The Naming Complexity Of Africans
African people speak 2,000 different languages and comprise over a 1,000 various ethnic groups. Religious practices vary from Voodoo to Muslim to Christian, with many others in between. Major name types are indicative of usage and can imply geographical regions. They consist of Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, Western Africa, Yoruba, and Igbo. Interestingly, Nigerian names span the last 3 types of  5 classifications. The multitude and diversity of its inhabitants make Africa one of the most complex in naming customs on the planet.
The Continent
The first human habitation in the world and according to paleontologists, the origin of human beings, the African continent is the oldest in the world.1 With youths, aged 14-25, comprising over 20 % of the countries total population, Africa is also the youngest continent. Second only to Asia in population and size, Africa blankets 20.4 % of the Earth’s total land area. Africans number over 1 billion accounting for about 15 % of the world population.2 The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea (N), the Atlantic Ocean (W), the Indian Ocean (SE), and the Red Sea & Suez Canal (NE).
Name Derivations
Naming practices in Africa are often references to the circumstances or the birth’s timing. For example, Akinyi means “born in the morning”, Ige says “born breach”, and Abiodun “born on a festival”. Other names reference the day of the child’s birth: Esi (Sunday), Kwaku (Wednesday), and Khamisi (Thursday). Gender neutral, ordinal references for birth are also used, as in Mosi (1st born), Kunto (3rd born), Nkruma (9th born), and Kato (the 2nd twin).
Traditional African names may serve as descriptive parental desires for their children, like:
Yejide (of the mother)
Olanrewaju (future wealth is mine)
Dada (curly hair)
Azubuike (strong back)
Parental reactions to the child’s arrival in the world can also provide another name source, as in:
Abeni (we got what we asked for)
Amadi (seemed destined for death when born)
Chidimma (God is good)
Tafadzwa (we are pleased)
Ayomide (joy has arrived)
Words from a particular African tribe’s vocabulary are commonly used in naming. The name Simba means “lion” in Swahili, while in the Tswana and Sesotho tribes, the name Tau has the same meaning. Additional examples include Marjani (coral), Sefu (sword), and Masamba (leaves or vegetables).
Religious Practices
Africa’s 54 states and 9 regions were once predominantly Christian with small segments continuing to practice tribal religions, such as Voodo, and even smaller factions practicing Buddhism, Hinduism. However, over the past decade the nation has undergone rapid Islamization spreading from Africa’s northern horn, and presently, the religion of Islam is the most practiced faith on the continent.3 This religious transition has resulted in a transition from European and Christian names to Muslim names. This is further indicated on Africa’s current top ten baby names list surveyed online which is given below.