread Bantu lineage, they make up a general majority. Of these, the Luba, Kongo, Teke, Mongo, Rwanda, Azande, Bangi, Rundi, and Boa (alongside their sub-groups) account for 80% of its citizenry. Notable non-Bantu tribes include: Pygmy (Bambuti, Twa and Babinga), Alur, Banda, Barambu, Adamawa, Mangbetu, Bari, Logo and Tusti. In spite of its rich cultural tapestry, tumult and tribal strifes as have adverse post-colonial policies, exploiting Africa’s richest mineral hotspots, rendered D.R.C one of the direful and politically disunited in Africa
Immediately west of D.R.C is the arboreous Republic of Congo, with a population of 5.21 million (2018) over a land surface area of 342,000 km2. Largely covered by dense tropical forest, with Gabon straddling its entire boundary, it is sparsely populated, with more than half of its populace residing in its two largest cities of Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville. Similar to D.R.C, Congo is culturally varied, with almost 55 ethnic groups the largest of these belonging to the Bantu family. Kongo is the most widespread, accounting for 50% of the population. Other common tribes are Teke (17%), M’Boshi (12%) and Pygmies (2.5%). The Congo’s state language is French.
Côte d’Ivoire, expanding over 322,463 km2 with a population of 25 million (2019), is a highly ethnically-diverse country with more than 80 indigenous ethnic groups, belonging to five major ethno-linguistic groups: Akan (32%), Voltaic (or Gur) (15%), Krou (9%), Northern Mandé (12.1%) and Southern Mandé (9%). All these key groups have good linguistic and cultural ties with groups in nearby countries: Krou in Liberia; Kwa related to Akan of Ghana, Togo and Benin; while the Mandé are also found in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Burkina Faso; and Gur in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana
Positioned at the Bab el Mandeb Strait, that links the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in Northeast Africa, with a nation area of 23,200 km2 and population of about 958,920 (2018), Djibouti is inhabited by two major cultural groups: Afar or Danakil, and Somali. Despite the historic rivalry between these tribes, they are Muslim, Cushitic-speaking, with nomadic customs; and have close cultural affinities. The Afar is an ethnic group that resides in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Eritrea and comprises 35 percent of Djibouti’s population and lives mainly in southern Djibouti. The Issa (Muslim), who also thrive in Somalia and in Ethiopia make up 60 percent of the population and live mainly in northern Djibouti. In addition to the Issa and Afar, varied Europeans, Arabs, and Ethiopians live in Djibouti. 94 percent of the people are Muslim
As is with ample African nations, woeful colonial and post-colonial policies in Equatorial Guinea did not propitiate equality among the culturally diverse citizenry. After independence 1968 – previously a Spanish territory – inequalities pilled between tribal groups and migrants, and also within each of the groups. In 1969, the fronting of the Fang, their largest culture, against the myriad ethnic groups of E. Guinea has been studied as a focal impediment to its growth and development. Other notable groups, include: Bubi, Ndowe, Annobonese, Bissio, Bujeba, Fernandinos and Pichingliss.
Nothing, perhaps, says more of Egypt than its ancient Egyptian Language, an extinct Afroasiatic language expressed in pharaonic Egypt – 2600 BC until 2100 BC; oft-times referred to as Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Although ancient Egyptian is an extinct language, the current most-widely spoken language, Egyptian, has retained its name. Despite having a robust population of 100 million (2019), Egypt is, at best, homogenous in its diversity, identifying itself as an Arab nation: The distinction between Arab and Egyptian well recognised among Egyptians and Arabs alike. Egyptian-Arabic is the most spoken and its national language. Minor dialects include: Nubian, Bedouin, & Saidi Arabic.
