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10 Most spoken Languages in Africa

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In a continent rich with diversity as Africa is, there are 200 languages from over 100 tribes and countries but not all languages are equally popular. Of all the diverse languages, tribes and groups, there are 10 languages that are more widely spoken than others.

#10 – Berber

The Berber language is the tenth most widely spoken language in Africa. The Berber languages are a group of 26 closely related languages that constitute a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. They are spoken by 14 to 25 million people in Northern Africa throughout the Mediterranean coast, the Sahara Desert and Sahel, an area which used to be dominated by Berbers before the arrival of the Arabs. Today, there are large groups of Berber-speaking people in Morocco and Algeria, Mali, Niger and Libya, and smaller groups in Tunis, Mauritania, Burkina-Faso, and Egypt.

#9 – Oromo

The Oromo language is Cushitic language widely spoken in the Horn of Africa and other surrounding nations including Ethiopia, Somali, Kenya, and Egypt. The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and account for up to 40% of the entire population. It is most widely spoken native language in Ethiopia with over 24 million speakers.

#8 – Amharic

This is the seventh most widely spoken language in Africa. It is the second largest Semitic dialect on the continent after Arabic. It is the official language in Ethiopia, with more than 25 million native speakers, and is spoken outside Ethiopia by about 3 million emigrants. Amharic is one of the very few African languages that uses its own alphabet, while most other languages use either Arabic or Latin letters. The Amharic language is also associated with the Rastafarian movement common in the Caribbean. Many Rastafarians also learn Amharic as a second language, as they consider it to be a sacred language.

#7 – Igbo

This is the native language of the Igbo people of Nigeria, one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. However, the only place it has official status is in Equatorial Guinea, where it is recognized as a regional language.  It’s also spoken in Cameroon. It is spoken by approximately 27 million people.  The language has more than 20 dialects, with Central Igbo being the most prevalent.

#6 – Yoruba

Yoruba is one of the principal languages of Nigeria and is also spoken in other countries in West Africa. Significant Yoruba populations in other West African countries can be found in Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It’s a tonal language with 3 tones and is written using the Pan-Nigerian alphabet, a variation of the Latin alphabet. Approximately 39 million people speak it as their first or second language

#5 – Hausa

Hausa is the fifth largest language on the African Continent. It is classified as a member of the Chadic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. Hausa is the most widely spoken as a first language in Nigeria and as a second language in Nigeria as well as many other West African Countries. There are more than 63 million speakers of the Hausa language in Africa. Most Hausa speakers live in Northern Nigeria and the Southern Republic of Niger. The language is also popular in Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo as well as Chad. The language originated from a dialect in Kano, Nigeria, where most of the Hausa speakers are located. It is widely used in business and education in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. Besides, it is one of the few African languages that are taught in International Universities due to its immense literature.

#4 – Swahili

Swahili or Kiswahili is the fourth most popularly spoken language on the Continent. This is a Bantu language that is spoken as the first language among the Swahili people of East Africa. It is estimated that speakers of Swahili language in Africa are more than 100 million, but only about 15 million speak it as a first language. Kiswahili is the national language in Tanzania, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Shikomor, which is the official language of Comoros, is considered a dialect of Kiswahili as the two languages are closely related. The Swahili language has its origins along the coastal lines of Kenya and Tanzania. A huge chunk of the vocabulary in Swahili is derived from the Arabic language because of the interactions of the Arabic traders and the coastal people of East Africa from the 15th and 16th century. There are also other Swahili words that have been originally derived from German, Portuguese, English, Hindustani and French. The language is recognized and spoken in many countries on the continent including Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands.

#3 – French

French, is a European language that was introduced in African through colonization. There are about 115 million Africans who use the language as their first or second language. The language, which originated from France, is mostly spoken in former colonies of France in West and Central Africa. In Africa, French is often spoken alongside indigenous languages, but in some areas, it has become a first language, such as in the region of Abidjan, Ivory Coast or Libreville, Gabon. Among the countries that speak French in Africa include Togo, Senegal, Seychelles, Rwanda, Re-Union, Niger, Mali, Madagascar, Guinea, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Cameroun, Congo, DRC, Algeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Burundi.

#2 – English

English is the second most popular language on the continent. Only around 6.5M million Africans speak English as a native language but when you include people who learn it as a second language, the number of English speakers jumps to about 130 million. The language, which originated in England in the United Kingdom, was introduced in Africa through the colonization of Africa by the British. Many former colonies of Britain have adopted English as their official language for government, business, and education. Many other countries have plans in place for adopting English in their countries, despite not being former colonies of Britain. For example, Rwanda, which is a former colony of France, is quickly encouraging its citizens to learn and speak English as the country integrates itself into the East African community. English is spoken in 23 African countries including Botswana, Cameroun, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, St. Helena, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

West African Pidgin English is a creole language with about 75 million speakers. It’s not commonly written down, but the BBC recently began broadcasting in pidgin and created a written standard.

