List of ethnic groups of Africa

Ethnic groups in Africa
1996 map of the major ethnolinguistic groups of Africa, by the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division (substantially based on G.P. Murdock, Africa, its peoples and their cultural history, 1959). Colour-coded are 15 major ethnolinguistic super-groups, as follows:
Afroasiatic
     Hamitic (Berber, Cushitic) + Semitic (Ethiopian, Arabic)
     Hausa (Chadic)
Niger–Congo
     Bantu
     "Guinean" (Volta-Niger, Kwa, Kru)
     "Western Bantoid" (Atlantic)
     "Central Bantoid" (Gur, Senufo)
     "Eastern Bantoid" (Southern Bantoid)
     Mande
Nilo-Saharan (unity debated)
     Nilotic
     Central Sudanic, Eastern Sudanic (besides Nilotic)
     Kanuri
     Songhai
other
     Khoi-San (unity doubtful; Khoikhoi, San, Sandawe + Hadza)
     Malayo-Polynesian (Malagasy)
     Indo-European (Afrikaaner)

The ethnic groups of Africa number in the thousands, with each population generally having its own language (or dialect of a language) and culture. The ethnolinguistic groups include various Afroasiatic, Khoisan, Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan populations.

The official population count of the various ethnic groups in Africa is highly uncertain, both due to limited infrastructure to perform censuses and due to the rapid population growth. There have also been accusations of deliberate misreporting in order to give selected ethnicities numerical superiority (as in the case of Nigeria's Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo people).[1][2][3]

A 2009 genetic clustering study, which genotyped 1327 polymorphic markers in various African populations, identified six ancestral clusters. The clustering corresponded closely with ethnicity, culture and language.[4] A 2018 whole genome sequencing study of the world's populations observed similar clusters among the populations in Africa. At K=9, distinct ancestral components defined the Afrosiatic-speaking populations inhabiting North Africa and Northeast Africa; the Nilo-Saharan-speaking populations in Northeast Africa and East Africa; the Ari populations in Northeast Africa; the Niger-Congo-speaking populations in West-Central Africa, West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa; the Pygmy populations in Central Africa; and the Khoisan populations in Southern Africa.[5]

Lists

By linguistic phylum

As a first overview, the following table lists major groups by ethno-linguistic affiliation, with rough population estimates (as of 2016) :[citation needed]

Phylum Region Major groups Pop. (millions)
(2016)[citation needed]
Number of groups
Afro-Asiatic North Africa, Horn of Africa, Sahel Amhara, Hausa, Oromo, Somali, Tachelhit Berber 200 200-300[6]
Niger-Congo West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa Akan, Fula, Igbo, Kongo, Mande, Mooré, Yoruba, Zulu 900 1650[6]
Nilo-Saharan Nile Valley, Sahel, East Africa Dinka, Kanuri, Luo, Maasai, Nuer 60 80[6]
Khoisan Southern Africa, Tanzania Nama, San, Sandawe, Kung ǃXóõ 1 40-70[6]
Austronesian Madagascar Malagasy 20 1[7]
Indo-European Central Africa, East Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa Afrikaners, British, French 6 3[8]
Total Africa 1.2 billion (UN 2016) c. 2,000[9]

Major ethnic groups

The following is a table of major ethnic groups (10 million people or more):

Shuwa/Baggara, Chadians), see dialects of Arabic</ref>
Major ethnic groups Region Countries Language family Pop. (millions)
(year)
Akan West Africa Ghana, Ivory Coast Niger–Congo, Kwa 20[year needed]
Abyssinians Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Eritrea Afro-Asiatic, Semitic
Amhara Horn of Africa Ethiopia Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 22 (2007)
Chewa Central Africa Malawi, Zambia Niger–Congo, Bantu 12 (2007)
Fulani West Africa Mauritania, Gambia. Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Chad, Sudan, CAR, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone Niger–Congo, Senegambian 20[year needed]
Hausa West Africa Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan Afro-Asiatic, Chadic 43[year needed]
Hutu Central Africa Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 15[year needed]
Igbo West Africa Nigeria Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger 34 (2017)
Kanuri Central Africa Nigeria,[10] Niger,[11] Chad[12] and Cameroon[13] Nilo-Saharan, Saharan 10
Kongo Central Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 10[year needed]
Luba Central Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 15[year needed]
Maghrebis North Africa Maghreb (Mauritania, Morocco, Western Sahara), Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya Afro-Asiatic, Semitic 100[year needed]
Mongo Central Africa Democratic Republic of the Congo Niger–Congo, Bantu 15[year needed]
Nilotes Nile Valley, East Africa, Central Africa South Sudan, Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic 22 (2007)
Oromo Horn of Africa Ethiopia Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic 35 (2016)
Shona East Africa Zimbabwe and Mozambique Niger–Congo, Bantoid 15 (2000)
Somali Horn of Africa Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic 20 (2009)
Yoruba West Africa Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger 40[year needed]
Zulu Southern Africa South Africa Niger–Congo, Bantu 12 (2016)