Until the late nineteenth century, the high plateau of present-day State of Eritrea was a part of the Ethiopian province of Tigray. Hence, its cultures are alike, and more so the Tigraya who account for 32% of its 3.2 million citizens. English, Tigrinya, and Arabic are the official languages. Each of its nine cultures – Tigraya (32%), Saho (5.2%), Afar (5%), Bilen (3%), Hedareb (3%), Kunama (2%), Nara (2%) and Rashaida (0.5%) – has its unique oral and literary traditions, its music and customs, architectures, arts and crafts. Spanning 117,598 km2 in North-Eastern Africa, Eritrea is very culture-bound, its citizenry taking deep pride of their ethnos. 63% of the Eritrean population is affiliated to Christianity. Islam is the religion for more or less 36%.
Located near the North-Eastern horn of Africa, Ethiopia, with a land surface area of 1.14 million km2, has a big population of 110 million (2019); the second most populous country in Africa. Set on the highest plateau in Africa, comprised of rugged mountains, elevated highlands, deep gorges and river valleys that’re dissected by major rivers such as Blue Nile, Tekeze, Awash, Omo, and Wabii Shebelle. There are more than 80 cultural groups in Ethiopia, with seven major cultural groups and languages. The two predominant ethnic groups are Oromo (34%) and Amhara (27%). The Tigre (6%) has had a political majority within its government since 1991.
Gabon, one of the most sparsely populated nations in Africa, with a population of 2 million (2018), occupies 267,668 km2 in Central Africa – along the Gulf of Guinea with the Republic of Congo lining the eastern boundary. Rainforest covers more than 80% of Gabon, making it one of the most heavily forested countries on the planet. Hence, the areas with the highest population are the urban centers of Libreville, Franceville and Port Gentil. 40 ethnic groups dwell in Gabon, all of Bantu ethnic origin excepting the Pygmy groups. The largest ethnic group is the Fang. Other major groups are: Myené, Nzébi, Mpongwé, Bapounou, Bandjabi, Mitsogho, Bateke / Obamba, Punu and the Eshira
The smallest of all the mainland African countries, with a surface area of 11,295 km2 and populace of 2.3 million, Gambia is all but engulfed by Senegal except for a small Atlantic coastline. Home to the ancient Mandinka Kingdoms, a heritage that still greatly sways its internal borders, it is home to 10 ethnic groups. None, though, are exclusive to Gambia, as each can also be found in Senegal and other West African countries. All of Gambia’s languages fall under the Niger-Congo family, divided in two major branches: Mande and Atlantic. Further these are split into: Bambara, Jahanka, Mandinka, Serahule: Mande; Fula, Serer, Wolof, Balanta, Bainunka, Jolla, Karoninka and Manjago: Atlantic descent.
Relatively small in size within the exotic West Africa block, Ghana, which covers 238,535 km2 with a population of 30 million in 2018, is also dubbed as the Gold Coast; evocative of the foremost place in Africa where ‘Europeans’ arrived to transact in gold and slaves. Its population is a patchwork of vast ethnic groups comprising dozens of robust ethnic groups, notably: Akans, Guan, Ewes, Gonjas, Dagombas, Walas, Dagabas, Gas, and Frapras. Other ethnic tribes are: Ga-Adangbe, Keta, Aflao Mole, Dagbani, Gonja, Mamprusi, and Dagombas. It is thought that over 90 languages are spoken in Ghana, the largest, Akan, used by 44% of the people.
Guinea in West Africa, spread over 245,857 km2 with a goodly population of 13 million (2019), is home to over 20 native tribes. In addition to these indigenous languages, French is used as the official language; and Arabic is used as the language of Islam, a majority religion. There are four linguistically relevant regions in the country each one dominated by one of Guinea’s three popular languages: Sussu (20%), Pular (34%) and the Maninka (33%). Smaller groups, mostly from the Forest Region, such as Bassari, Coniagui, Guerze, Kissi, Tia, Kono, and Toma, make up the remaining 19%. Some languages spoken in Guinea are singular to one village while others are used almost nationally and regionally.
