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How African Countries Got Their Names


Surrounded by water from all directions, Africa is a continent with 54 sovereign states and 54 different ways her counties were named.

How African Countries Got Their Names After The Berlin Conference


How African Countries Got Their Names After The Berlin Conference
Standing strong and tall in Togo Africa

All 54 African countries have a short name, official name, standard country code, local long name and local short name. The short name is an unofficial name that everyone knows the country by, official names are used on official documents and official government publications and country codes are used to represent countries in the use of data and communications.

Nevertheless, no matter the long form or the short form, each African country is known by a name and how that name came into is the topic of this blog post. While it is true, that Africa was broken up into 54 different nations regardless of ethnic or familiar boundaries. Africa, as we know it today would be unrecognizable if not for the Berlin Conference.

The Berlin Conference took place when colonial superpowers Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, Turkey, and the United States of America imposed their domination on the African continent.

Africa was carved up based on economics. The Berlin conference on November 15, 1884, of which France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time.

At the end of World War II in 1945, nearly every country in Africa was subject to colonial rule or administration. Today Africa has been further divided into Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.



The Middle East and North Africa MENA region.

In politics and economics as well as racial lines, North African countries are commonly grouped with the Middle East under the umbrella of MENA. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a region encompassing approximately 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Many of the 12 OPEC nations are within the MENA region. While there is no standardized list of which countries are included in the MENA region, the term typically includes the area from Morocco in northwest Africa to Iraq in southwest Asia and down to Sudan in Africa.


What exactly does Sub-Saharan Africa mean?

According to the UN, Sub Saharan Africa consists of all African countries that are fully or partially located south of the Sahara desert. The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as sub-Saharan, excluding Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, and Tunisia.

This does not make geographical sense as four countries included are on the Sahara, while Eritrea is deemed sub-Saharan but its southern neighbor Djibouti is not.

The World Bank muddies the waters further, adding Sudan and Somalia to 48 countries under the label. By contrast, the African Union refers to regional organizations like the East African Community and the Economic Community of West African States building blocks.

Among the sovereign African countries, the largest is Algeria, occupying around 7 percent of the continent's landmass; the smallest African nation is Seychelles. Morocco is in first place among the most popular travel spots in Africa, followed by South Africa, Egypt, and Tunisia.

Africa is a continent with 54 sovereign states and 54 different ways her counties were named. List of African country names is long, dejected by some and interesting to others. Study this list of African country names to understand Africa and her 54 country history.

Women of Niger Africa
Women of Niger Africa

How every African country was named.

African country list and the origin of African country names.

Algeria

The country name derives from the capital city of Algiers

 

Angola

Name derived by the Portuguese from the title Ngola held by kings of the Ndongo. Ndongo was a kingdom in what is now northern Angola

 

Benin

Named for the Bight of Benin, the body of water on which the country lies

 

Botswana

The name Botswana means Land of the Tswana - referring to the country's major ethnic group

 

Burkina Faso

Name translates as Land of the Honest Incorruptible Men

 

Burundi

Name derived from the pre-colonial Kingdom of Burundi 17th-19th century

 

Cabo Verde

The name derives from Cap-Vert Green Cape on the Senegalese coast, the westernmost point of Africa and the nearest mainland to the islands

 

Cameroon

In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers named the area near the mouth of the Wouri River the Rio dos Camaroes River of Prawns after the abundant shrimp in the water; over time the designation became Cameroon in English; this is the only instance where a country is named after a crustacean

 

Central African Republic

Self-descriptive name specifying the country's location on the continent; Africa is derived from the Roman designation of the area corresponding to present-day Tunisia Africa terra, which meant Land of the Afri the tribe resident in that area, but which eventually came to mean the entire continent

 

Chad

Named for Lake Chad, which lies along the country's western border; the word tsade means large body of water or lake in several local native languages

 

Congo-Kinshasa the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Named for the Congo River, most of which lies within the DRC; the river name derives from Kongo, a Bantu kingdom that occupied its mouth at the time of Portuguese discovery in the late 15th century and whose name stems from its people the Bakongo, meaning hunters

 

Congo Brazzaville Republic of the Congo

Same as DRC, named for the Congo River, which makes up much of the country's eastern border; the river name derives from Kongo, a Bantu kingdom that occupied its mouth at the time of Portuguese discovery in the late 15th century and whose name stems from its people the Bakongo, meaning hunters

 

Cote d'Ivoire

Name reflects the intense ivory trade that took place in the region from the 15th to 17th centuries

 

Djibouti

The country name derives from the capital city of Djibouti

 

Egypt

The English name Egypt derives from the ancient Greek name for the country Aigyptos; the Arabic name Misr can be traced to the ancient Akkadian misru meaning border or frontier

 

Equatorial Guinea

The country is named for the Guinea region of West Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea and stretches north to the Sahel; the equatorial refers to the fact that the country lies just north of the Equator

 

Eritrea

The country name derives from the ancient Greek appellation Erythra Thalassa meaning Red Sea, which is the major water body bordering the country

 

