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the people (back to intro)

Ethnic groups

in this section
general information

major ethnic groups:
The peoples of Africa belong to several thousand different ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its own distinct language, traditions, arts and crafts, history, way of life and religion. At the same time, over the centuries the different groups have also influenced one another and contributed to and enriched one another's culture. There are over 50 countries in Africa, and some of these have 20 or more different ethnic groups living within their boundaries.

The majority of the countries in Africa are inhabited by peoples of African origin. Some ethnic groups have been affected by the migration of Arab peoples into northern Africa. There are also Europeans whose families moved to Africa during the colonial period and have stayed on. In some parts of Africa, you will also find people of Asian origin, for example from the Indian subcontinent.

Some of the more widely known ethnic groups in Africa are: Arabs, Ashanti, Bantu, Berbers, Bushmen, Dinka, Fulani, Ganda, Hamites, Hausa, Hottentot, Kikuyu, Luba, Lunda, Malinke, Moors, Nuer, Pygmies, Semites, Swahili, Tuareg, Xhosa, and Yoruba.

One must keep in mind that Africa is home to over 680,000,000 people. Although the majority of the people in Africa lead a rural life, the continent is urbanizing at a fast pace. Over a third of the population now lives in cities. Those who live and work in the major metropolitan areas live in ways similar to most people in the industrialized world. They drive cars, have televisions in their homes and apartments, have computers with access to the Internet, are educated in excellent schools and continue on to higher education.

Those who live in many of the smaller towns dress in western style and do the kind of work - in the manufacturing industry or the services - that people in many urbanized parts of the world do. However, they may not always have all the advantages of those who live in the larger more modern cities. Their schools may have fewer resources, the opportunities for earning a living may not be as varied, the services available may not be as technologically advanced.

In contrast, there are the different ethnic groups living in rural Africa whose lifestyles have remained virtually unchanged for centuries. They have a rich cultural heritage that they have passed down from generation to generation with very little influence from the outside world.

Africa is actually a continent made up of a wide variety of worlds. Its people live in diverse conditions that represent present extreme contrasts as well as a middle ground. There is extreme poverty and vast wealth; there are people who suffer from droughts and famine and people who have plentiful food; there are vast, magnificent nature reserves with an abundance of wildlife and there are highly urbanized parts with major cities with high-rise buildings and modern amenities. We hope that as you visit the people section you will become more aware of the rich and varied world of the peoples of Africa. Think about what makes them diverse and what makes them universal.

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