Is Spanish spoken in Africa? When most people think of Spanish, they think about Latin America and about its namesake country, Spain. But Spanish is also the official language of one African country: Equatorial Guinea.
What are the official languages of Equatorial Guinea?
Spanish has been the official language since 1844 and it is the language of the government and education. French is also recognized and in 2010 Portuguese was also adopted as an official language. However, there are many other indigenous languages spoken in the small territory.
Approximately 67.6% of Equatorial Guineans can speak Spanish and the percentage of those who do is higher in more developed areas, like the capital Malabo.
But why is Spanish spoken in Africa?
Equatorial Guinea was first reached by Portuguese explorer Fernando Pó. He discovered the island of Bioko (also called island of Fernando Pó), which is part of present-day Equatorial Guinea. But the small island was given to Spain in the 18th century in a treaty. As a part of the Spanish Empire, the island was managed by the Viceroyalty of Río de Plata in Buenos Aires.
Spain had, however, failed to explore the continental part of Guinea. The French were the ones profiting from this part of the country and only handed it to Spain in 1900. The testimony of the French presence lives on with a small French-speaking community. Portuguese was spoken by settlers from other nearby Portuguese colonies and originated several creoles throughout Africa.
In the 20th century, both parts of the country were reunited as Spanish Guinea. During this period, Spanish gained strength as the language of the administration as well as the language of Catholic missionaries. The Spanish Catholic education was seen as a way of integration and 87% of the Guinean population is still Catholic.
Equatorial Guinea gained independence from Spain in 1968.