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6 African countries with high proficiency in English – Report

6 African countries with high proficiency in English – Report

English proficiency is crucial in the globalized world, providing advantages in international communication, trade, and education.

Several African countries have distinguished themselves with high English proficiency, demonstrating effective engagement on the world stage. One common thread among them is the legacy of British colonial influence.

The Education First English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) ranks countries based on the equity of English language skills among adult test-takers. The EF EPI 2023 edition utilized data from 2.1 million self-selected test-takers in 2022, representing 113 countries and territories. Each country included had at least 400 test-takers.

English proficiency within the score band of 700 to 800 is considered “very high,” while scores ranging from 600 to 699 are also categorized as “very high.” scores from 550 to 599 are “high”.  Any score between 500 to 549 falls within the “moderate” proficiency level.

The report highlights declining English proficiency among young people aged 18-20 in some large countries, while others remain stable or are affected by pandemic disruptions. The long-term impact of COVID-related learning loss is uncertain, but future cohorts may show improvement. Persistent decline suggests weaknesses in English education systems.

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

Across the continent, English proficiency remains relatively steady, with little gender gap, the smallest in the world, indicating similar competence levels between men and women nationally. For country-specific trends by age group, visit the EF EPI website.

Here are the 6 African countries with high proficiency in English – Report

1. South Africa — Score:605

South Africa leads the continent with a very high proficiency score of 605. English, one of the country’s 11 official languages, is a primary medium of instruction in education and business. Its prominence stems from British colonial rule, which ingrained English in governance and public life.

Today, English is prevalent in media, politics, and daily interactions, especially in urban areas. The diverse population often uses English as a lingua franca to bridge communication gaps. The robust educational system and widespread use of English across various sectors contribute to South Africa’s high proficiency levels.

2. Kenya — Score: 584

Kenya follows closely with a high proficiency score of 584. English, alongside Swahili, is an official language and a cornerstone of the education system, serving as the medium of instruction from primary through tertiary levels.

Rooted in British colonial history, English remains central to Kenyan society, crucial in government, business, and media. This proficiency supports Kenya’s role as a technology and innovation hub in East Africa, attracting foreign investment and facilitating global market engagement.

Read also: 10 Most spoken local languages in Africa

3. Nigeria — Score: 562

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, boasts a high proficiency score of 562. English, the official language, unifies the nation’s diverse ethnic groups and is essential in government, the judiciary, and education.

Also rooted in British colonial history, English remains pivotal in modern Nigeria’s business sector, media, and academia. The thriving Nollywood film industry further boosts English proficiency, connecting Nigeria with a global audience.

4. Ghana — Score: 537

Ghana’s moderate proficiency score of 537 reflects its strong foundation in English. As the official language and primary medium of instruction, English is integral to education at all levels, ensuring robust language skills from an early age.

Colonial history under British rule entrenched English in administrative, educational, and legal systems. Today, it remains crucial in government, business, and media. Ghana’s emphasis on English literacy in education plays a key role in maintaining and enhancing proficiency levels.

Read also: Top 10 countries with the most languages

5. Uganda — Score: 529

Uganda, with a moderate proficiency score of 529, highlights the importance of English in its socio-economic landscape. As one of the official languages, English is extensively used in education, government, and the judiciary.

British colonial rule entrenched English in Uganda, and it continues to facilitate communication across diverse ethnic groups. The educational system prioritizes English, helping students develop strong language skills and maintaining the country’s moderate proficiency levels.

6. Tunisia — Score: 502

Tunisia’s moderate proficiency score of 502 in English reflects its strategic focus on language education and international engagement. Despite being slightly lower than some African counterparts, English holds significance in Tunisia’s socio-economic landscape as a Mediterranean nation with a rich cultural heritage.

French colonization historically influenced Tunisia, making French the dominant foreign language even after independence in 1956. While English lacked historical influence, its global importance in business, tourism, and education has led to its growing prominence. The Tunisian government acknowledges this by including English language education in schools and universities. Additionally, the tourism industry, catering to English-speaking visitors, has further spurred the use and learning of English in Tunisia.