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The Nilo-Saharan language family which includes the Songay dialect cluster in areas including northern Mali, with perhaps more than three million speakers. French, English and Portuguese were all introduced by European colonising powers and are widely used today, and a variety of Pidgin and Creole languages also flourish.

Nigerian Pidgin was the language the Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti used in his songs, in order to communicate with ordinary people.

Communicating through script and symbol The importance and antiquity of writing in Africa is not well known.

As one scholar puts it, ‘Africa’s contribution to the art and science of writing has gone largely unrecognised in the annals of history.’ century CE, and in Sudan the Meroïtic script was created about 180 BCE.

It was also an attempt to find an alternative to the roman script brought by Europeans, and to assert a different, autonomous vision of what it meant to write.

Perhaps most famous is the script invented by Njoya, king of Bamum, Cameroon.

These letters were made from materials such as cowrie-shells and seeds and their meaning was deduced from factors such as the position of each item in a message string, or even, as Karin Barber writes, puns in the Yoruba language.Today, the archive at the Bamum royal palace still holds numerous documents in this writing.A script invented in the neighbouring kingdom of Bagam has largely been lost.The Afroasiatic family encompasses languages of the Berber group, spoken by desert communities, including the Tamasheq people, around the Sahara.Its Chadic branch includes Hausa, also a major language of Nigeria.

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