There are between 22-40 unique ethnic tribes in Guinea Bissau. Its largest, Fula, who live mainly in the eastern part of the country (Gabú and Bafatá), make up 30% of its population; followed by the Balanta (23%), who live mainly in the south (in Catió) and in the north (Oio). Other robust groups include the: Mandinga (15.5%), Papel (9%) and Manjaco (8%). Smaller tribes include: Beafada (3%), Mancanha (3%), Bijagó (2%), Felupe (2%), Mansianca (1.4%) and Balanta Mane (1%). The Nalu, Saracole and Sosso account for less than 1%. Guinea-Bissau (36,125 km2) is located in Western Africa between Senegal, Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 1.874 million.
The 44 groupings of Kenya are divided ethnologically into three main classes – those of Cushitic origin, Nilotic origin and Bantu origin. In 2017, Makonde tribe originally from Mozambique and Kenyans of Indian descent were recognized as the 43rd and 44th tribes. Today, the largest ethnic grouping in Kenya, the Kikuyu, represent, along with the Luhya and Kamba, the greatest quota of speakers of Bantus, making up 20%, 13% and 11% of the society, respectively. The Nilot- speaking Luo, numerically the 2nd-largest group in the population, account for, together with the Kalenjin, 14% and 10%, respectively, of the populace. The rest of the nation’s cultures are much smaller in size.
Lesotho, a landlocked country with a land surface area of total area of 30 350 km2, completely enclosed within the Republic of South Africa, is a mountainous country (60%) that is, uniquely, the only nation in the world that is entirely elevated above 1,000 m in altitude. Her population as at 2019 was almost 2.13 million. For all proximity to South Africa, a culturally-rich nation, Lesotho is rather culturally homogenous, with 97% speaking Basotho or Sesotho; that’s one of its official languages along with English. Even so, some languages native to South Africa are spoken here, accounting for 2%, that include: Baphuthi, Ndebele, and Xhosa.
Liberia’s comparably compact population – 5 million in 2019 – is culturally robust, consisted of at least 16 unique ethnic groups. Kpelle and Bassa (Kru) are the largest and second largest ethnic groups, respectively, with about 21% and 15.1% of the population. Belle, Dey, and Mende groups are among the smallest, making up, each, about 0.5% of the total population. Krahn, who appear to be well represented within the Liberian refugees in the United States, make up 4% of the total population. Historical accounts of Liberia by and large begin by focusing on ‘Americo-Liberians’, whose ancestors founded today’s nation of Liberia in the 19th Cent
Covering 1,759,540 km2 in North Africa, with a coastline of almost 1,800 kms on the Mediterranean, much of hinterland Libya lies in Sahara Desert. Which is why, the majority of its 7 million citizenry (2019) live along the coast and in major cities like Tripoli – not too far inland. The dominant ethnic groups in Libya are Berber and Arab (97%). Arabic-Muslims of mixed Arab-Amazigh ancestry
constitute 97% of the population. The three minorities groups are: Amazigh, Tuareg, and Tebu. These minority ethnic groups are predominantly Sunni Muslim but “associated” with their respective cultural and linguistic heritages, rather than with Arab traditions.
Madagascar, an island country resembling an oval sketched with an unsteady hand, located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, has a total land surface of 587,041 km2; including its small offshore islands. Her population as at 2018 was almost 26 million. Madagascar’s cultural diversity is quite a unique fusion of elements drawn from the western, eastern, and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, blended in various ways – historically and ecologically – to form its own culture. Malagasy, that has twelve variations, is the most spoken language. Along the west coast area, Makoa, a Bantu lingua of Mozambique, is spoken as a second language. The minor languages are: Arabic, English & Shimaore. Official languages are its local Malagasy and French
Previously known as the British Protectorate later as Nyasaland, Malawi is a multiethnic nation, largely comprised of the Chewa, Yao, Tumbuka, Nyiha, Sena, Lomwe, Batonga, Banyanga, Nkhonde, Ngoni, Asians and Europeans. The Chewa people form the largest ethnic group and by and large reside in the central districts around the capital city of Lilongwe. Their language known as Chichewa is Malawi’s national language. Yao group, the second largest, mainly occupy the south district(s). A landlocked country, with an area of 118,484 km2 and population of 18.1 million (2018), mainly lies along the Rift Valley.
