African Union adopts Swahili as official working language

AU Heads of State approve move following request from Tanzania's vice president

Andrew Wasike Shimanyula   | 10.02.2022
African Union adopts Swahili as official working language


The Africa Union, which is made up of 55 member states, has officially adopted Swahili as an official working language. 

The approval comes following a request by Tanzanian Vice President Philip Mpango, who argued that over 100 million people in Africa speak Swahili, thus becoming one of the most widely spoken languages in the African continent.

“Kiswahili (another name for Swahili) is already in use in various communities including the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as a teaching language in many African countries,” Mpango said, adding it is a language commonly spoken in the EAC.

The announcement was made in the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

For a long time, African leaders have tried to push for the AU to adopt Swahili as the Pan African language.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared July 7 as the World Kiswahili Language Day.

According to the UN, the language had its origins in East Africa, and Swahili speakers are spread over more than 14 countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Somalia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Comoros, and as far as Oman and Yemen in the Middle East.

Southern African countries such as South Africa and Botswana have introduced it in schools, while Namibia and others are considering doing so.

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