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10 Most spoken local languages in Africa

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The history of colonization has had a big impact on African languages, but many local languages are still thriving. Africa is rich in different languages, showing its diverse cultures and complex history.

Regardless, English is the third most spoken native language on the list. In many homes and schools in Africa, the first language is English, Businessday reported “The major challenge facing the Nigerian indigenous languages at the moment is not the official status of the English language in the country but the attitude of many Nigerians toward these indigenous languages”.

Except for many in the North, the major challenge facing indigenous languages in Nigeria is not merely the official status of English but rather the prevailing attitudes of many Nigerians toward their native languages. This raises questions about the impact of language choices in elite Western and Eastern homes, where languages like Yoruba and Igbo may not be as commonly spoken as one might expect.

According to WorldData, here are the 10 most spoken native languages in Africa in 2023


Arabic stands as the most widely spoken native language in Africa, with over 213.7 million speakers. Its prominence is largely attributed to its historical influence, as it was introduced through the spread of Islam across the continent. Arabic is not only the language of the Quran but also serves as a lingua franca in many North African countries like Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, and Mauritania.


Hausa is a Chadic language spoken predominantly in West Africa, particularly in Nigeria, Niger, and parts of Chad. With 66.4 million speakers, Hausa plays a crucial role in trade, administration, and cultural exchange in the region. It is recognized for its vibrant literature and has a significant presence in the media.

Read also: 10 African countries have very low proficiency in English – Report


English, a colonial legacy, is spoken by 48.2 million people across Africa. English is widely used in education, governance, and business and serves as a bridge language between diverse ethnic groups and nations. It is an official language in several African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya.


The Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, speak the Oromo language. With 41.7 million speakers, Oromo holds a pivotal place in Ethiopia’s linguistic landscape. It has a rich oral tradition, and efforts are being made to promote its use in education and media.


Yoruba, spoken primarily in Nigeria and Benin, boasts 41 million speakers. It is a tonal language with a vibrant cultural heritage, expressed through art, music, and religion. Yoruba has influenced the diaspora, especially in the Americas, through the transatlantic slave trade.

Read also: Top 10 countries with the most languages


Igbo, spoken by the Igbo people in Nigeria, has 37.2 million speakers. It is known for its complex system of vowel harmony and has a rich cultural heritage. Igbo literature, music, and art contribute significantly to the diversity of Nigeria’s cultural expression.


Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia and has 36.2 million speakers. It is vital in the country’s history and is recognized for its unique script. Amharic has a strong literary tradition and is used extensively in government, education, and media.


Fula, also known as Fulfulde, is spoken by the Fula people across West and Central Africa. With 29.2 million speakers, Fula serves as a trade language and is deeply embedded in the nomadic lifestyle of the Fula people. It has both a written and oral tradition.

Read also: 5 easiest languages English speakers can learn online


Malagasy is the official language of Madagascar and has 28.2 million speakers. It is unique among African languages as it belongs to the Austronesian language family. Malagasy culture is closely tied to the language, which reflects the island’s distinct history and biodiversity.


Kinyarwanda is one of the official languages of Rwanda and is spoken by 24.5 million people. It played a significant role in post-genocide reconciliation efforts, emphasizing unity and inclusion. Kinyarwanda is part of the Bantu language family and has a complex system of noun classes.