A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in Africa

Thirteen European countries came together in the year 1884 to decide how Africa would be colonized. This meeting, now known as the Berlin Conference, was held in the city of Berlin and as a result of it, there are several European languages spoken in Africa as official languages because the colonized country usually takes on the language of the “colonizer”. France and Great Britain appear to have gotten a lion’s share as there are more French and English-speaking countries on the continent than any other language.

How Many English-Speaking Countries Are In Africa?

There are currently 25 English-speaking countries in Africa. The majority of the countries that speak English on the continent were former British colonies, while others adopted the language despite not being colonized by Britain, or colonized at all, like Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is English-speaking but was never colonized. Additionally, Eritrea, Burundi, and Rwanda are English-speaking countries despite being colonized by Italy and Belgium. Furthermore, Sierra Leone and Liberia speak English as a primary dialect because they are countries that were established by freed slaves. Cameroon is both English-speaking and French-speaking due to the fact both France and Britain colonized the country simultaneously. Egypt is a particularly exceptional case. English is neither an official language nor a part of the official languages. Arabic and Egyptian Arabic are the official and recognized languages in Egypt yet quite a sizeable number of the Egyptian population speak English.

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in Africa

With a total of 52 countries on the African continent, and 25 of them being English-speaking, (English is an official or one of the official languages in about 25 African countries) putting into consideration the population of each country by its English speakers (six of the ten most populous countries in Africa, have English as their official language) English is the second most widely spoken foreign language in the African continent. It is closely followed by French. Arabic is the most widely spoken language in Africa.

List of English-Speaking Countries in Africa

1. Ghana

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 31 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 66 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Akan/Twi, Ewe, Frafra, Nzema, Dagaare, Dagbani, Ga, Hausa, Dangme, Asante

Ghana gained independence from Britain on the 6th of March 1957 and became a Republic on the 1st of July 1960. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana is an English-speaking country in Africa. Its capital is Accra.

With over 60% of Ghana’s population being English speakers, English is very much widely spoken in Ghana. However, the most widely spoken language in Ghana is the Akan/Twi language. Over 80% of Ghana’s population speak Akan. English language is associated with literacy levels, as Ghana’s educational system and curriculum at all levels of Education are instructed in the English language. English became an official language in Ghana, as an inheritance of colonialism.

2. The Gambia

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 2.1 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 2.34 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Wolof, Mandinka, Fula, Jola, Portuguese creole

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaSurrounded by French-speaking Senegal, The Gambia, which is the smallest country in mainland Africa, is primarily an English-speaking African country as a result of it being a former British colony. It gained independence from Britain on the 18th of February 1965.

However, the most widely spoken language is Mandinka. 38% of a larger part of The Gambia’s population communicate in Mandinka, followed by Fula 24% and Wolof 18%. English boasts of slightly over 2% and it is associated with literacy levels as it is the official language for instruction in Gambian Schools.

English is mostly only widely spoken in major cities like the Capital Banjul, and popular tourists towns like Bijilo, Bakau, and Jufereh. Yahya Jammeh, the former Gambian President once planned to drop English as the official language.

3. Liberia

  • Colonized By: NIL
  • Population: 4.9 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 82.67 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Liberian English

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaLiberia, which means land of freedom, began as a settlement of former slaves, including black freeborns from the United States known as the American Colonization Society. They proclaimed their independence as non enslaved black people on the 26th of July 1847, making it the first African country to gain independence. Most people in Liberia speak English and a kind of English variation known as Liberian English.

Almost everyone in Liberia speaks English, over 80% of the entire Liberian population. This is due to Liberia’s history as a land founded by former slaves. Schools and education systems, at all levels, are instructed in English. However, the Kru, Kpelle, Mandingo, and Grebo ethnic languages are also spoken, with Kpelle being the most widely spoken amongst the native languages. But none of the languages form a distinct majority because since Liberia became an official country in 1824, English has been its official language.

