The African continent is dominated by Christianity, Islam and traditional
religions in local cultures.
Christianity was dominant throughout Roman (and later partly Byzantine) North
Africa until the Arab conquest in the 6th century. The Coptic Church continues
to live in Egypt and Ethiopia.
Sub-Saharan Christianity has come with the European colonial powers; first
and foremost the Portuguese (from the early 16th century), then with the Dutch
(from the 16th century in South Africa) and from the 1800s with the other
Mission from other countries was also organized. From the 1840s there was a
Norwegian mission in South Africa, from the 1860s in Madagascar. In the 1900s,
numerous "native" African churches have emerged, such as Kimbanguism, especially
in southern Africa.
Islam (mainly Sunni ) has been developing rapidly over the last 150
years. Alongside North Africa, Sudan and Somalia, Islam dominates a wide belt
across the sub-Saharan continent as well as the coastal region of East Africa
down to Mozambique.
The traditional ethnic religions
The traditional ethnic religions are found partly in West Africa, partly in
Central and East Africa, South Sudan and parts of Ethiopia, but also in areas in
southern Africa. These religions are closely linked to traditional way of life
(agriculture, cattle keeping, hunting) and are therefore under strong pressure,
not only from Christian mission and Islamic propaganda, but also from social and
ecological changes such as urbanization and desertification.
A fundamental common feature of traditional religions is the belief in a
generally distant high god; a hierarchy of inferior gods and spirit beings,
often associated with nature (forests, rivers); an active cult of the
ancestors; and a widespread belief in witches and the use of magic and fetishes.
The formerly numerous Jewish population in North Africa has almost completely
emigrated to Israel after 1948.
Over the past 40 years, Africa has had a strong
population increase, and today has more than one billion
people. According to
Abbreviationfinder, the population is relatively young, and in several
countries more than half of the population is under 25. But
population development is not as high across the continent.
While several countries in North Africa have a birth rate
similar to that in Europe, that is, just enough to sustain
today's population, some countries in West Africa stand out
with very high birth rates. In East Africa, several
countries also have strong population growth, while southern
Africa has experienced a decline in birth rates.
The Sahara and the driest Savannah areas are thinnest.
Since most of the African countries, since the 1980s, there
has been a large migration from rural to urban, which has
led to significant social and economic problems, which is
seen in all countries with economic growth.
The most important religions are Islam north of
the equator except Ethiopia, which also has a large
population professing to Coptic-Orthodox Christianity.
Christianity is most prevalent in South and East Africa as
well as in coastal areas. In many parts of Africa, a variety
of traditional religions still exist, with common features
as a creative god and the cultivation of ancestors and
natural objects. Beliefs about witches, fetishes and magic,
and the traditional religions, are also partly incorporated
into local varieties of Islam and Christianity.
There are about 3000 languages spoken on the continent.
The African languages are often divided into four language
families: the Afro-Asian family, the Niger-Congo family, the
Nilo-Sahara family and the Khoisan family. In Madagascar,
Malagasy is spoken, which belongs to the Austronesian
language family. In North Africa, Arabic is most prevalent,
in West Africa Hausa and in East Africa Swahili. In
Ethiopia, amhara is the biggest language. In sub-Saharan
Africa, English, French or Portuguese are still official
languages. In South Africa is still Afrikaans official
language but the main language is isiZulu.