Africa is second largest and second most populous continent in the world with a total population of 1.111 billion. So its no surprise that The total number of languages spoken in Africa is estimated at between 1,250 to 2,100 and by some counts at “over 3,000”.
The most popular language being English, is spoken by over 230 million people on the continent, while the most popular native language is Swahili. The language is spoken in the southern and eastern parts of the continent. Generally, about 10 percent of Africa’s population speak Swahili, the lingua franca of Southeast Africa; about 5 percent speak a Berber dialect; and about 5 percent speak Hausa, which serves as a lingua franca in much of the Sahel.
Here are the top 10 most spoken languages in Africa.
Speakers: Over 250 million
Over 237 million people in Africa speak English in total (including native and non-native speakers). The greatest number of English speakers are in Nigeria, where there are about 111 million people who speak at least some of the language.
In Africa, 27 out of 54 countries on the continent speak the English language as their official or secondary language. English is the primary language of Botswana, Cameroon, Rwanda, Nigeria, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. In South Africa, it is given official status with 10 other languages. It is the most spoken language in Africa.
Speakers: Over 170 million
Arabic is the most widespread official language in the African continent and the second most spoken language in Africa. It is the official language of Algeria, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Arabic is the co-official language of Morocco, Eritrea, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Djibouti and Western Sahara. According to wikipedia Of the 1 billion Africans (in 2009), about 17 percent speak an Arabic dialect, making
Speakers: Over 120 million
Like English, French is one of the very few languages spoken all over the world. Many countries in Africa were colonized by France, because of this, there are over 120 million French speakers who use the language as their mother tongue or secondary language. The highest percentage of people who speak French are from Gabon, Mauritius, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Sao Tome & Principe, Tunisia, Guinea, Seychelles, Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
Speakers: Over 100 million
Swahili is the most spoken native language in East Africa, with over 100 million speakers (of the 1 billion Africans, About 10 percent speak Swahili) it is also one of the most ancient african language. It is a Bantu language believed to have originated from other languages, mainly Arabic, due to historical interactions between Arabs from the Middle East and East Africans. The Swahili language or Kiswahili is the official language of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
Speakers: Over 75 million
Hausa is one of Nigeria’s official languages and it’s the fifth most spoken language in Africa. The Hausa language has more first-language speakers than any other language in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to wikipedia, the Hausa language has an estimated 25 million first-language speakers, and close to 50 million second-language speakers. The main Hausa-speaking area is northern Nigeria and Niger.
Speakers: Over 57 million
Amharic is the second most spoken Semitic language (after Arabic) in the world and serves as the working language of Ethiopia. It’s also the working language of several of the states within the Ethiopian federal system. With 31,800,000 mother-tongue speakers as of 2018, plus another 25,100,000 second language speakers, Amharic is the second most commonly-spoken mother-tongue of Ethiopia (after Oromo), but the most widely spoken in terms of total speakers.
Speakers: Over 50 million
Yoruba is one of West Africa’s most spoken languages, and also one of Nigeria’s official languages.
The language accounts for over 50 million speakers in Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
8. Fula / Fulfude
Speakers: Over 40 million
Fula is a Senegambian language spoken by more than 40 million people as a set of various dialects in a continuum that stretches across some 20 countries in West and Central Africa it’s also the seventh most spoken language in Africa.
Fulfulde is an official language in Senegal (Pulaar), an official lingua franca in Guinea, Senegambia, Maasina (Inner Niger Delta), northeastern Nigeria , Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Gambia, northern Ghana, southern Niger and northern Benin (in Borgou region, where many speakers are bilingual), and a local language in many African countries, such as Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Togo CAR, Chad, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, numbering more than 45 millions speakers in total.
Speakers: over 37 million
The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, estimated to be over 37 million people in 2018. It is used as a lingua franca particularly in Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya.
Speakers: over 28 million
The Zulu people are the largest ethnic group and nation in South Africa with an estimated 10–12 million people living mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The language of the Zulu people is “isiZulu”, a Bantu language; more specifically, part of the Nguni subgroup. Zulu is the most widely spoken language in South Africa, where it is an official language. More than half of South Africa’s population are able to understand it, with over 9 million first-language and over 15 million second-language speakers.
In South Africa there are about 13 million native speakers of Zulu, and another 15.7 million people speak it as a second language. It is spoken mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, and also in Mpumalanga, Free State, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces. There are also about 328,000 Zulu speakers in Lesotho, 108,000 in Eswatini, 37,500 in Malawi, 4,600 in Botswana and 3,000 in Mozambique.
Speakers: Over 24 Million
Also One of Nigeria’s official languages, Igbo is spoken by over 24 million people, with a significant amount of speakers in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
Speakers: Over 21 Million
Somali is an Afroasiatic language belonging to the Cushitic branch. It is spoken as a mother tongue by Somalis in Greater Somalia and the Somali diaspora. Somali is an official language of Somalia, Somaliland, and Ethiopia, and a national language in Djibouti as well as in northeastern Kenya.
The Somali language is spoken in Somali inhabited areas of Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen and by members of the Somali diaspora. It is also spoken as an adoptive language by a few ethnic minority groups and individuals in Somali majority regions.
As of 2019, there were approximately 21.8 million speakers of Somali, spread in Greater Somalia of which around 7.8 million resided in Somalia. The language is spoken by an estimated 95% of the country’s inhabitants, and also by a majority of the population in Djibouti.
Speakers: Over 14 Million
Speakers: Over 11 Million
isiXhosa as an endonym, is a Nguni language and one of the official languages of South Africa and Zimbabwe. Xhosa is spoken as a first language by approximately 8.2 million people and by another 3 million as a second language in South Africa, mostly in Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and Northern Cape. It has perhaps the heaviest functional load of click consonants in a Bantu language (approximately tied with Yeyi), with one count finding that 10% of basic vocabulary items contained a click.
Speakers: Over 10 Million
Wolof is a language of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people. The language is spoken by more than 10 million people and about 40 percent (approximately 5 million people) of Senegal’s population speak Wolof as their native language. In The Gambia, about 20–25 percent of the population speak Wolof as a first language.
Speakers: Over 11 Million
Akan is a Central Tano language and the principal native language of the Akan people of Ghana, spoken over much of the southern half of Ghana. About 80% of Ghana’s population can speak Akan, and about 44% of Ghanaians are native speakers. It is also spoken in parts of Côte d’Ivoire and Togo.