World

What are the most common surnames, country by country, in Africa?

In France, the most common surname is Martin, in Switzerland and Germany, it is Müller. In Algeria, it would be Saidi and in Tunisia Trabelsi.

If your surname is Traoré, you are likely to be Malian and if your name is Alaoui, to be Moroccan. At least that's what comes out ofa blog listing the use of surnames around the world. What about the whole of Africa? This blog offers on a map, country by country, the most common surnames.

Extract from the map of surnames in the world produced by the site (https://www.netcredit.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/01_The-most-common-last-name-in-every- country_FullMap-2.png) (screenshot of the site https://www.netcredit.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/01_The-most-common-last-name-in-every-country_FullMap-2 .png)

According to this source, in Africa “most surnames are linked to geographic origin, profession, lineage or personal characteristics”. The site also notes the weight of colonial history in certain surnames: “Today, the Portuguese name Fernandes is the most common family name in Cape Verde. Lopes, also a Portuguese name, is the most common family name in Sao Tome and Principe.

Another important patronymic source is religion. “In Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt and Sudan, the most common surname is a variant or an epithet of Muhammad, the founder of Islam“notes blog author Barbara Davidson.

The surname Traoré is also widely used, well beyond Mali. “For the West African sub-region, I would say without hesitation that the most common patronym is Traore. (…) Why Traoré? Firstly because millions of people bear this surname in almost all the countries of the sub-region with one or two exceptions: Côte d´Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Gambia, Guinea -Bissau, Mauritania, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and then millions of others who bear the equivalent (the corresponding names) of this surname. This is how we must add the Ouédraogo, Samparé, Diabaté, Diabagaté, Yéo, Dembélé, Diamoutène, Niakaté, Niaré, Dramé, Tangara, Signaté or Siniaté, Diop, Diouf , the Sanogo, the Yatera, the Yatara, the Ouattara, the Kantao, the Compaore… who are all Traore “, can we read on Latty's blog.

However, a other site, always in the form of a map, gave sometimes different results in 2016.

Extract from the family names map published on Vividmaps in 2016 (https://www.vividmaps.com/2016/09/most-common-last-names-by-country.html).
Extract from the family names map published on Vividmaps in 2016 (https://www.vividmaps.com/2016/09/most-common-last-names-by-country.html). (Vividmaps screenshot)

At the sight of these two maps, if we note a certain number of convergences, we also notice differences. Despite research on the internet, it is difficult to determine for each country which is the most common surname.

One of the names on which the two cards agree is the dominance of the surname Diallo in Guinea. It would be carried there by approximately 10% of the population. A Slate article explained the reason for this over-representation, linked to the history of the Fulani. An approach that we could do for each of the African nations.

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