Despite being a very large nation expanding over 1.24 million km2 in West Africa regarded as one of the poorest in the world, Mali is world-famous for its rich cultural diversity. Its population of 19.08 million (2018) is split into twelve ethnic groups (with seven major groups) each speaking a different dialect. The largest of the groups, the Bambara, reside in Central and Southern Mali and converse in Bamanakan, a language which has been promoted as the state’s national language since self-rule. There are varied ethnic groups in Northern Mali, most notably of: Fulani, Moors, and Berbers, like Tuareg. In spite of this, there are deep diversities between and even within these groups, as well as betwixt the ‘North’ and ‘South’ groupings. Mande, Senufo and Dogon stand out among Niger–Congo Bantu fam of West Africa.
Islamic Republic of Mauritania extending over 1.03 million km2 in West Africa, with only a small population of 4.4 million (2018), has a great degree of diversity in geography, climate, ethnicity and culture. Still and all, almost 90% of the country’s area is classified as desert – the northern territory being much drier and wasteland compared to the south. A French colony up until 1960, a variety of Arabic, Hassàniyya, that’s native to the Moors, is the language of close to 80% of the people. Some of the smaller groupings include: the Soninke, Fulani, Tukolor , Wolof and Bambara — all of the Niger-Congo family. Arabic is the official language; Fula, Wolof and Soninke also being endorsed.
Since independence in 1968 – a former British Empire territory, Mauritius, an island country of 2,040 km2, located off the south-eastern coast of Africa, got about on the task of rapidly expanding, with huge success, earning it the sobriquet of ‘tiger’ of the Indian Ocean. Now home to almost 1.3 million (2018), the people fall in five major groups, blended from its history as both a British and French land: Indo-Mauritian (68.5%), Creole (27.1%), Sino-Mauritian (3.1%), the Franco -Mauritian (1%) and the splinter group of the Chagos Islanders.
The Berber group, who were first to inhabit Morocco 5,000 years ago, are the biggest tribe, making up 50.1% of the populace. Locally dubbed as Shlooh, they are split into three major groups: Berbers from the Rif settled in north, who speak Tarifit; the Berbers from the Middle Atlas area, who speak Tamazight; and those from the High Atlas and Souss South area, who speak Tashelheet. Next to settle-in, in the Seventh Century, the Arabs, account for 40.2% of the citizenry. Arabic is the official language in Morocco Arabic, with most no matter the ethnic family, using it. Owing to its recent past as colony of France up until 1956, French is also moderately used. 446,550 km2 in surface area with a population of 36 million (2018) its locale in North Africa has also influenced language and culture, with Spanish been spoken fairly
There are at least ten languages used across Mozambique, key among these being Emakhuwa (26%), Xichangana (11%), the official language of Portuguese (8.8%), Elomwe (8%), Cisena (7%) and Echuwabo 5.8%. The lesser ethnic groups and dialects include Swahili, Chopi, Sena, Tsonga, Makonde, Kimwani, Makhuwa, Chuwabu, Ronga, and Lomwi. When Mozambique gained self-rule from Portugal, in 1975, the challenge of re-turning the assimilados to Mozambicans citizens arose. Covering 801,590 km2 with a population of almost 30 million (2018), there is strong expression of cultures via poetry, song and art across Mozambique.
Situated in Southern Africa with its western border straddling the Atlantic Ocean, Namibia, with a surface area of 825,419 km2 and population of 2.51 million (2018) equating to a density of 2 people per km2, holds one of the lowest population distribution, globally. There are about 13 unique ethnic groups, and, with its history as a German Colony and under South Africa apartheid, aspects of these regimes. Alongside the Khoisan are groups including: Setwana, Owambo, Herero, Kavango, Tswana, Himba, Caprivians, Nama, Kuhane, and Damara.