Ethnic groups by region

North Africa

Name Family Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Baggara Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Sudanese Arabic Chad Basin Sudan, Chad 6
Berbers Afro-Asiatic, Berber Berber Maghreb Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia, Egypt 27 Berber speakers
Copts Afro-Asiatic, Egyptian Coptic Nile Valley Egypt, Sudan 10
Egyptians Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Egyptian Arabic Nile Valley Egypt 85 excl. Copts
Fur[14] Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Fur Nile Valley Sudan 1.0
Haratin Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Hassaniya Arabic Maghreb Mauritania, Morocco 2
Maghrebis Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Maghrebi Arabic Maghreb Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya 72 Arabic speakers only
Moors Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Hassaniya Arabic Maghreb Mauritania, Morocco 2
Nubians Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Nobiin Nile Valley Sudan, Egypt 1.0[14]
Sudanese Arabs Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Sudanese Arabic Nile Valley Sudan 28
Toubou Nilo-Saharan Tebu Tibesti Libya, Chad, Niger, Sudan 0.35
Tuareg Afro-Asiatic, Berber Tuareg Maghreb/Sahara Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso 1.2
Zaghawa Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Saharan Zaghawa Chad Basin Chad, Sudan 0.2

West Africa

Name Family Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Adele Niger–Congo, Gbe Adele West Ghanaian-Togo Borderlands .05[15]
Akan Niger–Congo, Kwa Akan West South Ghana, Ivory Coast 20 An ethnic group of related sub-groups. The largest subgroups are the Ashanti and the Fante
Aku (Creole) Aku West Gambia 0.01
Baka Niger Congo, Ubangian Baka West/Central Southeastern Cameroon, Northern Congo, Northern Gabon 0.3-0.4 The Baka are also known as Bebayaka, Bebayaga, or Bibaya, or (along with the other Mbenga peoples) the derogatory Babinga.
Bambara Niger–Congo, Mande Bambara West Mali 3
Basaa Niger–Congo, Bantu Basaa West Cameroon 0.2
Bassa Niger–Congo, Kru Bassa West Liberia 0.3
Beti-Pahuin Niger–Congo, Bantu Ewondo, Fang, Bulu West Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe 3.3 group of 20 sub-ethnicities
Biafada Niger–Congo Biafada West Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau 0.04
Bubi Niger–Congo Bube West Bioko Island; Gabon, Cameroon 0.05 The Bubi are an amalgamation of first nation clans with various ancient mainland origins that later integrated with Krio, Efik, Igbo, Emancipado and Fernandino settlers.
Mole-Dagbani Niger–Congo, Gur Dagbani West Ghana, Burkina Faso 8.6 Dagomba, Mamprusi, Nanumba, Mossi, Gurma
Dendi Niger–Congo Dendi West Benin 0.1
Edo (also called Bini, or Benin) Niger–Congo, Volta-Niger Edo West Nigeria 1.6
Efik Niger–Congo, Cross River Ibibio-Efik West Nigeria, Cameroon 0.9
Eket Niger–Congo, Cross River Eket (Ibibio dialect) West Nigeria, Cameroon 0.3
Esan Niger–Congo, Volta-Niger Esan West Nigeria 0.5
Ewe Niger–Congo, Gbe Ewe West Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Volta Region (British Togoland), Togoland 6.0
Fon Niger–Congo Fon West Benin, Nigeria 3.5
Fulɓe Niger–Congo, Senegambian Pular/Fulfulde West Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Chad, Togo, Ivory Coast 20
Ga Niger–Congo, Kwa Ga, Ga-Adangme West Togo, Greater Accra 2
Gwari, Nupe Niger-Congo, Volta-Niger West Nigeria 1
Hausa Afro-Asiatic, Chadic Hausa West/Northern Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan 37
Igbo (Ibo) Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger Igbo West Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea 34[16] Includes various subgroups.
Ijaw Niger–Congo, Ijoid Ijaw West Nigeria 14[10] Sub-groups include Andoni, Ibani, Kalabari, Nembe, Ogbia and Okrika.
Jola Niger–Congo, Senegambian Jola, Kriol West Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau 0.5
Kanuri Nilo-Saharan, Western Saharan Kanuri Chad Basin Nigeria,[10] Niger,[11] Cameroon,[13] Chad[12] 10
Mandinka Niger–Congo, Mande Mandingo West/Central The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritania, Chad 13
Mande South Niger–Congo, Mande Dan, Mano and Kpelle West Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, 3.5
Marka Niger–Congo, Mande Marka West/Northern Mali 0.4
Mende Niger–Congo, Mande Mende West Sierra Leone 2
Papel Niger–Congo Papel West Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau 0.1
Serer Niger–Congo, Senegambian Serer, Cangin West Found mostly in Senegal and The Gambia. Small number in Mauritania. Also found in the West. 1.9[17][18] The Serer people include: Serer-Sine, Serer-Safene, Serer-Ndut, Serer-Palor, Serer-Niominka, Serer-Laalaa, Serer-Noon. Apart from the Serer-Sine, they speak Cangin languages rather than Serer.
Songhai[11] Nilo-Saharan Songhai West Mali 5
Tiv Niger–Congo, Bantu Tiv West Nigeria, Cameroon 2
Urhobo Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger Urhobo, Isoko, Uvwie, Erhowa, Okpe West Nigeria 2
Wolof Niger–Congo, Atlantic Wolof West Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania 4
Yoruba, Itsekiri Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger Yoruba West Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast[19] Sierra Leone[20] 45
Zarma[11][21] Nilo-Saharan Zarma West Niger 5

