What are the top 5 African languages to translate into?

According to a recent UN economic report 10 of the world’s 15 fastest-growing economies are based in Africa. Foreign direct investment in Africa reached US$62 billion in 2009, up almost 700% from a decade earlier. The report also found that the number of middle-class households increased by half from 2010 to 2020. And, by 2030, the top 18 African cities will have a combined spending power of US$1.3 trillion.

Cell phone technology is overtaking traditional computer technology with more Africans acquiring cell phones with internet connectivity per day than anywhere else in the world. More international companies are seeking to reach upper and middle class Africans by translating their information into local languages.  While this is certainly an important way to reach government agencies and professional markets, companies with information services and consumer products seek a broader set of audiences. 

From experience we have learnt that the challenge of addressing new markets in Africa stems from the sheer size of the continent, the number of countries, the still-lagging infrastructure for travel and communications, and the variability of legal-financial norms for transacting business.  Africa is rich in cultural and linguistic diversity, which means that companies seeking to benefit from the rising economic tide require access to translation and interpreting services in many tongues from very different regions. 

To make things easy, the 53 countries in Africa are roughly divided into five main zones based on their official languages for conducting official work and/or business:

  1. Arabic  in North Africa 
  2. French in Central and West Africa 
  3. English in South, East and West Africa 
  4. Portuguese (spoken in five countries)
  5. Swahili or Kiswahili in Southeast Africa 
  6. English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho for Southern Africa

Africa’s economic growth is enormous and thus translating texts bridge these language gaps, enabling cross-border business to happen – opening doors to opportunities never before imagined.