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


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


Portuguese        Narrow Bantu like Umbundu and other African languages.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


French, Arabic   Somali, Afar


Arabic   English and French widely understood by educated classes.

                Equatorial Guinea

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


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


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


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

                Gambia, The

English  Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars.


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


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.


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


English, Kiswahili              numerous indigenous languages.


Sesotho (southern Sotho), English            Zulu, Xhosa.


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


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


French, Malagasy            


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


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


Arabic   Hassaniya Arabic, Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof, French


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


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


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


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


French  Hausa, Djerma


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


French  Creole widely used


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

                Saint Helena     


                São Tomé and Príncipe



French  Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka


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%)


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


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.


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)


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


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


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


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