Central Africa

Name Family Language Region Country Population (million)[year needed] Notes
Aka Nilo-Saharan, Pygmy Aka Central/Northern Western Central African Republic, Northwest Congo The Aka are one of three groups of pygmies, collectively called BaMbuti, of the Ituri Rainforest.
Baka Pygmy Baka Central/Northern Western Equatoria in South Sudan 0.25 There is also another ethnic group called Baka living across West Africa.
Banda Niger-Congo, Ubangian Banda language Chad Basin Central African Republic[22] 1.5
Chewa Niger–Congo, Bantu Chichewa Central/Southern Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe 9
Chokwe Niger–Congo, Bantu Chokwe Central Angola, Congo (Kinshasa), Zambia 1.1
Efé Nilo-Saharan, Pygmy Efe Central/Northern Ituri Rainforest of Congo The Efe are one of three groups of pygmies, collectively called BaMbuti, of the Ituri Rainforest.
Gbaya Niger-Congo, Ubangian Gbaya language Chad Basin Central African Republic[22] 1.5
Kongo Niger–Congo, Bantu Kongo Central Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Republic of the Congo 10
Kanuri Nilo-Saharan, Western Saharan Kanuri Chad Basin Nigeria,[10] Niger,[11] Cameroon,[13] Chad[12] 10
Lingala Niger–Congo, Bantu Lingala Central Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Angola, Central African Republic
Luba Niger–Congo, Bantu Luba-Kasai, Luba-Katanga Central Democratic Republic of the Congo 13
Kotoko Afro-Asiatic, Chadic Lagwan Chad Basin Cameroon, Chad < 1
Mbunda Niger–Congo, Bantu Mbúùnda, Chimbúùnda, Mpuono Central Angola, Zambia 0.5
Mbundu Niger–Congo, Bantu Kimbundu Central Angola 2.4
Moghamo Niger-Congo, Southern Bantoid Moghamo Central/West Cameroon 0.018
Mongo Niger–Congo, Bantu Mongo Central Democratic Republic of the Congo 12
Ngamambo Niger-Congo, Southern Bantoid Ngamambo Central/West Cameroon 0.011
Ovimbundu Niger–Congo, Bantu Umbundu Central Angola 4.6
Sara Nilo-Saharan, Central Sudanic Sara Chad Basin Chad,[12] Cameroon,[23] Central African Republic[24] 3.5
Sua Nilo-Saharan, Pygmy Sua Central/Northern Ituri Rainforest of Congo The Sua are one of three groups of pygmies, collectively called BaMbuti, of the Ituri Rainforest.
Zande Niger–Congo, Ubangian Zande Chad Basin South Sudan,[25] Central African Republic[22] 1-4
Zaghawa Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Saharan Zaghawa Chad Basin Chad, Sudan < 1

