Hausa - Orientation

Identification. The Hausa constitute the largest ethnic group in West Africa. The term "Hausa" actually refers to the language and, by extension, to its native speakers, of whom there are about 25 million.

Location. The Hausa are scattered across the savanna of northern Nigeria, the adjacent area of Niger, and, as a result of extensive migration, in enclaves in various African cities as far south as the Atlantic coast. The focal homeland covers an area about 640 kilometers wide, from Lake Chad to the east to the Niger River in the west. It extends from 11o to 14° N and from about 2° to 14° E. The annual rainfall ranges from about 50 centimeters in the north to 100 centimeters in the south.

Demography. There are approximately 22.5 million Hausa in West Africa. According to the last census, carried out in 1963, 80 percent of the Hausa are rural, 20 percent urban. Even with the tremendous urbanization of the 1970s and 1980s, economic problems have led to return migrations to the countryside. Thus, the 80:20 ratio may still stand. Among the Hausa, there is high infant mortality. If a child survives his or her first two years, he or she will probably live to age 50. Risk decreases until one reaches middle age, but many Hausa survive into their 70s and 80s.

Linguistic Affiliation. A Chadic language, Hausa is related to Arabic, Hebrew, Berber, and other Afroasiatic Family members. Proper tone and stress are imperative. Hausa, which was originally written in Arabic script, has a centuries-old literary tradition, but it is also the language of trade and, next to Swahili, is the most widely spoken African language.

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