4. South Africa

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 59 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 34 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Venda, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Northern Sotho, Tsonga, Swati, Khoe, Nama, Khoisan

Perhaps one of the English-speaking African countries with a tumultuous history of invasions and colonialism; a country known for the hideous apartheid system, which although it gained independence from Britain on the 31st May 1961 was still very much under the control of the white settlers.

South Africa has 11 official languages, including English. The country also has three different cities as capitals. Of all the 11 official languages, English is the fourth most common language with 9% of South Africans speaking English as their first language. The most common language in South Africa and most widely spoken as the first language is Zulu, taking 24.7% of the population. Xhosa has 15% while Afrikaans has 12%. But English has been South Africa’s official language since it became a British colony. The country’s educational system is instructed in English and as such English language is associated with education and literacy.

5. Sierra Leone

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 7.9 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 83.53 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Krio/Creole

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaInformally known as Salone, Sierra Leone was founded by former enslaved black Britons in the 18th century. The settlers who established Liberia had first landed in Sierra Leone. This English-speaking West African country gained independence on the 27th of April 1961.

Sierra Leone has had English as its De Facto official language since British occupation and colonization of the country. With over 80% of the population speaking English, Krio/Creole is the most widely spoken language in Sierra Leone. 97% of the country speak Krio, a variation of English that is mixed with nearby African languages. Other local languages spoken are Mende with 31% and Temme with 37%. English is also the language of the educational system and as such associated with literacy.

6. Uganda

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 45.7 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 21%
  • Other Languages Spoken: Swahili, Luganda

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaSwahili and Luganda are the national languages of Uganda. Named after the Kingdom of Buganda, this former British colony gained independence on the 9th of October 1962. There is no actual current language census in Uganda, however, according to a 1972 study, only 21% of Ugandans could speak English, and 35% could speak Swahili. Luganda is the most widely spoken native language in Uganda.

Named in 2017 as the Best English-speaking African Country by the World Linguistic Society, Uganda uses English as its language of educational instruction across all levels of education. English is also associated with high social status and class in Uganda, and as such, English Language is associated with literacy.

7. Kenya

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 54.7 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 18.83 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Swahili, Gikuyu, Oluluyia, Arabic

This East African country gained independence from Britain on the 12th of December 1963 and became a republic exactly one year later. Like most former British colonies, Kenya inherited the English language as an official language from the colonial era. But despite being an English-speaking country, Swahili is the national language of Kenya. Swahili is spoken by most Kenyans, while Gikuyu has about 6 million speakers, Oluluyia has 5 million speakers, and Dhuluo with about 4 million speakers. About 3 million people speak English in Kenya.

Both Swahili and English are languages for educational instruction and so both languages are associated with literacy. Swahili is mostly used in lower school classes for instructions whilst English language is taught as a subject, to prepare pupils for the introduction of English as a language of instruction in higher classes.

8. Nigeria

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 206 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 53.34 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba

The most populous country in Africa is an English-speaking country. Nigeria became an English-speaking country ever since it became a British colony. Most of the populace, however, speak Pidgin English. Nigeria gained independence on the 1st of October 1960 and became a Republic exactly 3 years later. The language is associated with education and literacy as Nigeria’s educational system as well as Government is based on English.

The most widely spoken native language in Nigeria is Hausa, as close to 30 million people speak Hausa while about 24 million speak Igbo and 19 million speak Yoruba. However, over 190 million people speak English in Nigeria as a second language. The highest number of English speakers can be found in the Southern Part of Nigeria, due to their first contact with the British. Although English is also spoken in Northern Nigeria, Arabic is taught in some schools in the North as an elective as it is associated with the Islamic Religion which is dominant in the North. French is also a subject taught in most schools in Nigeria.

9. Zimbabwe

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 14.8 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 89 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Shona, Ndebele, Xhosa, Tswana, Venda, Chewa, Tsonga, Tonga, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau, Khoisan, Shangani, Chibarwe

With 16 official languages, Zimbabwe has several official languages despite being a majorly English-speaking country. This Southern African country gained independence from Britain on the 11th of November 1965 and became a Republic on the 2nd of March 1970. It adopted English as an official language right from its days of being a British colony.

