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Main article: African cultural groups
File:Africa ethnic groups 1996.jpg

Ethnic groups in Africa number in the hundreds, each generally having its own language (or dialect of a language) and culture.

Many ethnic groups and nations of Sub-Saharan Africa qualify, although some groups are of a size larger than a tribal society. These mostly originate with the Sahelian kingdoms of the medieval period, such as that of the Igbo of Nigeria, deriving from the Kingdom of Nri (11th century).[1]


For more details on this topic, see Demographics of Africa.

The following ethnic groups number 10 million people or more:

The official population count of the various ethnic groups in Africa has, in some instances, been controversial because certain groups believe populations are fixed to give other ethnicities numerical superiority, such as in the case of Nigeria and the Igbo people.[3][4][5] The same is true in Senegal as well as The Gambia. The Wolof people, Toucouleur people and Lebou people all trace their descend to Serer people and are therefore not an independent ethnic group particularly the Wolof. Yet the Wolof are seen as the largest ethnic group in Senegal and third largest in The Gambia. Other ethnic groups who have assimilated with the Wolof are counted as Wolof when in fact, they are not. Certain organisations are pushing this generally referred to as Wolofization.[6][7][8][9]


Central AfricaEdit

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Aka Nilo-Saharan, Pygmy Aka Central/Northern Western Central African Republic, Northwest Congo The Aka are one of three groups of pygmies, collectively called BaMbuti, of the Ituri Rainforest
Baka Pygmy Baka Central/Northern Western Equatoria in South Sudan 0.25 There is also another ethnic group called Baka living across West Africa.
Chewa Niger–Congo, BantuChichewa Central/Southern Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe 9
Chokwe Niger–Congo, Bantu Chokwe CentralAngola, Congo (Kinshasa), Zambia1.1
Efé Nilo-Saharan, Pygmy Efe Central/Northern Ituri Rainforest of Congo The Efe are one of three groups of pygmies, collectively called BaMbuti, of the Ituri Rainforest
Kongo Niger–Congo, BantuKongo Central Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Republic of the Congo 10
Lingala Niger–Congo, Bantu Lingala Central Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Angola, Central African Republic
Luba Niger–Congo, Bantu Luba-Kasai, Luba-Katanga Central Democratic Republic of the Congo 2
Mbundu Niger–Congo, Bantu Kimbundu Central Angola 2.4
Zande Niger–Congo, Ubangian Zande Central/Northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic 1-4
Ovimbundu Niger–Congo, Bantu Umbundu Central Angola 4.6
Sua Nilo-Saharan, Pygmy Sua Central/Northern Ituri Rainforest of Congo The Sua are one of three groups of pygmies, collectively called BaMbuti, of the Ituri Rainforest

East AfricaEdit

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Alur Nilotic, Luo Alur East/Central Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ganda Niger–Congo, Bantu Ganda East, Great Lakes Uganda 3
HutuNiger–Congo, Bantu Rwanda-Rundi East, Great Lakes Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo 16
KambaNiger–Congo, Bantu Kamba East Kenya
KalenjinHighland Nilotes Kalenjin East Kenya 3
KikuyuNiger–Congo, Bantu Gikuyu East Kenya 5.3
Kwama Nilo-Saharan Kwama East/Northern Ethiopia, Sudan
LuoRiver-Lake Nilotes Luo East Kenya
LuhyaNiger–Congo, Bantu Luhya East Kenya 5.4
MaasaiPlains Nilotes Maasai East Kenya, Tanzania 0.9
MakondeNiger–Congo, Bantu Makonde East/Southern Tanzania, Mozambique 1.3
AmeruNiger–Congo, Bantu Meru East Kenya
TutsiNiger–Congo, Bantu Rwanda-Rundi East Africa, Great Lakes Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, 3
Great Lakes Twa (Batwa)Pygmy Rundi, Kiga Great Lakes Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Eastern Congo 0.8