#1 – Arabic

Arabic is the most widely spoken language in Africa based on the number of people who speak the language. However, the language is mostly concentrated in North Africa and some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that there are more than 150 million people who speak Arabic as their first language in Africa, making it the most spoken language on the continent. Arabic comes in a number of flavors—Modern Standard Arabic and colloquial dialects. If you learn Modern Standard Arabic, you’ll be able to communicate with most Arabic speakers around the world. Modern Standard Arabic is the more formal form of the language, which is used in news articles, novels, newscasts, and some TV shows. However, native speakers do not always learn this form of Arabic. Instead, they learn variations of Arabic that is adapted to their culture in a way that Modern Standard Arabic is not.

Arabic speakers on the Continent of Africa make up over 50% of the total speakers of Arabic in the world. Arabic is the official language of many African nations including Algeria, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia. It is also spoken in Tanzania (Zanzibar), Western Sahara and Somalia.

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Business and Development

Pan African eCommerce Giant Jumia Makes History with NYSE listing

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Jumia

Jumia Technologies made history on 10th April 2019 following the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allowing the pan-African e-commerce giant to sell its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Consequently, Jumia started trading its shares at $14.50 using the ticker symbol JMIA. This makes Jumia Technologies the first African startup to secure major global exchange listing.

Jumia is currently active in fourteen African countries including Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Tanzania. The e-commerce platform has 81,000 active sellers with over 5,000 direct employees. According to a statement contained in its recent SEC filing, Jumia Technologies added three hundred thousand new active customers in the first quarter of 2019.

Through the sale of its American Depositary Shares, the company can raise up to $316. According to the Corporate Communications officer, Lisette Kwong, Jumia initially set its IPO at $14.50 but it opened and closed at higher prices.

Jumia’s Brief History and Growth

Jumia was co-founded in 2012 by Sacha Poignonnec, Jeremy Hodara, Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Kofi Afaedor. The company was an outgrowth of the Rocket Internet Company. However, its rapid growth allowed it to secure funding from investors like Millicom group, MTN, Orange, Goldman Sachs, and CDC. According to The Guardian, MTN is the largest shareholder with 29.7%. Rocket Internet is second on the log with 20.6%. Other investors and their stake include AXA Africa holdings (5.8%), AEH New Africa eCommerce (8.4%), and Millicom (9.6%).

The two Nigerian co-founders, Raphael Afaedor and Tunde Kehinde are credited with the creation of some of the company’s components including JumiaPay. However, they left the company in 2015 to build other startups.

What Next For Jumia?

Jumia’s share price was up by 61% in early trade. Inasmuch as NASDAQ is traditionally for technology companies, Jumia decided to list on NYSE. The Head of International Capital Markets at the NYSE, Mr. Alex Ibrahim said the company did so because they saw the benefits. According to Ibrahim, the volatility of NYSE is higher than its competitors. Speaking on the listing of the company on NYSE, the co-founders said,

“This achievement has been made possible thanks to the hard work of our teams, the trust of our consumers, as well as the commitment of our sellers and partners. All stakeholders deserve credit for this milestone, and we are just at the beginning of a long and great journey. We are going to continue to focus on our mission and to work even harder to help consumers, sellers, partners, and all stakeholders benefit from this technological revolution.”

Previous Awards

Jumia is attracting lots of attention but the pan-African eCommerce giant is not a stranger to accolades. Some of the awards on Jumia’s archive include;

  • Best New Retail (World Retail Awards 2013)
  • Online Retail Brand of the year (Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (2013)
  • The innovative business of the year (Success Digest 2013)
  • Leadership ICT company of the year (2013)
  • Best use of Mobile App (Rima Awards)

E-commerce website of the year (Beacon of ICT Award)

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Business and Development

Gambia’s AfCFTA Ratification Means Africa Will Soon Become The Largest Free Trade Area In The World

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Gambia President Adama Barrow

The dream for a Continental Free Trade area in Africa became a reality when Gambia ratified the agreement. Initially, prospects of the agreement becoming a reality were hindered by a lack of numbers—falling short on the minimum threshold. With Gambia ratifying the agreement, the bill can now be actualized.