Less than 5% of Zimbabweans speak English as a first language, however, 89 percent of Zimbabweans speak English as their second language. Shona is spoken by almost 11 million Zimbabweans, followed by the Ndebele language which is spoken by over 20% of Zimbabweans. However, English is the language for both the government and the educational system, as such English is associated with literacy levels.

10. Rwanda

  • Colonized By: Belgium
  • Population: 12.9 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 15 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaRwanda was not colonized by Britain yet one of its official languages is English. This East African country gained independence from Belgium on the 1st of July 1962. French used to be the main mode of communication in Rwanda, however, in 1994 after the Rwandan Genocide, English was adopted as an official language, as a means of unification following the divisive nature of the genocide, and the alleged role of France in the Rwandan Genocide.

By 2008, the government changed the medium of education from French to English and as such, English and French are both currently associated with literacy and education. Swahili is widely taught in schools, whilst Kinyarwanda is the most widely spoken language, with about 98% of the population using the language. 15% of the population speak English as a second language, with 0.2% as their first language. French is being spoken by a very minute population mostly amongst the educated.

11. Cameroon

  • Colonized By: France
  • Population: 26.5 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 17 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: French, Fula, Ewondo, Cameroon Pidgin English

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaDue to its location, Cameroon is referred to as both a Central African and West African country. It was divided between France and Britain after the first world war, and that is why Cameroon has a French (Francophone) speaking region and an English (Anglophone) speaking region. Cameroon declared independence from France on the first of January 1960 and by 1st October 1961, the British Cameroons federated with the rest of the country.

The Anglophone population of Cameroon is in regression, according to a 2015 survey. The English speaking population regressed from 21% in the 1970s to 17% in 2015. However, currently, 80% of Cameroon speak French while the rest are English speakers. About 50% of Cameroon’s population speak Cameroonian pidgin English. Both English and French are the languages associated with literacy and education based on the particular former colony region.

12. Zambia

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 18.3 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 16.02 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Bemba, Nyanja, Tonga, Lozi, Chewa

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaThis landlocked crossroad nation is an English-speaking country which was formerly known as North-Western Rhodesia. It became the Republic of Zambia on the 24th of October 1964. On independence day 1964, English language was declared the official language of Zambia, and ever since the language is associated with business and education, English language has been known as the language of literacy. However, only about 2% of Zambians speak English as a first language as it is mostly spoken as a second language.

On the native languages, according to a 2000 census, Nyanja is the most widely spoken language with about 37% of Zambians speaking the language both as a first and second language. Bemba also has 35% of the population speaking it as a first and second language.

13. Eswatini (Swaziland)

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 1.1 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 4.83 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Swati, Zulu

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaAlso known as the kingdom of Eswatini, and formally known as Swaziland before being renamed in 2018, this southern African country is an English-speaking nation that gained independence on the 6th of September 1968. 95% of the people of Eswatini speak Swati. English is also spoken as the second language for most of the population ever since it became a British colony. Both languages are used for business, Parliament/Government proceedings, and education in Eswatini. Literacy levels are determined in both languages but fluency in spoken and written English is compulsory for post-secondary education.

14. Tanzania

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 59.7 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 9.98 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Swahili, Arabic, Maasai

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaWith the merger of Zanzibar, Tanganyika, and Pemba to form the United Republic of Tanzania, the nation gained independence on the 10th of December 1963. Over 15 million people speak Swahili, which is more than the number of English speakers. Arabic is spoken in some parts of Zanzibar and the Maasai language is spoken by the Maasai people who are less than a million in population. However, Swahili is mostly used in the political and social construct of Tanzania, including adult and primary education. But English, which was inherited as an official language during its colonial era, is the language for secondary and tertiary education, including in the higher courts judicial system. But in 2015, plans were underway to discontinue the use of English in Tanzania’s education system.

15. Namibia

  • Colonized By: South Africa
  • Population: 2.55 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 17.24 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Afrikaans, Otjiherero, Khoekhoe, German, Oshiwambo

After ending German rule in Namibia in 1915, South Africa took charge and colonized the nation until Namibia gained independence on the 21st of March 1990. The majority of its population speak Afrikaans despite being an English-speaking country.

