At first sight, the human map of Africa may seem a bewildering jigsaw of hundreds of tribes each with a different language. Lack of communications (B) has blocked the process, much further advanced in other continents, of smoothing out local differences and enlarging language areas. On the other hand, right up to the time of the European partitioning of Africa, waves of migration and conquest were still carrying African peoples into the midst of quite different groups, racial and linguistic.
Broad outlines, however, may be briefly stated. Setting aside recent European and Asian settlement (D) and the Malayan element in Madagascar (E, 35), the peoples of Africa are almost entirely Negroid and Caucasoid in racial origin, Nigritic and Hamitic in language. The oldest inhabitants of central and southern Africa, the forest Pygmies (Negrillo, Twa) and the pale-skinned Bushmen and Hottentots, have almost vanished, some of them absorbed into Bantu and other groups, the survivors -- about 170,000 Pygmies, 80,000 Bushmen and Hottentot -- driven into the Congo jungles and the south-western deserts. Surviving Pygmies speak the languages of their African neighbours.
The old homeland of the Negro is in the west coastal belt from Senegal to Cameroons, where Nigritic languages predominate. East and south from the Cameroons, the Bantu -- Negro peoples, speaking Nigritic languages with a common structure-have spread out during