Situated in the Sahel, the eye of the sun in Africa, settlement in Niger is dictated by its natural environment, much of it hot and dry, with about half being desert wasteland. Despite its whooping sphere of 1.267 million km2, the 6th largest in Africa, its populace is still under 25.1 million, mostly dwelling in the southern quarter where the only arable land in the country is found. Howbeit, Niger has been inhabited for more than 6,000 years. The eminent Hausa Kingdom thrived here as far back as thirteenth Century. Today, the Hausa language is expressed by 50% of its citizenry. Other native dialects include: Djerma, Fulani, Manga, Zarma, Tuareg, Songhai, Kanuri, Tebu, Fulfulde, Buduma Tassawaq and Arabic. The official languages are French and Arabic.
Without doubt, the most culture diverse state in all of Africa, and perhaps world wide, there are no less than 370 different languages spoken throughout Nigeria. All these dialects are split into three extensive linguistic groups: Nilo-Saharan, Afro-Asiatic and Niger-Congo; the latter having at least ten major branches. Considered the meeting place of Africa’s vast culture, religions and ethnicities. Currently, the most populous of the countries in Africa, home to 196 million (2018), her diversity has not always been a “blessing”, sparking ethnic clashes over the eras. English is the most spoken language in Nigeria. Other major dialects include: Hausa, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, Edo, Tiv, Izon, Nupe, Igala and Creole.
Rwanda – 26,338 km2 in size with a population of 12.1 million (2019) – has two major groups: Hutus (85%) and Tutsi (14%), and the minority Twa (1%). For millennia, these three ethnically distinct tribes coexisted genially. The Tutsis, an elite minority, are generally tall and slim, and were traditionally pastoralists. Hutus majority are stocky and stronger by fibre, and have for eons being traditionally farmers. The Twa, a marginalized minority group, are a community of pygmy. It wasn’t up until Belgian colonization that the antipathy between the Hutus and Tutsi became ideated on race
São Tomé and Príncipe, an archipelago of volcanic origin in the Gulf of Guinea, just south of the Equator and 321 km west of Gabon on Africa’s mainland, has a land surface area of 1,001 km2 and with a population of 211,028 (2018) is the 2nd least populated African country, after Seychelles. It has five key tribes: Mesticos, descended from African workers and Europeans, are also dubbed as filhos da terra; Forros are the descendants of the slaves freed at abolition; whilst the Servicais are contracted African plantation slaves from elsewhere in Africa – Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde; Tongas delineate their descendants, born on the island; Angolares are descended from Angolan survivors of a 16th Cent. shipwreck. The sixth society are Europeans notably Portuguese.
Signally set between the edge of Sahara Desert and the Atlantic, Senegal, home to 16 million as at 2018 and spread over 196,722 km2, has, for centuries, served a bridge allying Africanity, Islamic and many European civilizations; which partly accounts for its rich cultural diversity with more than 36 languages spoken. 12 of these being large. The largest and most influential ethnic grouping is the Wolof, that accounts for 45% of the population. Deemed national in its outlook, most ethnic tribes in Senegal embrace elements of its culture. Other weighty groups include: Fulani (24.5%), Serer (15%) Toucouleur (9%), Diola (5%), Lebu (4.3%), Mandinka (4%), Pulaar, Soninke, Ganja, Mankanya and Mandjak. 90% of the people identify as Muslim. French is the national language.
Made up of 115 islands – spread over an area of 455 km2 – off the East Coast of Africa, Seychelles was first inhabited circa 1770 by the French, leading a small party of ‘whites’, Indians, and Africans. Later, this territory was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Then gained self-rule in 1976. 90% of the population live on the main island of Mahé. Now home to 96,762 (at 2018), it has retained its multi ethnic roots as a melting pot of various cultures. The major language on the island is Seselwa or Seychelles Creole a French based version of Creole spoken by 95% of the population. Other major dialects spoken are: French, English, Swahili and Malagasy. The main religion in the Seychelles is Roman Catholic.
