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Top 15 English Speaking Countries in Africa

In this article, we will take a look at the top 15 English speaking countries in Africa. If you would like to skip our discussion on English proficiency in Africa....CONTINUE READING

English serves as the primary language for many international organizations such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, as well as for major events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Its prevalence can be traced back to the influence of the British Empire during the colonial era and the dominance of the USA post-World War II. English is widely used in Africa as well, with 27 out of 54 countries claiming it as an official language. Africa is the second largest continent both in terms of landmass and population, with an estimated 1.48 billion inhabitants as of 2024. The continent is home to eleven of the world’s fastest-growing economies, making it the second most rapidly developing continent after Asia. Reports suggest that only around 130 million out of the continent’s over 1 billion population are fluent English speakers, while approximately 237 million can communicate with some degree of fluency, often as a second language alongside their native tongue.

However, in certain countries, English has evolved into such a localized form that native English speakers may struggle to understand it. For instance, in West Africa, a distinct form of English known as Pidgin English is widely used in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, where approximately 75 million people report proficiency in Pidgin English. This language variant blends unique phrases from English with elements of native languages, leading to a hybrid form of English that may seem quite different from standard English. Another linguistic form is creole, a simplified or amalgamated language derived from one or more languages or dialects.

Many nations across Africa are witnessing the rise of a skilled workforce, which will contribute to their own development as well as that of the continent. The emergence of a skilled workforce across the continent is tied to the strength of their educational systems. Interestingly, the best English-speaking countries in Africa often have strong educational infrastructures. These countries are becoming increasingly relevant on the global stage due to their high English proficiency, quality education systems, and growing youth population. Africa, as a continent, is experiencing significant growth, with the real gross domestic product (GDP) projected to expand at the rates of 3.8% and 4.2% in 2024 and 2025, respectively. These growth rates surpass the global averages forecasted at 2.9% and 3.2%. Among the African countries expected to display strong economic performance are Niger, Senegal, Libya, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Benin, Djibouti, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda, with growth rates ranging from 6% to 11%. Multinational corporations like BMW, General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), Vodafone Group plc (LON:VOD), and Standard Bank Group Ltd (JSE:SBK) are among those expanding their presence in Africa due to the continent’s positive growth prospects.

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Our Methodology

To compile the list of the top 15 English speaking countries in Africa, we collected data on the percentage of English-speaking people across countries on the continent. Our research involved cross-referencing information from various credible sources. The list of English speaking countries in Africa has been arranged in ascending order based on the percentage of the English-speaking population as of 2024.

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Top 15 English Speaking Countries in Africa
15. Zambia

English Speaking Population: 16%

Zambia’s population stands at around 20.9 million as of 2024. English remains the official language of Zambia, a legacy of the British colonial reign. The language is widely used to conduct governmental affairs, education, and business. The native languages of the country are Nyanja and Bemba. Based on sustained economic recovery in copper mining and the manufacturing sector, the real GDP of Zambia is predicted to expand by 4.2% in 2024.

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14. Namibia

English Speaking Population: 17.24%

Namibia is characterized by the use of multiple regional languages. The most common ones are Oshiwambo, Khoekhoe, and Afrikaans. English holds the status of the only official language. Namibia’s real GDP is anticipated to increase by 3.0% in 2024, driven by sustained economic recovery in diamond processing and exports.

13. Kenya

English Speaking Population: 18.83%

Kenya has two official languages, English and Swahili. Over sixty languages are spoken in the country by different ethnic groups. English is the principal language used in offices and educational institutions. The country has a population of around 55 million and is one of the largest economies in East Africa. Its GDP growth for 2024 is forecasted to be around 5%. This growth projection is attributed to stable rainfall, which supports agricultural output, a key economic sector. However, the tourism industry, another significant component of the economy, continues to face challenges following the impact of the pandemic.

12. Lesotho

English Speaking Population: 26.86%

Lesotho, a small landlocked country in South Africa, has English and Southern Sotho as its official languages. Southern Sotho is widely spoken across the nation. Lesotho has seen a decrease in its current account deficit due to improving economic conditions. With a population of around 2.3 million, Lesotho is among the top 20 English speaking countries in Africa.

11. South Africa

English Speaking Population: 31%

South Africa has eleven official languages, including English, Afrikaans, and Zulu. With a population exceeding 60 million as of March 2024, most natives primarily speak Zulu and Afrikaans. However, English serves as the preferred language for commerce and education. The South African economy is among Africa’s most industrialized and technologically developed economies. The major economic sectors include agriculture, mining, energy, manufacturing, tourism, and transport. Popular corporations like General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), Vodafone Group plc (LON:VOD), and Standard Bank Group Ltd (JSE:SBK) also have a presence in the country. However, South Africa’s economy has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to increased debt servicing costs and an internal energy crisis.

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10. Seychelles

English Speaking Population: 37.63 %

Seychelles, an archipelago off East Africa, has English, French, and Seychellois Creole as its official languages. While Seychellois Creole is the most widely spoken, English serves as the language of choice for most economic activities. As one of the wealthiest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Seychelles relies heavily on its tourism and fishing sectors, which are vital contributors to its economy. The country’s real GDP growth is expected to decelerate to 4.2% in 2024 due to supply chain disruptions stemming from the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

9. Cameroon

English Speaking Population: 38 %

Cameroon, situated in Western and Central Africa, has both French and English as official languages. With a predominantly urbanized population, French is the primary language spoken by the majority. As of March 2024, the population of Cameroon exceeds 29 million. The economy relies heavily on agricultural exports such as cocoa, coffee, and cotton, as well as crude oil production. Projections for 2024 anticipate a real GDP growth of up to 4.5%. Cameroon is among the top 10 English speaking countries in Africa.

8. Botswana

English Speaking Population: 38.42 %

The majority of Botswana’s population speaks Setswana as the national language, while English serves as the official language for business and education. With a population of approximately 2.7 million, Botswana is facing challenges due to high inflation, impacting its economic performance. The country is projected to experience a real GDP growth of around 4.1% in 2024. Botswana is among the top 10 English-speaking countries in Africa.

7. Eswatini

English Speaking Population: 48.2 %

The Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is a small, landlocked country in Southern Africa. Like most African countries, it has several native languages, such as Swazi, Zulu, Tsonga, and Afrikaans. Swazi and English are the two official languages, with English being the language of instruction in most schools. The country’s real GDP is predicted to grow by 4.9% in 2024. Agriculture and mining comprise about 13% of the GDP, while textile and sugar-based manufacturing comprise 37%.

6. Ghana

English Speaking Population: 66.67 %

Ghana, a multilingual country with diverse ethnic groups, has several languages spoken across its territory. However, English, a legacy of British colonialism, holds official status and is used in all official and educational contexts. Projections indicate that Ghana’s economy will expand by 3.5% this year.