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Country name and Origin


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Algeria
Algiers or Al-Jazair ("The Island") in Arabic a reference to the small islands that once dotted the bay of the city.
Angola
In 1483 2 Kingdoms ruled the region - "Bakongo" -North and "Quimbundos"/"Ndongo"- West & Central. Name originated from the King of Quimbundos called "Ngola"
Benin
Former name Dahomey("on the belly of Dan") was an ancient Kingdom located in the south of what is modern day Benin Republic.
Botswana
Name used to collectively describe the Tswana the country's dominant ethnic group. Formerly known as Bechuanaland Bechauna being an alternative spelling for Botswana.
Burkina Faso
Mossi for "Land of Incorruptible Men" was changed to this from Upper Volta in 1984. Upper Volta reffered to its geographical location in relation to the Volta river.
Burundi
Derives from Rundi (Kirundi) the language universally spoken throughout Burundi.
Cameroon
Derived from Rio de Camarões (the River of Prawns) the name given to River Wouri by Portuguese Explorers in the 15th century.
Cape Verde
Named after the westernmost point in mainland Africa. The nearest point on the continent to this Island Nation.
Chad
The name appears to derive from the Lake which forms it South-Western border with Nigeria.
Comoros
Derived from the Arabic kamar or kumr meaning "moon" although this name was first applied by Arab geographers to Madagascar. It was adopted by French Colonialists to describe the Islands.
R. Congo
Named after the 15th Kingdom of Kongo which thrived on both banks of the River Congo extending into Modern day Congo Congo DR Angola and Zambia.
Congo DR
Formerly known as Zaire a traditional local name for River Congo.
Ivory Coast
Reference by European traders to the availabiilty of Ivory Tusks.
Djibouti
Fomerly Territory of the Afars and Issas. Named after the Port capital.
Egypt
Direct geographical descendent of Ancient Egypt.
Equatorial Guinea
Guinea derives from the berber word Aguinaw or Gnawa ("black man") which Berbers (Nomadic Saharan Peoples) have used to describe most of West Africa.
Eritrea
Latin phrase Mare Erythraeum ("Red Sea") was used by Italy to describe its colonies in the horn of Africa. This later became Eritrea and was adopted by the country on independence from Ethiopia.
Ethiopia
Direct geographical descendent of Ancient Ethiopia.
Gabon
Portuguese word Gabao a coat with sleeves and hood resembling the shape of the Como River estuary where they first explored.
Gambia
Named after the River Gambia which flows through the Country.
Ghana
Named after the Ancient West African Kingdom of Ghana.
Kenya
Named after the mountain of the same name. and this in turn derives it name from The Kikuyu who refer to the mountain as Kirinyaga or Kere Nyaga ("Mountain of Whiteness").
Lesotho
Named after the Sotho People the dominant Ethnic Group. Formerly known as Basutoland.
Liberia
Derived from the Latin word liber ("Free") Reference to the return of Freed American Slaves who founded the modern Republic of Liberia.
Libya
In 1934 Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the ancient Greeks for all of North Africa except Egypt) as the official name of their new colony which consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica Tripolitania and Fezzan.
Madagascar
The origin of the Madagascar is uncertain some people believe the European Traveller Marco Polo (who never visted the island) confused it with Mogadishu in present day Somalia. Hence Early reference to the Island as Madeigascar or Mogelasio this eventually became Madagascar about the 16th centruty. Others believe that the Madagascar may be a local reference to the "Country of Malagasy". However the Kings of Malagasy tended to refer to the whole Island by "Izao will rehetra izao " or " Izao tontolo izao ("this entire country").
Malawi
Derived from Marawi A confederacy of states that existed in the area of present day Malawi.
Mali
Named after the ancient West African Kingdom of Mali. See Ancient Mali.
Mauritania
The name is derived from Spanish description of the area as the land of the Moors a term used to describe Arab rulers of Southern Spain. It was also the name of an ancient Berber Kingdom.
Mauritius
The island was named in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau by Dutch explorers. The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Ile de France. In 1810 Mauritius was captured by the British and renamed back to Mauritius.
Mayotte
Most of the people are Moharais of Malagasy origin. Mayotte (French) Maore or Mahore (Comoran) describes the land of the Moharais.
Morocco
Direct geographical descendent of Ancient Morocco.
Mozambique
Named after Mouzinho de Alburquerque 19th Century Portuguese colonalist who put down nationalist rebellions in the territory and thus established effective Portuguese control.
Namibia
Derived from the Namib the desert that runs along the namibia coast. Namib in turn means "an area where there is nothing" in the local Nama language.
Niger
Derived from the River Niger and meaning Black in Latin.
Rwanda
Named after the Laguage spoken throught out the country Ruanda (also called Kinyarwanda).
Sao Tome and Principe
Portuguese names for the Islands. Actual Origin unknown.
Senegal
Derived from the River Senegal.
Seychelles
In 1756 Seychelles became a French colony under the name of Séchelles named after the Moreau of Séchelles Minister of Finance under the kingdom of Louis XV. During the 19th Century under British rule the name was anglicised to Seychelles.
Sierra Leone
In 1462 a Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra sailed down the coast of West Africa and saw the long range of mountains of what is now the Freetown Peninsula. As a result of shape and climatic conditions experienced by the explorer he called the lands 'Sierra Lyoa' meaning 'Lion Mountains'. Sixteenth century English sailors called it 'Sierra Leoa' by the seventeenth it was 'Sierra Leona' and by 1787 under British Rule it had became Sierra Leone.
Somalia
The Land of the Somali the dominant Ethnic group in the country.
Sudan
Sudan (a name derived from the Arabic phrase bilad as sudan "land of the blacks").
Swaziland
The Land of the Swazi's who form 97% of the population.
Tanzania
Derived from the union of Mainland Tanganyika and the Islands of Zanzibar which together form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Togo
Named after Togoville in Germany where Germany declared a "protectorate" over the area that came to be Togo.
Tunisia
Named after Tunis the present day capital but in ancient times a powerful city state and successor to ancient Carthage.
Uganda
Derived from the Buganda the country's largest Ethnic Group.
Western Sahara
Named after is location. Also known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic after its people the Sahrawi Arabs.
Zambia
Derived from the Zambezi River which flows along its southern borders.
Zimbabwe
Named after Great Zimbabwe an ancient trading empire dating back to the Iron Age. Zimbabwe means Stone Houses in the local Shona Language.