Africa Religion and Languages

By | March 5, 2021

According to Countryaah, Africa’s current political division took shape in the 1960’s and 1970’s, forming 54 independent countries.


African Religion

By far the most important religions in Africa are Christianity, Islam and indigenous African religions. In modern times, Islam and Christianity have increased rapidly at the expense of the African religions. However, domestic beliefs and attitudes continue to exist to a greater or lesser extent also within the framework of world religions, giving them an African feel. For the indigenous religions and acronyms, see

African Countries

Country Language
Algeria Arabic and Tamazight (Berber) are official languages, French is widely spoken
Angola Portuguese is the official language
Benin French is the official language; fon, yoruba, mina, bariba, dendi, haussa is the largest of some 50 native languages
Botswana Setswana is the national language, English is the official language, a number of minority languages ​​are also spoken
Burkina Faso French is the official language 2
Burundi Kirundi and French are official languages; Swahili is used in business
Central African Republic French and Sango are official languages
Comoros Comorian, Arabic and French are official languages
Djibouti French and Arabic are official languages, but most speak Somali or Afar
Egypt Arabic is the official language
Equatorial Guinea Spanish, French and Portuguese are official languages, as well as a number of local languages
Ivory Coast French is the official language, in addition there are about sixty local languages
Eritrea Tigrinya, Arabic and English are official languages; other major languages ​​are tigré, afar, saho and more
Ethiopia Amharic (Amarinja) is the official language, English is also common in official contexts, in addition Oromo, Tigrinya (Tigrinya), Somali, Afar are spoken with several other languages
Gabon official language is French; a number of indigenous languages ​​are also spoken
Gambia English has had the status of official language until March 2014. Among the local languages ​​are Mandinka, Wolof, Fulani and Diola
Ghana English is the official language; the largest indigenous languages ​​are akan, ewe, mole-dagomba and ga
Guinea French is the official language
Guinea-Bissau Portuguese is the official language, but most speak crioulo, local languages ​​such as Balante-kentohe, pulaar, mandjak, mandinka, pepel
Cameroon French and English are official languages; otherwise, about 270 local languages ​​are spoken
Cape Verde Portuguese is the official language, Crioulo is widely spoken
Kenya Swahili (Kiswahili) and English are official languages
Congo-Brazzaville French is the official language, about 60 native languages ​​(largest is Kikongo)
Congo-Kinshasa French is the official language
Lesotho Sesotho and English are official languages
Liberia English is the official language
Libya Arabic
Madagascar Malagasy, French and English are official languages
Malawi Chewa and English are official languages
Mali French is the official language; most of the indigenous languages ​​are bambara
Morocco Arabic and Berber are official languages
Mauritania Arabic is the official language, minority languages ​​such as fula, soninké, wolof and others
Mauritius English is the official language 10
Mozambique Portuguese is the official language, about 20 local languages ​​(of which Makua and Tsonga are the largest), Swahili is spoken on the coast
Namibia english, afrikaans, oshivambo, khoikhoi (nama), rukavango, otjiherero, silozi
Niger French is the official language, the largest indigenous languages ​​are Hausa, other major languages ​​are Djerma, Fulani, Arabic and Tamajak
Nigeria English is the official language; Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are major regional languages, in addition to up to 500 local languages
Rwanda Kinyarwanda, French and English are official languages; Swahili common in trade
São Tomé and Príncipe Portuguese is the official language; otherwise mixed languages ​​are spoken based on Portuguese
Senegal French is the official language 11
Seychelles seselwa is the official language 12
Sierra Leone English is the official language, important local languages ​​are krio, temne and mende
Somalia Somali and Arabic are official languages 13
Sudan Arabic is the official language; English is spoken between different peoples in the south
Swaziland Siswazi and English are official languages
South Africa eleven languages ​​with official status: English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Siswati (Swazi), Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu
South Sudan English is the official language; Arabic is common in and around Juba; a number of local languages, of which Dinka is the largest
Tanzania Swahili (Kiswahili) is the official language; English is used in higher education and the judiciary
Chad French and Arabic are official languages; about 100 local languages ​​and dialects are also spoken
Togo official language is French; ewe and kabré are the largest indigenous languages
Tunisia Arabic is the official language, in education, business and administration French is also spoken
Uganda English is the official language and language of instruction 14
Zambia official language is English 15
Zimbabwe English, Shona and Ndebele are the major languages


