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

The various ethnic groups and nations of Africa have almost always been identified as tribes, although some scholars such as Nigerian author Chinua Achebe have challenged this because of its possible wrong definition for some groups (in his case, the Igbo of Nigeria) and possible negative connotations.[1]



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]



Central Africa

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Cewa Niger-Congo, Bantu Chichewa language Central/Southern 9
Chokwe Niger-Congo, Bantu Central Angola, Congo (Kinshasa), Zambia 1.1
Ganda -
Kongo 10
Lingala 2
Ovimbundu 4.6

East Africa

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Baganda Niger-Congo, Bantu Luganda language East, Great Lakes Uganda 3
Busoga Niger-Congo, Bantu Lusoga language East, Great Lakes Uganda
Hutu Niger Congo, Bantu Kinyarwanda/Kirundi East, Great Lakes Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo 16
Kamba Kenya
Kalenjin Kenya
Kikuyu Kenya
Luo Kenya
Luhya Kenya
Maasai Kenya
Samburu Kenya
Tutsi Niger-Congo, Bantu Kinyarwanda/Kirundi East Africa, Great Lakes Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo 3

Horn of Africa

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Afar Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Afar Horn of Africa Eritrea, Ethiopia 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 Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt 2
Gurage Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Gurage Horn of Africa Ethiopia 1.9
Oromo Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Oromo Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Kenya 30
Saho Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Saho Horn of Africa Eritrea, Ethiopia 0.2
Somali Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Somali Horn of Africa Somalia 20
Tigray Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigrinya Horn of Africa Eritrea, Ethiopia 6.7
Tigre Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigre Horn of Africa Eritrea, Sudan 1.5

North Africa

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Egyptians Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Arabic North Africa Egypt 83
Berbers Afro-Asiatic, Berber Berber Maghreb Morocco, Algeria , Libya 73
Dinka Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Dinka language Southern Sudan Sudan 1
Nubians Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Nobiin Northeast Africa Sudan, Egypt 0.5

Southern Africa

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Afrikaner Indo-European Afrikaans South Africa, Namibia 3.0 descendants of early northwestern European settlers
San (Bushmen) 0.09
Ambo (Ovambo, Owambo, Kwanyama) Namibia 0.9
Bemba Niger-Congo, Bantu Bemba language Southern Zambia 0.2
Herero 0.2
Himba 0.05
Khoi Khoi (Hottentot) -
Makua 1.1
Ndebele Bantu, Nguni Ndebele 5
Shona Shona 10.6
Swazi Bantu, Nguni Swazi 1.1
Venda Bantu Venda 1
Xhosa Bantu, Nguni Xhosa 7.9
Zulu Bantu, Nguni Zulu 10.6

West Africa

Name Phylum Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Akan Niger-Congo, Kwa Akan languages West Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire a group of eight related sub-ethnicities
Aku (Creole) Aku language West Gambia 0.01
Ashanti Niger-Congo, Kwa, Akan Twi West Ghana 5
Asua (Aka) Mali
Bambara Niger-Congo, Mande Bambara language West Mali 3
Basaa Niger-Congo, Bantu Basaa language West Cameroon 0.2
Bassa Niger-Congo, Kru Bassa language West Liberia 0.3
Bini (also called, Edo or Benin) Nigeria
Edo (also called Bini or Benin)
Efik Niger-Congo Efik language West Africa Nigeria, Cameroon, Southern Cameroons
Eket Niger-Congo West Africa Nigeria, Cameroon, Southern Cameroons
Igbo (Ibo) Niger-Congo Igbo language, Igboid languages West Africa Nigeria, Cameroon, Southern Cameroons 30[2] Includes various different subgroups.
Ijaw Niger-Congo Ijo, Ijoid languages West Africa Nigeria 14 [6] Sub-groups include Andoni, Ibani, Kalabari, Nembe, Ogbia and Okrika.
[Jaba (Ham)]Jola
Marka also Maraka
Meta also Metta Widikum, Bantu, Semi-Bantu, Bantoid Meta West, Central Cameroon, Southern Cameroons

See also


  1. ^ Achebe, Chinua (2000). Home and Exile. Oxford University Press US. p. 4. ISBN 0-195-13506-7.,M1. "...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. ^ a b 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. ^ Onuah, Felix (29 December 2006). "Nigeria gives census result, avoids risky details". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  4. ^ Lewis, Peter (2007). Growing Apart: Oil, Politics, and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria. University of Michigan Press. p. 132. ISBN 0-472-06980-2. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  5. ^ Suberu, Rotimi T. (2001). Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria. US Institute of Peace Press. p. 154. ISBN 1-929-22328-5. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  6. ^


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