Horn of AfricaEdit

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Afar Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Af Afar Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea 1.5
Agaw Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Agaw Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Eritrea 1
Amhara Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Amharic Horn of Africa Ethiopia 20
Beja Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Beja Horn of Africa Sudan, Eritrea 2
Gurage Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Gurage Horn of Africa Ethiopia 1.9
Oromo Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Afan Oromo Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya 30
Saho Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Saho Horn of Africa Eritrea, Ethiopia 0.2
Sidama Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Af Sidama Horn of Africa Ethiopia 3
Somali Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Somali Horn of Africa Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya 20
Tigray Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigrinya Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Eritrea 6.7
Tigre Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigre Horn of Africa Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia 1.5

North AfricaEdit

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Egyptians, Arabs Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Egyptian Arabic (Masri) North Africa Egypt 83
Berbers, Arabs Afro-Asiatic, Berber Berber, Arabic languages Maghreb Morocco, Algeria , Libya 75
Dinka Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Dinka languagecentral/northeastern South Sudan 5
Nubians Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Nobiin Northeast Africa Sudan, Egypt 0.5
Nuer Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Nuer language eastern South Sudan 5

Southern AfricaEdit

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Afrikaner Indo-European Afrikaans South South Africa, Namibia 3.0 descendants of early northwestern European settlers
San (Bushmen) Khoisan Khoisan South South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Angola 0.09
Ambo (Ovambo, Owambo) Niger–Congo, Bantu Ovambo South Namibia 0.9
Bemba Niger–Congo, Bantu Bemba language South Zambia 0.2
Herero Niger–Congo, Bantu Herero South Namibia, Botswana, Angola 0.2 Wayeyi]] Niger-Congo, Bantu [[Shiyeyi language| South Namibia, Botswana, Angola 0.3
Himba Niger–Congo, Bantu Otjihimbo (Herero dialect) South Namibia 0.05
Khoikhoi Khoisan Khoekhoegowab South -
Makua Niger–Congo, Bantu Makua South/East Mozambique, Tanzania 1.1
North Ndebele Bantu, Nguni Sindebele South Zimbabwe 1.5
South Ndebele Niger–Congo, Bantu Southern Ndebele South South Africa .7
Shona Niger–Congo, Bantu Shona South/East Mozambique, Zimbabwe 10.6
Swazi Bantu, Nguni Swazi South Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique 3.5
Venda Niger–Congo, Bantu Venda South South Africa, Zimbabwe 1
Xhosa Bantu, Nguni Xhosa South South Africa 7.9
Zulu Bantu, Nguni Zulu South South Africa 10.6