At the dawn of Namibia’s independence in 1990, the founding fathers chose English as an official language to serve as a unifying factor. The school and educational system is also instructed in English, thereby associating English with literacy. However, for any visitor to Namibia, an added knowledge of the German language and Afrikaans would prove useful; because despite English being an official language, German and Afrikaans are still very much widely spoken. For the native language, close to 50% of Namibians speak Oshiwambo as a home language.

16. Sudan

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 43.8 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: Undocumented
  • Other Languages Spoken: Arabic, Hausa

Sudan and South Sudan used to be one country until South Sudan broke away in 2011. The country used to be under the rulership of Egypt, but Britain took over Sudan and that’s how it became an English-speaking country. Sudan gained independence on the 1st of January 1956.

There are lots of indigenous languages spoken in Sudan, but over half of the country’s population speak Arabic. Despite inheriting English as a colonial language, Arabic was the official language for educational instructions at all levels until 2005 when English and Arabic became the official working languages in Sudan and currently, both languages are used in Sudan’s educational system. As a result, English and Arabic are both associated with literacy levels.

17. South Sudan

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 12 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: undocumented
  • Other Languages Spoken: Luo, Dinka, Juba Arabic, Acholi, Zande, Bari

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaAfter 30 years of conflict, South Sudan finally seceded from Sudan in 2011. The country’s official language is only English. English language was declared the official language of South Sudan after it seceded and became a country in 2011. English is associated with literacy levels as the educational system is instructed in English. However Juba Arabic, a variation of Arabic, and the Dinka and Luo are also spoken. Dinka is the most widely spoken native language in South Sudan.

18. Seychelles

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 99 Thousand
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 37.93 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: French, Seychellois Creole

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaThis little island nation, east of mainland Africa, is a hub for tourism. Seychelles is an English-speaking island nation that gained independence on the 29th of June 1976.

For over a century since it was colonized, English was the only official language until the introduction of Creole in 1976, after Seychelles gained independence. 90% of the Seychelles population speak Seychellois Creole. The three official languages have snce become English, French, and Creole which are adapted into the educational system. Creole is used as a mode of instruction in the early years while English is introduced at the primary level. French comes in later on.

19. Lesotho

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 2.1 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 27.86
  • Other Languages Spoken: Sesotho

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaFormerly Basutoland, and officially the kingdom of Lesotho, this mountainous country in the south of Africa is an English-speaking country. It gained independence on the 4th of October 1966.

Despite inheriting English as a former British colony, Sesotho is still the primary first language of over 90% of Lesotho’s population. English is mostly reserved for official interactions, and also in the governmental administration. English is associated with higher education in Lesotho because the first four years of primary education are instructed in Sesotho, with English introduced in the fifth year and later on. Competency in English is a prerequisite for political, educational, and economic transactions.

20. Mauritius

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 1.2 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 15.97 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: French, Mauritian Creole, Bhojpuri

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaMauritius is an island nation on the southeast coast of mainland Africa. It is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the main religion. Mauritius gained independence on the 12th of March 1968.

Mauritius is both English and French-speaking, but the only “official” language is English. The majority of the Mauritian population speak French-based Mauritian creole; which is spoken by close to 90% of the population. English is spoken in the parliament as an official language and also as a medium of instruction in public schools since 1944. However, French is a dominant language of the media and also a common language in education. A 2005 study estimated French speakers at over 70%.

English and French are both recognized languages in Mauritius, but the English language has an upper hand as important texts and documentations, especially in the government and parliament and even education, are written in English.

21. Malawi

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 19.5 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 4.9 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Chichewa, Yao, Tumbuka, Tonga, Sena, Lomwe

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaFormerly known as Nyasaland, Malawi gained independence on the 6th of July 1964 and became a Republic exactly two years later. The country has English as one of its official languages. Chichewa is the most widely spoken language in the country as close to 60% of Malawians speak it. As a result, English and Chichewa are the two official languages in Malawi as declared in 1968. Close to 5% of Malawians speak English as a second language, but less than 1% speak English as a first language.

