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List of ethnic groups of Africa

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Ethnic groups in Africa
1996 map of the major ethnolinguistic groups of Africa, by the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division (substantially based on G.P. Murdock, Africa, its peoples and their cultural history, 1959). Colour-coded are 15 major ethnolinguistic super-groups, as follows:
     Hamitic (Berber, Cushitic) + Semitic (Ethiopian, Arabic)
     Hausa (Chadic)
     "Guinean" (Volta-Niger, Kwa, Kru)
     "Western Bantoid" (Atlantic)
     "Central Bantoid" (Gur, Senufo)
     "Eastern Bantoid" (Southern Bantoid)
Nilo-Saharan (unity debated)
     Central Sudanic, Eastern Sudanic (besides Nilotic)
     Khoi-San (unity doubtful; Khoikhoi, San, Sandawe + Hadza)
     Malayo-Polynesian (Malagasy)
     Indo-European (Afrikaaner)

The ethnic groups of Africa number in the thousands, with each ethnicity generally having its own language (or dialect of a language) and culture. The ethnolinguistic groups include various Afroasiatic, Khoisan, Niger-Congo, and Nilo-Saharan populations.

The official population count of the various ethnic groups in Africa is highly uncertain, both due to limited infrastructure to perform censuses and due to rapid population growth. Some groups have alleged that there is deliberate misreporting in order to give selected ethnicities numerical superiority (as in the case of Nigeria's Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo peoples).[1][2][3]

A 2009 genetic clustering study, which genotyped 1327 polymorphic markers in various African populations, identified six ancestral clusters. The clustering corresponded closely with ethnicity, culture, and language.[4] A 2018 whole genome sequencing study of the world's populations observed similar clusters among the populations in Africa. At K=9, distinct ancestral components defined the Afroasiatic-speaking populations inhabiting North Africa and Northeast Africa; the Nilo-Saharan-speaking populations in Northeast Africa and East Africa; the Ari populations in Northeast Africa; the Niger-Congo-speaking populations in West-Central Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa; the Pygmy populations in Central Africa; and the Khoisan populations in Southern Africa.[5]


By linguistic phylum

As a first overview, the following table lists major groups by ethno-linguistic affiliation, with rough population estimates (as of 2016):[citation needed]

Phylum Region Major groups Pop. (millions)
(2016)[citation needed]
Number of groups
Afro-Asiatic North Africa, Horn of Africa, Sahel Amhara, Hausa, Oromo, Somali, Tigrayan 200 200-300[6]
Niger-Congo West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa Akan, Fula, Igbo, Kongo, Mandé, Mooré, Shona, Yoruba, Zulu 900 1650[6]
Nilo-Saharan Nile Valley, Sahel, East Africa Dinka, Kanuri, Luo, Maasai, Nuer, Songhai 60 80[6]
Khoisan Southern Africa, Tanzania Nama, San, Sandawe 1 40-70[6]
Austronesian Madagascar Malagasy 20 1[7]
Indo-European Central Africa, East Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa Afrikaners, British, French 6 3[8]
Total Africa 1.2 billion (UN 2016) c. 2,000[9]

Major ethnic groups

The following is a table of major ethnic groups (10 million people or more):

Major ethnic groups Region Countries Language family Pop. (millions)
Akan West Africa Ghana, Ivory Coast Niger–Congo, Kwa 20[year needed]
Amhara Horn of Africa Ethiopia Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 22 (2007)
Arabs North Africa Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 100+ (2013)[10]
Berbers North Africa Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania Afro-Asiatic, Berber 36 (2016)[11][12][13]
Chewa Central Africa Malawi, Zambia Niger–Congo, Bantu 12 (2007)
Fulani West Africa Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone Niger–Congo, Senegambian 20[year needed]
Hausa West Africa Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan Afro-Asiatic, Chadic 78 (2019)[14]
Hutu Central Africa Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 15[year needed]
Igbo West Africa Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger 34 (2017)
Kanuri Central Africa Nigeria,[15] Niger,[16] Chad,[17] Cameroon[18] Nilo-Saharan, Saharan 10[year needed]
Kongo Central Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 10[year needed]
Luba Central Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 15[year needed]
Mongo Central Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 15[year needed]
Mossi West Africa Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger, Ghana, Mali, Togo Niger–Congo, Bantu 11[year needed]
Nilotes Nile Valley, East Africa, Central Africa South Sudan, Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic 22 (2007)
Oromo Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Kenya Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic 42 (2022)
Shona East Africa Zimbabwe and Mozambique Niger–Congo, Bantoid 15 (2000)
Somali Horn of Africa Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic 20 (2009)
Songhai West Africa Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Algeria Nilo-Saharan 8 (2019)
Yoruba West Africa Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger 40[year needed]
Zulu Southern Africa South Africa Niger–Congo, Bantu 12 (2016)