West AfricaEdit

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Akan Niger–Congo, Kwa Akan West Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire 20+ a group of eight related sub-ethnicities
Aku (Creole) Aku West Gambia 0.01
Ashanti Niger–Congo, Kwa Twi (Akan dialect) West Ghana 5
Baka UbangiBaka West/Central Southeastern Cameroon, Northern Congo, Northern Gabon 0.3-0.4 The Baka are also known as Bebayaka, Bebayaga, or Bibaya, or (along with the other Mbenga peoples) the derogatory Babinga.
Bambara Niger–Congo, Mande Bambara West Mali 3
Basaa Niger–Congo, Bantu Basaa West Cameroon 0.2
Bassa Niger–Congo, Kru Bassa West Liberia 0.3
Edo (also called Bini or Benin) Niger–Congo, Edo Edo West Nigeria
Efik Niger–Congo, Cross River Ibibio-Efik West Nigeria, Cameroon, Southern Cameroons
Eket Niger–Congo, Cross River Eket (Ibibio dialect) West Africa Nigeria, Cameroon, Southern Cameroons
Ewe Niger–Congo, Gbe Ewe West Ghana, Togo, Benin 6
Beti-Pahuin Niger–Congo, Bantu Ewondo, Fang, Bulu West Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe 3.3 group of 20 sub-ethnicities
Fante Niger–Congo, Kwa Fante (Akan dialect) West Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire 3
Fulani Niger–Congo, Senegambian Fula West Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Chad, Mauritania, Sudan, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire 27
Ga Niger–Congo, Kwa Ga, Ga-Adangme West Ghana, Togo 2
Gwari West Nigeria
Hausa Afro-Asiatic, Chadic Hausa West/Northern Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Chad, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan 30-35
Igbo (Ibo) Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger Igbo West Nigeria, Cameroon, Southern Cameroons 30[2] Includes various subgroups.
Esan Niger–Congo, Kwa Esan West Nigeria
Ijaw Niger–Congo, IjoidIjaw West Nigeria 14 [10] Sub-groups include Andoni, Ibani, Kalabari, Nembe, Ogbia and Okrika.
Jola Niger–Congo, Senegambian Jola, Kriol West Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau .5
Mandinka Niger–Congo, Mande Mandingo West/Central The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Mauritania, Chad 13
Marka Niger–Congo, Mande Marka West/Northern Mali
Meta also Metta Widikum, Bantu, Semi-Bantu, Bantoid Meta West, Central Cameroon, Southern Cameroons
Mende Niger–Congo, Mande Mende West Sierra-Leone 2
Serer Niger–Congo, Senegambian Serer West Found mostly in Senegal and The Gambia. Small number Mauritania. Also found in the West. over 1.8[11][12][13]The Serer people include: Serer-Sine, Serer-Safene, Serer-Ndut, Serer-Palor, Serer-Niominka, Serer-Laalaa, Serer-Noon. Serer-Sine is the proper and standard language of the Serer people. The others are dialects of the Serer-Sine language and known as Cangin languages
Songhai Nilo-Saharan Songhai West Mali 1.5
Tiv Niger–Congo, Bantu Tiv West Nigeria, Cameroon 2
Urhobo Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger Urhobo West Nigeria 1-1.5
Wolof Niger–Congo, Senegambian Wolof West Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania 4
Yoruba Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger Yoruba West Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo 30+

See alsoEdit

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[[Commons: Category:Ethnic groups in Africa

| Ethnic groups in Africa

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[[Commons: Category:Maps of ethnic groups in Africa

| Maps of ethnic groups in Africa

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  1. Achebe, Chinua (2000). Home and Exile, Oxford University Press US. "...Igbo people would score very poorly indeed on the Oxford dictionary test for tribe... Now, to call them a nation... This may not be perfect for the Igbo, but it is close."
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sources vary widely about the population. Mushanga, p. 166, says "over 20 million"; Nzewi (quoted in Agawu), p. 31, says "about 15 million"; Okafor, p. 86, says "about twenty-five million"; Okpala, p. 21, says "around 30 million"; and Smith, p. 508, says "approximately 20 million".
  3. includeonly>Onuah, Felix. "Nigeria gives census result, avoids risky details", Reuters, 29 December 2006. Retrieved on 2008-11-23.
  4. Lewis, Peter (2007). Growing Apart: Oil, Politics, and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria, University of Michigan Press. URL accessed 2008-11-23.
  5. Suberu, Rotimi T. (2001). Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria, US Institute of Peace Press. URL accessed 2008-12-18.
  6. Ebou Momar Taal. "Senegambian Ethnic Groups: Common Origins and Cultural Affinities Factors and Forces of National Unity, Peace and Stability". 2010
  7. Cheikh Anta Diop. Nations nègres et culture: de l'antiquité nègre égyptienne aux problèmes culturels de l'Afrique noire d'aujourd'hui. 1954
  8. Makhtar Diouf. Sénégal, les ethnies et la nation. Nouvelles Éditions Africaines du Sénégal. Dakar. (1998).
  9. African Census Analysis Project (ACAP). University of Pennsylvania. Ethnic Diversity and Assimilation in Senegal: Evidence from the 1988 Census by Pierre Ngom, Aliou Gaye and Ibrahima Sarr. 2000
  11. Agence Nationale de la Statistique et de la Démographie. In Senegal alone, estimated figure for 2007 is 1,840,712.1
  12. Gambia keep poor records of its ethnic minorities. Estimated Gambian figure is 31,900 (2006)
  13. Mauritania (2006 estimate) 3500. Joshua Project

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