How Many Tribes Are There in Africa?

It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 tribes in Africa. An exact number is not known, however, because it is believed that there still may be some undocumented tribes in Central Africa. There are more than 2,000 languages collectively used by the tribes of Africa.

A tribe is defined as an ethnic group that shares common history, culture and nature. Some larger African nations have hundreds of tribes just within their borders. Some of the better known tribes across Africa include the Ashanti of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the Maasai of East Africa, the Pygmies of Western Africa and the Zulu of South Africa. The Zulu are so prevalent in South Africa, numbering about 10 million, that their language is one of the official languages of South Africa.

Not all tribes fit the predominant western conception of a tribe as a group of people living together in a camp-like setting with little to no modern amenities. Throughout Africa, tribe members live in urban as well as rural settings. Association with one's tribe, in many cases, is more symbolic than anything else. It is a way of tracing ancestry, similar to the American way of identifying their lineage with that of the countries from which their ancestors came.