Ethnologically Sierra Leone is home to 16 major cultures, with over 150 sub-groups. The major tribes – Mende, Temne, Krio, Fula, Susu, Mandigo, Kono, Kuranko, Loko, Limba, and Yalunka – account for 80% of the tribe diversity. Most of Sierra Leone’s indigenous languages are robust and enjoy strong support on national level. The estimated number of common languages in Sierra Leone is close to 20, most belonging to one of the two main language families – Mende and Temne. The only North Atlantic language is Fula; descendants of rovers or migrants from Guinea.
Oft-times the charismatic Somali people have been represented as homogeneous, in view of 95% of the people of Somalia are ethnic Somalis – who regard themselves one tribe after whom the country took its name. This sheer weight of their number and unity makes the Somali one of Africa’s largest ethnic group. Somali, a Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family, is the official language, spoken by over 90% of the people. It is split into 3 unique groups: Benaadir, Northern, and Maay. Minority ethnicities include: Chimwiini and Bajun. 637,655 km2 in size, at the Horn of Africa, Somalia is home to about 16 million (2019).
South Africa has been suitably referred to as the rainbow nation because it is made up of so many diverse cultures and religions. So much so, that there are 11 official languages: Afrikaans, Tsonga, Tswana, Ndebele, Southern Sotho, English, Venda, Zulu, Eswati, Xhosa and Northern Sotho. These are among thirty-five dialects indigenous to South Africa; with 19 major tribes. The black population of South Africa is divided into four major ethnic groups: Nguni (Swazi, Ndebele, Xhosa and Zulu) Sotho, Venda and Tsonga. A majority of the white population (about 60%) is of Afrikaans descent, with most of the remaining 40% belonging to British or European ancestry.
Africa’s newest state, coming into existence in 2011 after decades of long wars, South Sudan, covers 619,745 km2 with a population of about 11 million (2018). It is now confronted with the urgent quest of nation building which includes practical decisions on aligning its multiethnic society. It hosts more than sixty cultural and linguistic groups, most with sub tribes, and each has a stronger sense of tribe than in the nation. The main glue that binds the country’s multiple ethnicities together is the history of their struggle for freedom and collective opposition to the north Its main tribes are chiefly Nilotic: Dinka, Bari, Latuka, Azande, Nuer, Acholi, Antuak, Kaligi, Toposa, Jie, Didinka & Kuku.
Although it’s almost three times as big as South Sudan, covering about 1,861,484 km2, the Islam pitched Sudan is less culturally diversified. Since the separation – between the North and South – in July of 2011, Islam now takes up over 96% of the population in Sudan. Islamic Sharia is now the source of legislation. It’s thought that about 90 ethnic groups exist in Sudan, though it must be said that many, since war sprung-up in 1993, like Nuer, Dinka, Fur, Lwo, Nubs, Hadendoa, Beja and Zande groups, have all but fled persecution in the North. Its national language is Sudanese Arabic. Lesser dialects include: Beja, Tigre, Domari and Nubian.
The Kingdom of Swaziland is located in southeastern Africa. It is landlocked by South Africa on all the sides excepting to the east where it borders Mozambique. It has a total area of 17, 360 km2 of a mountainous and hilly country with middling moderate sloping plains. The estimated population was 1.2 million (2019). Swaziland has two official (state) languages: Swati, the national language, is spoken by more than 95% of the population, while English is the second official language, spoken and understood by most. Zulu, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, is also spoken to a lesser extent, as is Tsonga and Afrikaans. Other lingos spoken include the Chewa from Malawi, and Sotho (Sesotho) of Lesotho.