In 2014, English language was announced as the main language of instruction from primary school whilst still being taught as a core subject.

22. Burundi

  • Colonized By: Belgium
  • Population: 11.8 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 1 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Swahili, French, Kirundi

Burundi became a Republic on the 28th of November 1966 after gaining independence on the 1st of July 1962. The most widely spoken language in the country is Kirundi, and despite being a former Belgian colony, Burundi adopted English as one of its official languages in the year 2014; to strengthen relations in the East African Nations Community.

About 98% of Burundians speak Kirundi. French is the language of educational instruction in Burundi, with English being taught as a core subject.

23. Eritrea

  • Colonized By: Italy, Britain, Ethiopia
  • Population: 3.5 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers:
  • Other Languages Spoken: Tigrinya, Arabic, Afar, Tigre, Beja

First colonized by Italy, and then Britain, and finally Ethiopia, Eritrea is an East African English-speaking country. It gained independence from Ethiopia on the 29th of May 1991 after a 30-year conflict with Ethiopia.

Tigrinya is the most widely spoken language in Eritrea. Over 70% of Eritreans speak Tigrinya. English language is the medium of instruction from middle school in Eritrea. It was made the official language of instruction in Eritrean institutions of education in 1991, after its independence, however, the language was introduced by the British military rule in the Mid 1900s.

Arabic is also one of the main working languages in Eritrea. In fact, Tigrinya, Arabic and English are sited as the official languages of Eritrea according to the CIA Factbook. For literacy, English is not the very first call as Eritrea’s main orthography is the Ge’ez script, Latin and Arabic Script. Furthermore, names, instructions, traffic signs, and basic notices in Eritrea are all written or announced in Tigrinya, Arabic, and English.

24. Ethiopia

  • Colonized By: NIL
  • Population: 117.2 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 0.22 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Amharic, Afar, Oromo, Tigrinya, Somali, Harari, Sidama

A Complete List of English-Speaking Countries in AfricaEthiopia, a country currently in 2013 because the Ethiopian calendar is calculated differently, seven years behind the Gregorian calendar, was never colonized. The most widely spoken language is Oromo. English, on the other hand, is the most widely spoken foreign language in Ethiopia. It is also the language of instruction for primary and secondary education. Over 38% of Ethiopians speak Oromo, followed by Amharic which has over 30% million speakers. Arabic is mostly used in the Muslim community.

The use of English in Ethiopia is still a curious case, as it is not associated with colonialism, yet the number of English speakers is constantly on the increase. English was adopted as a medium of Western educational instruction after Haile Selassie in the early 1900s went to Britain on exile, and sought support from British against the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. This strengthened the British influence and by the 1950s, the British influenced the Ethiopian Western Educational system, and by large English language was established.

25. Botswana

  • Colonized By: Britain
  • Population: 2.3 Million
  • Percentage of English Speakers: 38.42 percent
  • Other Languages Spoken: Setswana

Botswana, which gained independence on the 30th of September 1966, means “Land Of Tswana” as Tswana is the dominant ethnic group in this Southern African country. Close to 80% of Botswana’s population speak Setswana, however, English is the official written language of Botswana and it was inherited from British colonial rule.

English is also associated with literacy and education as the country’s educational system is instructed in English. Only about 2% of the Botswana population speak English as a first language, however, a sizeable number of the population speak English as a second language.

Which Country Has The Most English Speakers In Africa?

Calculating the number of people who can speak English based on the number of the overall population in the country; the country with the most English speakers in Africa is Nigeria. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with over 206 million people.

According to WorldAtlas, 198 million people in Nigeria speak English, making it the country with the most English speakers in Africa. Nigeria is closely followed by Ethiopia with 108 million English Speakers, Tanzania with 60 Million, South Africa with 58 Million, and Kenya with 50 million.

Ada
Ada is a Writer, professional actor for stage and film, TV/Radio host and a Mental Health Counselor.
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