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Most Africans speak more than one language, and frequent migrations and interactions, including intermarriage, with other peoples have often blurred ethnic distinctions.
There are an estimated 900 to 1,500 different languages, but many distinct political units share a common or similar language (as among the Yoruba, Hausa, and Swahili-speaking peoples).
Whereas the majority of Africa’s peoples are indigenous, European colonial settlers constitute the largest majority of new peoples, with substantial numbers in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Mozambique.
Dutch settlers first arrived in South Africa in 1652; their descendants now constitute the main Afrikaner, or Boer, population.
Dark skin is the dominant characteristic of indigenous African peoples, but skin colour is not uniform.
Skin colour shows a clinal variation from a light or tan colour in the northern fringe of the continent, which has a Mediterranean climate, to very dark skin in certain Sudanic regions in western and East Africa, where radiation from the Sun has been most intense.
Complicating the situation in the 20th century was the creation of new “tribes” (such as the Zande [Azande] and Luo) that had not been distinct polities before the colonial era.
Ethnic (cultural) identities in modern times have often been heightened, exacerbated, or muted for political reasons.
Africa north of the Sahara is differentiated from the rest of the continent by its Mediterranean climate and by its long history of political and cultural contacts with peoples outside of Africa.Anatomically modern humans are believed to have appeared as early as 200,000 years ago in the eastern region of sub-Saharan Africa.Somewhat later those early humans spread into northern Africa and the Middle East and, ultimately, to the rest of the world.In their attempts to comprehend such a huge heterogeneous continent, scholars have often tried to divide it into culture areas that represent important geographical and ecological circumstances.Those areas reflect differences in the cultural adaptation of traditional societies to varying natural habitats.