List of official, national and spoken languages of Africa.


In Addis Ababa the African Union (AU) has adopted Swahili as its official language, practicing what it has been preaching about the use of indigenous languages. so in this post i will be listing out the official, national and spoken languages of Africa.

Africa’s widely spoken language had its first try here with outgoing AU chairperson Joaquim Chissano delivering his entire speech in Swahili, during the opening of the AU Heads of State and Government Summit, which began here this morning.

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Africa is a continent with a very high linguistic diversity, there are an estimated 1500-2000 African languages.
Of these languages four main groupings can be distinguished:

Afro-Asiatic (appoximately 200 languages) covering nearly Northern Africa (including the horn of Africa, Central Sahara et the top Nile)


Nilo-Saharian gathering appoximately 140 languages with some eleven millions speakers scattered in Central and Eastern Africa.


Niger-Saharian (Niger-Congo) covering the two third of Africa with as a principal branch the Niger-Congo which gathers more than 1000 languages with some 200 millions speakers. The Bantu languages of Central, Southern, and Eastern Africa form a sub-group of the Niger Congo branch.

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Khoisan gathering about thirty languages in Western part of Southern Africa.

List of official, national and spoken languages of Africa

                Algeria

Arabic, Berber languages, four dialects (by constitutional amendment)   French

                Angola

Portuguese        Narrow Bantu like Umbundu and other African languages.

                Benin

French  Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north).

                Botswana

Setswana (national language with minor differences in dialects), English is the official business language and it is widely spoken in urban areas.   

                Burkina Faso

French  Native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population.

                Burundi

Kirundi, French Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area).

                Cameroon

English, French  24 major African language groups.

                Cape Verde

Portuguese        Kabuverdianu (Crioulo) (a blend of Portuguese and West African words).

                Central African Republic

French, Sangho (lingua franca and national language)      Banda, Gbaya and other tribal languages.

                Chad

French, Arabic   Sara (in south), more than 120 different languages and dialects.

                Comoros

Arabic, French   Shikomoro (a blend of Swahili and Arabic).

                Democratic Republic of the Congo

French  Lingala (a lingua franca trade language), Kingwana (a dialect of Kiswahili or Swahili), Kikongo, Tshiluba.

                Congo, Republic of the

French  Lingala and Monokutuba (lingua franca trade languages), many local languages and dialects (of which Kikongo is the most widespread).

                Côte d’Ivoire

French  60 native dialects with Dioula the most widely spoken.

                Djibouti

French, Arabic   Somali, Afar

                Egypt

Arabic   English and French widely understood by educated classes.

                Equatorial Guinea

Spanish, French pidgin English, Fang, Bubi, Ibo.

                Eritrea

Tigrinya (Tigrigna), Arabic, English             Tigré (second major language), Afar, Bedawi, Kunama, other Cushitic languages.

                Ethiopia

Amharic               Tigrinya, Oromo, Gurage, Somali, Arabic, 80 other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)

                Gabon

French  Bantu languages like Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi.

                Gambia, The

English  Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars.

                Ghana

English  African languages (including Akan, Adangme, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga)

                Guinea

French (spoken by 15-20%)          Eight national languages, Soussou (Susu, in coastal Guinea), Peulh (Fulani, in Northrn Guinea), Maninka (Upper Guinea), Kissi (Kissidougou Region), Toma and Guerze (Kpelle) in rain forest Guinea; plus various ethnic groups with their own language.

                Guinea-Bissau

Portuguese        Crioulo (a mixture of Portuguese and African), other African languages.

                Kenya

English, Kiswahili              numerous indigenous languages.

                Lesotho

Sesotho (southern Sotho), English            Zulu, Xhosa.

                Liberia

English 20%         some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence.

                Libya

Arabic   Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities.

                Madagascar

French, Malagasy            

                Malawi

English, Nyanja (Chichewa, Chewa)          Lomwe, Tumbuka, Yao, other languages important regionally.

                Mali

French  Bambara (Bamanakan), Arabic and numerous dialects of Dogoso, Fulfulde, Koyracini, Senoufou, and Mandinka/Malinké (Maninkakan), Tamasheq are also widely spoken.

                Mauritania

Arabic   Hassaniya Arabic, Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof, French

                Mauritius

English, French  Creole, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri

                Morocco

Arabic   Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.

                Mozambique

Portuguese (spoken by 27% of population as a second language) Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena, numerous other indigenous languages.

                Namibia

English 7%           Afrikaans common language of most of the population and about 60% of the white population, German 32%, indigenous languages: Oshivambo, Herero, Nama.

                Niger

French  Hausa, Djerma

                Nigeria

English  Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, Ijaw, Ibibio and about 250 other indigenous languages spoken by the different ethnic groups.

                Réunion

French  Creole widely used

                Rwanda

Rwanda (Kinyarwanda, Bantu vernacular) French, English               Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers.

                Saint Helena     

English 

                São Tomé and Príncipe

Portuguese       

                Senegal

French  Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

                Seychelles

English, French  Creole

                Sierra Leone

English (regular use limited to literate minority) Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

                Somalia

Somali   Arabic, Italian, English

                South Africa

11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, Pedi, Sesotho (Sotho), siSwati (Swazi), Xitsonga (Tsonga), Tswana, Tshivenda (Venda), isiXhosa, isiZulu

                Sudan/South Sudan       

Arabic   Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages, English. note: program of “Arabization” in process

                Swaziland

English (government business conducted in English), siSwati        

                Tanzania, United Republic of

Kiswahili (Swahili), Kiunguju (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education)    Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), Gogo, Haya, Makonde, Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Sukuma, Tumbuka, many other local languages.

                Togo

French (the language of commerce)        Ewe and Mina (the two major African languages in the south), Kabye (Kabiye) and Dagomba (the two major African languages in the north)

                Tunisia

Arabic (and the languages of commerce)               French (commerce)

                Uganda

English (used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts)           Ganda (Luganda; most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, preferred for native language publications), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Acoli, Swahili, Arabic

                Western Sahara                Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic

                Zambia

English  major vernaculars: Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi, Lunda, Luvale, Nyanja, Tonga, and about 70 other indigenous languages.

                Zimbabwe

English  Chishona (Shona), Sindebele (Ndebele), numerous but minor tribal dialects like: Sotho and Nambya, Shangani, Venda, Chewa, Nyanja, and Tonga.