Africa
Africa
Ethiopia

The country name derives from the Greek word Aethiopia, which in classical times referred to lands south of Egypt in the Upper Nile region

 

Gabon

Name originates from the Portuguese word gabao meaning cloak, which is roughly the shape that the early explorers gave to the estuary of the Komo River by the capital of Libreville

 

The Gambia

Named for the Gambia River that flows through the heart of the country

 

Ghana

Named for the medieval West African kingdom of the same name, but whose location was actually further north than the modern country

 

Guinea

The country is named after the Guinea region of West Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea and stretches north to the Sahel

 

Guinea-Bissau

The country is named after the Guinea region of West Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea and stretches north to the Sahel; Bissau, the name of the capital city, distinguishes the country from neighboring Guinea

 

Kenya

Named for Mount Kenya; the meaning of the name is unclear but may derive from the Kikuyu, Embu, and Kamba words kirinyaga, kirenyaa, and kiinyaa - all of which mean God's resting place

 

Lesotho

The name translates as Land of the Sesotho Speakers

 

Liberia

Name derives from the Latin word liber meaning free; so named because the nation was created as a homeland for liberated African-American slaves

 

Libya

Name derives from the Libu, an ancient Libyan tribe first mentioned in texts from the 13th century B.C.

 

Madagascar

The name Madageiscar was first used by the 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo, as a corrupted transliteration of Mogadishu, the Somali port with which POLO confused the island

 

Malawi

Named for the East African Maravi Kingdom of the 16th century; the word maravi means fire flames

 

Mali

Name derives from the West African Mali Empire of the 13th to 16th centuries A.D.

 

Mauritania

Named for the ancient kingdom of Mauretania 3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D., which existed further north in present-day Morocco; the name derives from the Mauri Moors, the Berber-speaking peoples of northwest Africa

 

Mauritius

Island named after Prince Maurice Van Nassau, stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, in 1598

 

Morocco

The English name Morocco derives from, respectively, the Spanish and Portuguese names Marruecos and Marrocos, which stem from Marrakesh the Latin name for the former capital of ancient Morocco; the Arabic name Al Maghrib translates as The West

 

Mozambique

Named for the offshore island of Mozambique; the island was apparently named after Mussa al-BIK, an influential Arab slave trader who set himself up as sultan on the island in the 15th century

 

Namibia

Named for the coastal Namib Desert; the name namib means vast place in the Nama Damara language

 

Niger

Named for the Niger River that passes through the southwest of the country; from a native term Ni Gir meaning River Gir

 

Nigeria

Same as Niger, named for the Niger River that flows through the west of the country to the Atlantic Ocean; from a native term Ni Gir meaning River Gir

 

Rwanda

The name translates as domain in the native Kinyarwanda language

 

Sao Tome and Principe

Named after Saint Thomas the Apostle by the Portuguese who discovered the island on 21 December 1470 or 1471, the saint's feast day; Principe is a shortening of the original Portuguese name of Ilha do Principe Isle of the Prince referring to the Prince of Portugal to whom duties on the island's sugar crop were paid

 

Senegal

Named for the Senegal River that forms the northern border of the country; many theories exist for the origin of the river name; perhaps the most widely cited derives the name from Azenegue, the Portuguese appellation for the Berber Zenaga people who lived north of the river

 

Seychelles

Named by French Captain Corneille Nicholas Morphey​after Jean Moreau de sechelles, the finance minister of France, in 1756

 

Sierra Leone

The Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra named the country Serra Leoa Lion Mountains for the impressive mountains he saw while sailing the West African coast in 1462

 

Somalia

Land of the Somali ethnic group

 

South Africa

Self-descriptive name from the country's location on the continent; Africa is derived from the Roman designation of the area corresponding to present-day Tunisia Africa terra, which meant Land of the Afri the tribe resident in that area, but which eventually came to mean the entire continent

 

South Sudan

Name from the country's former position within Sudan prior to independence; the name Sudan derives from the Arabic bilad-as-sudan meaning Land of the Black peoples

 

Sudan

The name Sudan derives from the Arabic bilad-as-sudan meaning Land of the Black peoples

 

Swaziland renamed eSwatini April 2018

Land of the Swazi people; the name Swazi derives from 19th century King Mswati II, under whose rule Swazi territory was expanded and unified

 

Tanzania

The country's name is a combination of the first letters of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the two states that merged to form Tanzania in 1964

 

Togo

Derived from the Ewe words to water and go shore to give the sense of by the water; originally, this designation applied to the town of Togo now Togoville on the northern shore of Lake Togo, but the name was eventually extended to the entire nation

 

Tunisia

The country name derives from the capital city of Tunis

 

Uganda

From the Swahili Buganda, adopted by the British as the name for their East African colony in 1894; Buganda had been a powerful East African state during the 18th and 19th centuries

 

Zambia

Name derived from the Zambezi River, which flows through the western part of the country and forms its southern border with neighboring Zimbabwe

 

Zimbabwe

Name from the Kingdom of Zimbabwe 13th-15th century and its capital of Great Zimbabwe, the largest stone structure in pre-colonial southern Africa



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