East Africa

Horn of Africa
Name Family Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Afar Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Afar Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea 2.5
Agaw Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Agaw Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Eritrea 1
Amhara Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Amharic Horn of Africa Ethiopia 24
Beja Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Beja Horn of Africa Sudan, Eritrea 2
Bilen Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Bilen Horn of Africa Eritrea 0.2
Gurage Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Gurage Horn of Africa Ethiopia 1.9
Oromo Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Oromo Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya 40
Rashaida Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Arabic Horn of Africa Eritrea, Sudan 0.2
Saho Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Saho Horn of Africa Eritrea, Ethiopia 0.2
Sidama Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Sidama Horn of Africa Ethiopia 3
Somali Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic Somali Horn of Africa Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya 21
Tigrayan Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigrinya Horn of Africa Ethiopia, Eritrea 9.3
Tigre Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigre Horn of Africa Eritrea, Sudan 1.5
Tigrinya Afro-Asiatic, Semitic Tigrinya Horn of Africa Eritrea 3.4
Welayta Afro-Asiatic, Omotic Wolaytta Horn of Africa Ethiopia 2
Southeast Africa
Name Family Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Alur Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Luo Alur East/Central Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Anuak Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Luo Anuak Southeast/Horn South Sudan, Ethiopia
Acholi Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Luo Acholi East Uganda, South Sudan
Banyoro Niger–Congo, Bantu Nyoro (Runyakitara) East Uganda 1.4
Basoga Niger-Congo, Bantu Soga East Uganda 2.9
Chagga Niger-Congo, Bantu Bantu Kilimanjaro Tanzania 8
Dinka Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Dinka Nile Valley South Sudan[25] 5
Ganda Niger–Congo, Bantu Ganda East Uganda 5.5
Langi Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Luo Lango East Uganda 2.2
Hutu Niger–Congo, Bantu Rwanda-Rundi East, Central Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda 16
Kamba Niger–Congo, Bantu Kamba East Kenya
Kalenjin Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Highland Kalenjin East Kenya, Uganda 3
Kikuyu Niger–Congo, Bantu Gikuyu East Kenya 5.3
Kwama Nilo-Saharan Kwama East/Horn South Sudan, Ethiopia
Lugbara people Nilo-Saharan, Central Sudanic Lugbara East Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo 11
Luo Nilo-Saharan, Luo, River-Lake Luo East Kenya, Uganda
Luhya Niger–Congo, Bantu Luhya East Kenya, Uganda 5.4
Maasai Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Plains Maasai East Kenya, Tanzania 0.9
Makonde Niger–Congo, Bantu Makonde Southeast Tanzania, Mozambique 1.3
Ameru Niger–Congo, Bantu Meru East Kenya
Nuer Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic Nuer Nile Valley South Sudan[25] 3
Samburu Nilo-Saharan, Nilotic, Plains Samburu East Kenya 0.1
Shilluk Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotic, Luo Shilluk Nile Valley South Sudan[25] 1.5
Swahili Niger-Congo, Bantu Swahili East Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique 0.1
Tutsi Niger–Congo, Bantu Rwanda-Rundi East, Central Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda 3
Twa Pygmy Rundi, Kiga East, Central Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo 0.8

Southern Africa

Name Family Language Region Country Population (million) Notes
Afrikaner Indo-European Afrikaans South South Africa, Namibia 3.5
Bemba Niger–Congo, Bantu Bemba South Zambia 5.0
Cape Coloured Indo-European Afrikaans South South Africa 4.7
Herero Niger–Congo, Bantu Herero South Namibia, Botswana, Angola 0.2
Himba Niger–Congo, Bantu Otjihimbo (Herero dialect) South Namibia 0.05
Goffal Indo-European Zimbabwean English South Zimbabwe 0.03
Kalanga Niger–Congo, Bantu Shona South Zimbabwe, Botswana 0.1
Khoikhoi Khoisan Khoekhoegowab South -
Lemba Niger-Congo, Bantu Venda South Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique 0.05
Makua Niger–Congo, Bantu Makua South/East Mozambique, Tanzania 1.1
Nambya Niger–Congo, Bantu Shona South Zimbabwe 0.1
North Ndebele Niger-Congo, Bantu, Nguni Sindebele South Zimbabwe 1.5
Ovambo (Ambo, Owambo) Niger–Congo, Bantu Ovambo South Namibia 0.9
San Khoisan Khoisan South South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Angola 0.09
South Ndebele Niger–Congo, Bantu Southern Ndebele South South Africa 0.7
Shona Niger–Congo, Bantu Shona South Mozambique, Zimbabwe 10.6
Sotho Niger–Congo, Bantu Sotho South Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe (Gwanda District) 5.3
Swazi Niger-Congo, Bantu, Nguni Swazi South Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique 3.5
Tonga Niger–Congo, Bantu Shona South Zimbabwe, Zambia 2
Tsonga Niger-Congo, Bantu, Nguni Tsonga South Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe (Chiredzi and Mwenezi Districts) 5.5
Tswana Niger–Congo, Bantu Tswana South Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe 6
Venda Niger–Congo, Bantu Venda South South Africa, Zimbabwe 1
Xhosa Niger-Congo, Bantu, Nguni Xhosa South South Africa 7.9
Yeyi Niger–Congo, Bantu Shiyeyi South Namibia, Botswana, Angola 0.3
Zulu Niger-Congo, Bantu, Nguni Zulu South South Africa 12
Kwangali Niger–Congo, Bantu Angola Central Africa Rukwangali South Namibia, Botswana, Angola 0.7
Banareng Niger-Congo, Bantu, Tswana/Sotho Northen Sotho/Sepedi South South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, 1