Gambia became the 22nd African country to approve the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement—AfCFTA. Ethiopia was the 21st country to ratify AfCFTA when it approved the agreement on March 21, 2019. Gambia parliament ratified the agreement on April 2 2019.

African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement

The African Union brokered the agreement in 2018. The agreement was then signed by 44 countries on March 21 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda—out of a total of 55 member states. Among other provisions, the agreement requires member states to remove tariffs from 90 percent of goods. In addition, member countries will be required to allow free access of goods and services across the continent.

From March 17 to March 21, 2018, an Extraordinary Summit on AfCFTA was held in Kigali, Rwanda. During the summit, the agreement establishing AfCFTA was presented to African leaders for signatures. The agreement was framed such that it goes into force 30 days after 22 countries have ratified the agreement instruments. Furthermore, ratifying states are required to deposit the instruments with the Chairperson of AUC—African Union Commission.

Gambia’s ratification and completion of all due processes satisfy this constitutional requirement to bring the agreement into effect.

Required Instruments

Only 20 countries have ratified and deposited the required instruments with the AUC Chairperson—as of April 16, 2019.  Two countries, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, have obtained parliamentary approval but have not deposited the instruments.

The 20 countries that have already deposited the instruments of ratification include The Gambia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Togo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Mauritania, Mali, eSwatini (former Swaziland), Guinea, Djibouti, Congo Republic, Chad, Niger, Rwanda, Kenya, and Ghana.

Notable Non Signatory

The AfCFTA is moving forward, however, Nigeria’s lack of commitment to the agreement is a big blow. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy but only an estimated 10% of its trade volume is done with other African countries. Nigeria’s hold out has been blamed primarily on influential Labor Unions

During the 2019 African CEO Forum in Kagali last month, President Kagame of Rwanda who had championed the AfCFTA during his tenure as the African Union Chairperson shared that he had reached out to Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to sign the deal.

There are still concerns however about how the agreement will be executed. At the same event, African billionaire Naguib Sawiris said: “The challenges are going to be in the implementation.”

Impact of the Agreement

The AfCFTA is expected to boost free trade and investment across Africa. Once it comes into effect, the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement area will create the largest free trade area in the world. The agreement will bring together all the 55 member states of the AU. This means the agreement will cover a market of over 1.2 billion people. The Economic Commission for Africa estimates that this agreement has the potential of boosting intra-African trade by 52.3 percent.

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Mauritius and Kenya Sign New Deal. Ban Lifted on Kenya’s Produce

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Kenya’s president and Mauritius Prime Minister witness the signing of the deal

Kenya and Mauritius signed a new deal that saw Mauritius lifting a ban on Kenyan farm produce. The new agreement enhances trade between the two African countries. Mauritius had initially banned baby beans, baby carrots, broccoli, and avocados from Kenya. Bilateral talks between Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and Kenya President Uhuru Kenya culminated in the lifting of the ban on these products.

Agreements

The bilateral talks also saw the signing of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement—DTAA. In addition, the two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation for the development of an Export Processing Zone in Kenya.

Kenya and Mauritius also signed an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Other agreements signed include MOU in the field of arts and culture, an MOU in the field of higher education and scientific research, and an MOU on tourism.

Impact of the Deal

The signed agreements will boost Kenya’s ambitions to reach its development goals. According to President Kenyatta, the agreements will particularly boost Kenya’s manufacturing sector and create employment opportunities.

The new deal will further foster cooperation between Mauritius and Kenya. This means that the cordial relationship between the two countries is enhanced. This relationship will boost trade and investment opportunities in both countries.

Both Kenya and Mauritius have long coastlines, and more benefits can be derived in their blue economies through cooperation. President Kenyatta stated that there is a need for the two countries to look for ways of enhancing maritime transport by linking the Port of Mombasa to Port Louis. An established link is considered a catalyst for growing trade and businesses in the two countries.

The key benefit to Kenya from the deal is the promotion of its agricultural produce. Mauritius lifted a three-year ban on Kenyan avocado. Kenya lost the avocado market in Mauritius in 2015. The ban was due to the Mauritian National Plant Protection Office citing low hygiene standards of the Kenyan avocados. Lifting of the ban will now see more exports of avocados to Mauritius, along with other farm produce such as baby carrots and broccoli.

Kenya’s deal with Mauritius follows an initial pact with China. In 2018, Kenya signed deals with China and the Republic of Korea that opened opportunities for farmers to export more agriculture products to the two countries. The Kenya-China agreement opened opportunities for Kenya to export meat, flowers, and a selection of fruits and vegetables to China.

Kenyatta’s visit to Mauritius for the deal makes him the first Kenyan president to visit Mauritius.

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