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Explore Africa

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

Tanzanian Government Wants Visitors To Accept This Minor Inconvenience

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Plastic accumulation is becoming a menace around the globe. Marine life often consumes these plastics which eventually get into humans. Many countries around the world are exploring alternatives to plastic use. However, Tanzania is the latest country to officially place a ban on the use of plastic bags. The ban will take effect from the 1st of June 2019. On Thursday 16th of May 2019, the government released a statement titled “Notice To Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” which read in part,

“The Government of Tanzania wishes to make an official note to travelers planning to travel to Tanzania that from 1st June 2019 all plastic bags, regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in mainland Tanzania.”

Consequently, the government is planning to set up a special desk at entry points to ensure total compliance. With the announcement, Tanzania joins about thirteen other African countries that have either introduced levy or banned plastic bags. However, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa is calling on plastic bag manufacturers to find alternative technologies for bags.

The problem with plastic bags and exceptions to the ban

Tanzania bans plastic waste

The major problem with plastic bags is the length of time it takes to decay. Some researchers are speculating it can take up to 1,000 years. Consequently, their accumulation can lead to flooding when they block drainages. Also, they can prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil leading to low crop yield.

However, the government understands the importance of plastic in packaging and makes exceptions for a few. According to the statement, plastics or plastic packaging for sanitary and waste management, foodstuff, agricultural sector, construction industry, industrial products, and medical services are exceptions to the ban. “Ziplo Bags” used for carrying toiletries are also permitted for travelers since they are unlikely to be disposed of in the country. Another part of the statement reads,

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban.”

Commendations for the new law

The international community is sending their message of congratulations to the Tanzanian government for the historic move. One of such messages came from Dr. Amani Ngusaru, the WWF Country Director. Ngusaru lauded the move as a boost to environmental and natural resources protection.

“Plastic is a number one polluter of environment and a silent killer of our natural environment and resources than most people understand. This is because it takes more than a hundred years for a single plastic bag to decay. We are happy that Tanzania is among the very few African countries to ban the use of plastic bags and we will work hard toward supporting the government in the fight against plastic pollution”.

Other African countries with a plastic control

In 2007, Uganda placed a ban on lightweight plastic bag. However, the ban was never implemented. In August 2018, Kenya introduced a total ban on the use of plastics. Consequently, those using plastics illegally in Kenya risk 4 years in prison or a fine of $40,000. Also, it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastic bags in Rwanda. Currently, there are over 40 countries around the globe that banned, restrict or tax the use of plastics including Italy, France, and China.

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Reaching Out

Nigeria Makes This Touching Gesture To Help Alleviate Malawi’s Devastation From Cyclone Idai

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Nigeria is popular as the giant of Africa for the ‘big brother’ role the country play. The federal government of Nigeria on Monday 13th of May 2019 extended a brotherly hand to the government of Malawi by donating 30,000 tonnes of drugs, medical equipment, insecticide-treated nets as well as $500,000 cash. This was Nigeria’s way of sympathizing with the country which was recently hit by Cyclone Idai.

Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs led the Nigerian Government delegation that delivered the relief materials to Mr. Nicholas Dausi, the Malawi Minister of Homeland Security and Disaster Management Affairs. Speaking during the presentation, Onyeama said a misfortune to any African nation affects Nigeria.

“We share this burden and the loss with you in this country. When the hurricane happened, Nigeria was conducting the election. [However], President Buhari instructed us that as quickly as possible we had to mobilize resources to bring to this country. We mobilized over 8,000 medical items, equipment to assist and also cash donation of 500,000 U.S dollars.

Delivery of Nigeria’s donations will take a while

Onyeama further extended President Muhammadu Buhari’s condolence to the people of Malawi. Cyclone Idai led to the death of many with an estimated 86,000 displaced from their homes. Apparently, 30,000 tonnes of items is a lot. However, according to Onyeama, it will take Nigeria a maximum of two weeks to deliver all the items.

“The amount is huge, 30,000 tonnes of items, which will be transported to Malawi in the next one or two weeks maximum. Some of our big transporters C130 will deliver the equipment may be in two trips but we sent some of the equipment with a small plane, for this occasion. Please, accept our deepest sympathy and the statistics are very disturbing…with some deaths and injuries.”

Malawi’s benefits beyond the material donation

Mr. Dausi thanked the government of Nigeria for assistance. According to him, the materials will go a long way to help the victims. Consequently, Mr. Dausi also said there were 67 camps housing the victims of the disaster.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Malawi and the people… across 67 camps in the disaster and over 886,000 people affected, I want to sincerely express our deep thanks for your thoughtfulness.”

However, this is not the first time Nigeria will be assisting Malawi. According to the minister, Malawi has benefited from Nigeria in education as well as human support during the struggle to end apartheid. Consequently, the Malawian Minister congratulated President Buhari for his reelection. This is a gesture worth emulating by other African nations.

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Business and Development

Tanzania Electric Train Commence Trial In July

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Tanzania electric train

Tanzania is reaching for another economic milestone. The government announced that it was it will be testing its maiden self-funded electric train. The train which will run at 160 km/h will be one of Africa’s fastest high-speed trains. The train will also provide a cheaper means of transport to the citizens.

Further details show that the phase running from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro which has 6 in between stations and stretches 300 kilometers will commence operation in December. The trial trains in phase one will be three passenger trains. However, these trains will conduct daily round trips covering the two cities. Each passenger train will be making a minimum of 9 trips per day.

Difference between Tanzania electric train and regular train

The speed train will make use of concrete sleepers. This allows the railway network to carry as much as 35 tonnes of load per axle and increase its durability. Consequently, the rails should be able to last up to 40 years before any major repairs. However, the train bridge can last up to 100 years.

Speaking at the historic launch of the flash butt welding of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) at Soga, outside Dar es Salaam in Coastal region, Eng. Issac Kamwele, the Minister for Works, Transport and Communications said the trial of the speedy electric train will happen in July. However, the trial will only cover a section of the SGR. In comparison to other country’s SGR, Tanzania’s will be fasters. Kenya and South Africa’s SGR can only reach a speed of 120 km/h

The impact this project will have on the economy

Tanzania government is making great strides to boost the economy of the nation. Recently, the government proposed plans to build cable cars for Mount Kilimanjaro. This is projected to double the current 50,000 annual tourists. However, not many think it is a good idea. A few groups think it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

ALSO READ: Tanzanian Government Considering Cable Car For Mount Kilimanjaro And Here Is How People Reacted

The $1.9 billion (Tshs 4.3 trillion) project has already created over 26,000 job opportunities. However, the government is optimistic that the second and subsequent phases will create more opportunities once fully functional.  The first railway lines in Tanganyika (previously German East Africa) were built after Zanzibar’s first tramway. The Ethio-Djibouti SGR project is currently the longest and first trans-boundary electric railway in Africa.

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