Africa Christianity

Christianity was brought to Africa by the beginning of the century, first to Egypt (Alexandria), then to the provinces of Africa and Numidia, ie. present Tunisia and Algeria (Carthage). In this western area, the Christian Latin was created. Significant African theologians were Origen and Kyrillos in Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine in Africa and Numidia. Christianity also spread to the Coptic countryside of Egypt. During the 300s, this sea route came to Ethiopia, a little later to Nubia.

The arrival of Islam put Christianity in a minority situation. While it largely disappeared in Maghreb (former Africa and Numidia), the Coptic church remained in Egypt in co-existence with the Muslim government. The Nubian church was obliterated, while the Ethiopian retained his position.

From the 16th century, new mission initiatives came in connection with colonial expansion. This also characterized the distribution of societies: the Catholic Church dominated in Belgian, French and Portuguese colonies, Protestant churches in British and German colonies.

During the 20th century, the African Christianity expanded very rapidly and in competition with Islam. The desire for political and cultural independence has often been expressed in domestic prophet movements (eg Kimbangism). In connection with the decolonization after the Second World War, a large number of independent African churches have emerged. The Catholic Church in Africa also has a conscious domestic character. Many church leaders (such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu) are strongly involved in the political liberation from the remnants of colonialism, and a “black theology” has been trained; a form of African liberation theology. There are also a great deal of charismatic movements with local prophets. The previously tense relations between Catholic and Protestant missions have now often been replaced by ecumenical cooperation.

Of the old churches in Africa, especially the Coptic church shows great vitality, but also the Ethiopian church has a strong position as a folk church.

The number of Christians is estimated at 200-300 million.


Africa Islam

Islam is the dominant religion in North Africa and state religion in all North African countries as well as in Mauritania and Somalia. It spread in northern Africa as early as Muhammad’s own century (600s) and is therefore deeply rooted. Especially through Arab and Berber trade, Islam during the Middle Ages also spread to the sub-Saharan Africa, mainly in urban environments. However, more extensive Islamic expansion in sub-Saharan Africa only occurred during the colonial era. Like Christianity, Islam came to be favored by Western colonialism. Improved communications, urbanization and the fact that colonial regimes often used literate Muslims in the local administration were some of the factors that contributed to Islam’s rapid spread.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims in Africa are Sunnis. In Africa, the dividing line between Muslims who are respectively not members of the many Sufis is much more important than the division into Sunnis and Shiites. Sufism and the leaders of the various orders, which in North and West Africa are often called marabots, generally have a very strong position. The organizers not only have a ‘mystic’ religious character but are almost always involved in social, economic and political issues as well. Sufism has generally shown a very tolerant attitude towards indigenous African beliefs and patterns of life.

The so-called fundamentalist Muslims are increasing in numbers, as in other parts of the Muslim world. However, the Muslim politicians sitting in power in North Africa and in Muslim-dominated countries in sub-Saharan Africa have mainly a “modernist” Islamist view, often in the form of an idealistic (non-Marxist) socialism called “Islamic”. “Fundamentalism” is thus an opposition movement.

Other religions with representatives in Africa are  above all Judaism and Hinduism. Small groups of Jews are found both in North Africa and in parts of sub-Saharan Africa (eg South Africa). Particularly famous are the Falash Jews in Ethiopia. The Hindus are essentially Indians who immigrated to modern times and who live and work primarily as businessmen in cities along the Indian Ocean.

A number of new religions have also emerged. An interesting example is “Godianism”, founded in 1948 by the chief KO Onyioha in Nigeria and which reflects the influence of Islam and Christianity on the domestic religiosity.