With almost 160 different ethnic groups, Republic of Tanzania has evolved an exalted linguistic diversity among the countries of Africa – with all four substantial language families, ranging from Bantus, Cushitic and the Nilotic groups, to the minority Khoisan. Impressively, Tanzanians share strong feelings of national pride and coherence, with no political and economic dominance by any of these ethnic tribes. And while each group has its own language, nearly all its citizenry, 56 million in 2018, speak the state language of Kiswahili. The use of a single common language has fostered a model of how to manage cultural diversity and ethnicities in Africa
Despite the small size of the long and narrowed Togo, spread over 56,785 km2 between Ghana and Benin in West Africa, it’s a richly multilingual country which hosts 37 spoken languages in its dense population of 8.2 million (2019). The official language is French. Two indigenous languages were designated politically as national languages (in 1975): Kabiyé and Ewé. Minority languages include the Gen language, spoken widely in Southeast Togo and along the Maritime regions. Gbe language is also spoken in southern Togo.
With a population of 11,565,204, and 70% of these residing in the urban areas, Tunisia has a more or less homogeneous ethnicality: About 98% Arab or Berber, 1% of European origin and 1% are from other backgrounds. Today, the Tunisian society is marked by a strong traditional culture while struggling with the acceptance of new practices. Carthage Festival, mostly music related, is the most visible and publicly backed event in Tunisia. The national language is Arabic. French is the second main national language. Tunisia is dominated by its buzzy capital city, Tunis. The other main cities are set along the coast, to include Bizerte, Sousse, Sfax, and Gabès.
Uganda, in Central East Africa, and landlocked between Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan, Kenya and the DRC, expands over 241,040 km2 with a 3,500 km shoreline along Lake Victoria. Her est. 43 million inhabitants fall into 56 different cultures and languages currently adopted around Uganda. Whilst English and Swahili are Uganda’s two official languages, Luganda is the most widely used language. It is mainly spoken by the famed Baganda group, who dwell in and around Kampala and most urban areas. The lesser Runyankore-Rukiga and Lusoga languages are spoken in the south-western and south-east areas of Uganda.
Zambia, a landlocked nation in Southern Africa, surrounded by eight countries, covering 752 610 km2, has a population 18 million (2019). It has at least 73 cultural groups. The prevalent indigenous languages spoken are: Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, Lunda, Kaonde and Luvale, to which almost 90% of Zambians belong to. There are numerous smaller indigenous language groups like: Lamba, Ila, Mambwe, Aushi, Lala, Lenje, Namwanga and Tumbuka, and so many others.
Zimbabwe boasts 16 languages, viz: Chewa, Chibarwe, Ndau, English, Kalanga, Shangani, Khoisan, Nambya, Ndebelle, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Batonga, Xhosa, Tswana and Venda. The country’s dominant languages are Shona, spoken by just about 70% of the population, and Ndebele, spoken by roughly 20%. English is the official state lingua-franca. The largest ethnic group, making up about 80% of the population, is Shona. They have a well established regional clan structure, with six disparate groups: Manyika, Ndau, Zezuru, Karanga, Korekore and the Rozvi
Dance in Cultural Expression
Music and dance expression are a salient and constitutive function of cultural expression across the planet. In an age of concentrated expression in assorted forms of art reflecting the native essence, dance in cultural expression in Africa could be said to in its gilded age, as it receives an ever-growing interest and global attention. However, there is no single way to define music and dance in cultural expression. Finding an agreed upon definition of its uses and forms is rather challenging. Differences and variation of dances across Africa may lead to the perception that one culture is different from the immediate neighbour or as a variation that exists within and across groups on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, and social status. In general terms, the diversity of dances in Africa can be broadly conceived as all the ways in which people are different: Including both visible and invisible differences that exist between people both at individual and group level. Dance expression and linguistic diversity were common features of most African countries even before the arrival of European colonizers. Nevertheless, European colonization influenced the ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of most African nations.