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 peoples).
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. 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 Afroasiatic-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.
As a first overview, the following table lists major groups by ethno-linguistic affiliation, with rough population estimates (as of 2016):
|Phylum||Region||Major groups||Pop. (millions)
|Number of groups|
|Afro-Asiatic||North Africa, Horn of Africa, Sahel||Amhara, Hausa, Oromo, Somali, Tigrayan||200||200-300|
|Niger-Congo||West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa||Akan, Fula, Igbo, Kongo, Mandé, Mooré, Shona, Yoruba, Zulu||900||1650|
|Nilo-Saharan||Nile Valley, Sahel, East Africa||Dinka, Kanuri, Luo, Maasai, Nuer||60||80|
|Khoisan||Southern Africa, Tanzania||Nama, San, Sandawe||1||40-70|
|Indo-European||Central Africa, East Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa||Afrikaners, British, French||6||3|
|Total||Africa||1.2 billion (UN 2016)||c. 2,000|
The following is a table of major ethnic groups (10 million people or more):
|Major ethnic groups||Region||Countries||Language family||Pop. (millions)|
|Akan||West Africa||Ghana, Ivory Coast||Niger–Congo, Kwa||20[year needed]|
|Amhara||Horn of Africa||Ethiopia||Afro-Asiatic, Semitic||22 (2007)|
|Arabs||North Africa||Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania||Afro-Asiatic, Semitic||100+ (2013)|
|Berbers||North Africa||Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania||Afro-Asiatic, Berber||36 (2016)|
|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, Central African Republic, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone||Niger–Congo, Senegambian||20[year needed]|
|Hausa||West Africa||Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan||Afro-Asiatic, Chadic||78 (2019)|
|Hutu||Central Africa||Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo||Niger–Congo, Bantu||15[year needed]|
|Igbo||West Africa||Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon||Niger–Congo, Volta–Niger||34 (2017)|
|Kanuri||Central Africa||Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon||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]|
|Mongo||Central Africa||Democratic Republic of the Congo||Niger–Congo, Bantu||15[year needed]|
|Mossi||West Africa||Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger, Ghana, Mali, Togo||Niger–Congo, Bantu||11[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, Kenya||Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic||42 (2022)|
|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)|
We incorporated geographic data into a Bayesian clustering analysis, assuming no admixture (TESS software) (25) and distinguished six clusters within continental Africa (Fig. 5A). The most geographically widespread cluster (orange) extends from far Western Africa (the Mandinka) through central Africa to the Bantu speakers of South Africa (the Venda and Xhosa) and corresponds to the distribution of the Niger-Kordofanian language family, possibly reflecting the spread of Bantu-speaking populations from near the Nigerian/Cameroon highlands across eastern and southern Africa within the past 5000 to 3000 years (26,27). Another inferred cluster includes the Pygmy and SAK populations (green), with a noncontiguous geographic distribution in central and southeastern Africa, consistent with the STRUCTURE (Fig. 3) and phylogenetic analyses (Fig. 1). Another geographically contiguous cluster extends across northern Africa (blue) into Mali (the Dogon), Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. With the exception of the Dogon, these populations speak an Afroasiatic language. Chadic-speaking and Nilo-Saharan–speaking populations from Nigeria, Cameroon, and central Chad, as well as several Nilo-Saharan–speaking populations from southern Sudan, constitute another cluster (red). Nilo-Saharan and Cushitic speakers from the Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania, as well as some of the Bantu speakers from Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda (Hutu/Tutsi), constitute another cluster (purple), reflecting linguistic evidence for gene flow among these populations over the past ~5000 years (28,29). Finally, the Hadza are the sole constituents of a sixth cluster (yellow), consistent with their distinctive genetic structure identified by PCA and STRUCTURE.
over 3,000 indigenous languages by some counts, and many creoles, pidgins, and lingua francas.. Niger-Congo alone accounts for the majority of languages (and the majority of population), estimated at 1,560 languages by SIL Ethnologue) ("Ethnologue report for Nigeria". Ethnologue Languages of the World.)
The Berber population numbers approximately 36 million people.