Not only is Africa the second most populous continent in the world with over one billion people, but it is also home to the highest linguistic diversity in the world, with over 1500 different languages.
The principle languages on the continent include Arabic, French and English. Arabic was ranked the 5th most spoken language in the world by research group Ethnologue, with over 240 million speakers worldwide. In Africa, there are more than 100 million speakers, with Egypt accounting for more than 54 million. It is also the most widespread official language on the continent, incluing in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
English reached the 3rd spot as the most spoken language in the world, with over 330 million speakers. It is known as the ‘lingua franca’ of the world, widely used for international business, and is the language of the scientific and medical fields, which use English as a basis for much of the terminology. In Africa, majority of native English speakers are from South Africa, and the language is most spoken in Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
African languages form part of four language groups, namely Afro-Asiatic covering Northern Africa, Central Sahara and the Horn of Africa, Nilo-Saharian covering Central and Eastern Africa, Niger-Congo covering Central, Southern and Eastern Africa and Khoisan, covering the western part of Southern Africa.
Below are top 10 African languages to know when doing business on the continent or enjoying tourist destinations and experiencing diverse cultures on the continent:
Other widely spoken languages of Africa include Berber, which is a popular dialect in North Africa, specifically in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mali and Egypt, with approximately 20 million speakers; Somali, which is a Cushitic language spoken in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya by approximately 20 million speakers; Fulani, which is widely spoken in western and Central Africa by approximately 18 million speakers; Rundi from Burundi which is spoken by over 10 million people; Kinyarwanda in Rwanda which is spoken by over 10 million speakers and Tigrinya, which has over 6 million speakers in Central Eritrea and Sudan. Chichewa is popular in Malawi with over 6 million speakers, and Spanish is also spoken in Equatorial Guinea by over 600,000 people.