See also


  1. ^ Onuah, Felix (29 December 2006). "Nigeria gives census result, avoids risky details". Reuters. Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2008.
  2. ^ Lewis, Peter (2007). Growing Apart: Oil, Politics, and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria. University of Michigan Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-472-06980-4. Retrieved 23 November 2008.
  3. ^ Suberu, Rotimi T. (2001). Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria. US Institute of Peace Press. p. 154. ISBN 1-929223-28-5. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
  4. ^ Tishkoff, SA; et al. (2009). "The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans" (PDF). Science. 324 (5930): 1037–39. Bibcode:2009Sci...324.1035T. doi:10.1126/science.1172257. PMC 2947357. PMID 19407144. We incorporated geographic data into a Bayesian clustering analysis, assuming no admixture (TESS software) (25) and distinguished six clusters within continental Africa (Fig. 5A). The most geographically widespread cluster (orange) extends from far Western Africa (the Mandinka) through central Africa to the Bantu speakers of South Africa (the Venda and Xhosa) and corresponds to the distribution of the Niger-Kordofanian language family, possibly reflecting the spread of Bantu-speaking populations from near the Nigerian/Cameroon highlands across eastern and southern Africa within the past 5000 to 3000 years (26,27). Another inferred cluster includes the Pygmy and SAK populations (green), with a noncontiguous geographic distribution in central and southeastern Africa, consistent with the STRUCTURE (Fig. 3) and phylogenetic analyses (Fig. 1). Another geographically contiguous cluster extends across northern Africa (blue) into Mali (the Dogon), Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. With the exception of the Dogon, these populations speak an Afroasiatic language. Chadic-speaking and Nilo-Saharan–speaking populations from Nigeria, Cameroon, and central Chad, as well as several Nilo-Saharan–speaking populations from southern Sudan, constitute another cluster (red). Nilo-Saharan and Cushitic speakers from the Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania, as well as some of the Bantu speakers from Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda (Hutu/Tutsi), constitute another cluster (purple), reflecting linguistic evidence for gene flow among these populations over the past ~5000 years (28,29). Finally, the Hadza are the sole constituents of a sixth cluster (yellow), consistent with their distinctive genetic structure identified by PCA and STRUCTURE.
  5. ^ Schlebusch, Carina M.; Jakobsson, Mattias (2018). "Tales of Human Migration, Admixture, and Selection in Africa". Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics. 19: 10.9–10.10, Figure 3.3 Population structure analysis and inferred ancestry components for selected choices of assumed number of ancestries. doi:10.1146/annurev-genom-083117-021759. PMID 29727585. S2CID 19155657. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Childs, G. Tucker (2003). An Introduction to African Languages. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 9027295883. Retrieved 31 May 2018.: c. 1,650 Niger-Congo, c. 200-300 Afro-Asiatic, 80 Nilo-Saharan, 40-70 Khoisan.
  7. ^ Childs, G. Tucker (2003). An Introduction to African Languages. John Benjamins Publishing. p. x. ISBN 9027295883. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  8. ^ Childs, G. Tucker (2003). An Introduction to African Languages. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. x, 206, 211. ISBN 9027295883. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  9. ^ The total number of languages natively spoken in Africa is variously estimated (depending on the delineation of language vs. dialect) at between 1,250 and 2,100. Heine, Bernd; Heine, Bernd, eds. (2000). African Languages: an Introduction. Cambridge University Press. Some counts estimate "over 3,000", e.g. Epstein, Edmund L.; Kole, Robert, eds. (1998). The Language of African Literature. Africa World Press. p. ix. ISBN 0-86543-534-0. Retrieved 23 June 2011. over 3,000 indigenous languages by some counts, and many creoles, pidgins, and lingua francas.. Niger-Congo alone accounts for the majority of languages (and the majority of population), estimated at 1,560 languages by SIL Ethnologue) ("Ethnologue report for Nigeria". Ethnologue Languages of the World.)
  10. ^ Group, The Diagram (26 November 2013). Encyclopedia of African Peoples. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-96341-5.
  11. ^ Steven L. Danver (10 March 2015). Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures and Contemporary Issues. Routledge. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-317-46400-6. The Berber population numbers approximately 36 million people.
  12. ^ "Berber people". Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  13. ^ "North Africa's Berbers get boost from Arab Spring". Fox News. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
  14. ^ Ososanya, Tunde (15 June 2020). "Hausa tribe is Africa's largest ethnic group with 78 million people". Legit.ng - Nigeria news. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  15. ^ "The World Factbook: Nigeria". World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  16. ^ "The World Factbook: Niger". World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  17. ^ "The World Factbook: Chad". World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  18. ^ Peter Austin, One Thousand Languages (2008), p. 75, https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0520255607:"Kanuri is a major Saharan language spoken in the Lake Chad Basin in the Borno area of northeastern Nigeria, as well as in Niger, Cameroon, and Chad (where the variety is known as Kanembul[)]."