|Regions with significant populations|
|"African Great Lakes, "Central Africa, "Southern Africa|
|"Bantu languages (over 535)|
|predominantly: "Christianity, "traditional faiths; minority: "Islam|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other "Niger–Congo-speaking groups|
The Bantu peoples are the speakers of "Bantu languages, comprising several hundred "ethnic groups in "sub-Saharan Africa, spread over a vast area from "Central Africa across the "African Great Lakes to "Southern Africa. Linguistically, the Bantu languages belong to the "Southern Bantoid branch of "Benue–Congo, one of the language families grouped within the "Niger–Congo phylum.
The total number of Bantu languages ranges in the hundreds, depending on the definition of ""language" vs. "dialect" estimated at between 440 and 680 distinct languages. The total number of Bantu speakers is in the hundreds of millions, ranging at roughly 350 million in the mid-2010s (roughly 30% of the total "population of Africa, or roughly 5% of "world population). About 60 million Bantu speakers (2015), divided into some 200 ethnic or tribal groups, are found in the "Democratic Republic of Congo alone.
The larger of the individual Bantu groups have populations of several million, e.g. the "Shona of "Zimbabwe (12 million as of 2000), the "Zulu of "South Africa (12 million as of 2005) the "Luba of the "Democratic Republic of the Congo (7 million as of 2010), the "Sukuma of "Tanzania (9 million as of 2016), or the "Kikuyu of Kenya (7 million as of 2010).
The word Bantu, and its variations, means ""people" or "humans". The root in "Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as *-ntu. Versions of the word Bantu (that is, the "root plus the class 2 "noun class prefix *ba-) occur in all Bantu languages: for example, as watu in Swahili; bantu in "Kikongo; anthu in "Chichewa; batu in "Lingala; bato in "Kiluba; bato in "Duala; abanto in "Gusii; andũ in "Kamba and "Kikuyu; abantu in "Kirundi, "Zulu, "Xhosa, "Runyakitara, and "Ganda; wandru in "Shingazidja; abantru in "Mpondo and "Ndebele; bãtfu in "Phuthi; bantfu in "Swati; banu in "Lala; vanhu in "Shona and "Tsonga; batho in "Sesotho, "Tswana and "Northern Sotho; antu in "Meru; andu in "Embu; vandu in some "Luhya dialects; vhathu in "Venda; bhandu in "Nyakyusa; and mbaityo in "Tiv.
Bantu languages derive from a "Proto-Bantu language, estimated to have been spoken about 4,000 to 3,000 years ago in West/Central Africa (the area of modern-day "Cameroon). They were spread across Central, Eastern and Southern Africa in the "Bantu expansion, a rapid succession of migrations during the "1st millennium BC, in one wave moving across the "Congo basin towards "East Africa, in another moving south along the African coast and the Congo River system towards Angola.
The geographical origin of the Bantu expansion is somewhat open to debate. Two main scenarios are proposed, an early expansion to Central Africa, and a single origin of the migration radiating from there, or an early separation into an eastward and a southward wave of migration.  Genetic analysis shows a significant clustering of Bantu peoples by region, suggesting admixture from local populations, with the "Eastern Bantu forming a separate ancestral cluster, and the Southern Bantu ("Venda, "Xhosa) showing derivation from Western Bantu by "Khoisan admixture and low levels of Eastern Bantu admixture.
According to the early-split scenario described in the 1990s, the southward migration had reached the Central African rain forest by about 1500 BC, and the southern Savannahs by 500 BC, while the eastward migration reached the "Great Lakes by 1000 BC, expanding further from there, as the rich environment supported a dense population. Movements by small groups to the southeast from the Great Lakes region were more rapid, with initial settlements widely dispersed near the coast and near rivers, due to comparatively harsh farming conditions in areas farther from water. Pioneering groups had reached modern "KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa by about AD 300 along the coast, and the modern Northern Province (encompassed within the former province of the "Transvaal) by AD 500.
The Bantu peoples assimilated and/or displaced a number of earlier inhabitants that they came across, such as "Pygmy and "Khoisan populations in the centre and south, respectively. They also encountered some "Afro-Asiatic outlier groups in the southeast (mainly "Cushitic), as well as "Nilo-Saharan (mainly "Nilotic and "Sudanic) groups. As cattle terminology in use amongst the few modern Bantu "pastoralist groups suggests, the Bantu migrants would acquire "cattle from their new Cushitic neighbors. Linguistic evidence also indicates that Bantus likely borrowed the custom of milking cattle directly from Cushitic peoples in the area. Later interactions between Bantu and Cushitic peoples resulted in Bantu groups with significant Cushitic ethnic admixture, such as the "Tutsi of the African Great Lakes region; and culturo-linguistic influences, such as the "Herero herdsmen of southern Africa.
Between the 14th and 15th centuries, Bantu-speaking states began to emerge in the Great Lakes region in the savannah south of the Central African rain forest. On the "Zambezi river, the "Monomatapa kings built the "Great Zimbabwe complex, a civilisation ancestral to the "Shona people. Comparable sites in Southern Africa, include "Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and "Manyikeni in Mozambique.
From the 16th century onward, the processes of state formation amongst Bantu peoples increased in frequency. This was probably due to denser population (which led to more specialized divisions of labor, including military power, while making emigration more difficult); to increased interaction amongst Bantu-speaking communities with "Chinese, "European, "Indonesian, and "Arab traders on the coasts; to technological developments in economic activity; and to new techniques in the political-spiritual ritualization of royalty as the source of national strength and health. Some examples of such Bantu states include: in Central Africa, the "Kingdom of Kongo, "Lunda Empire, "Luba Empire of Angola, the "Buganda Kingdoms of Uganda and Tanzania; and in Southern Africa, the "Mutapa Empire, the "Danamombe, "Khami, and "Naletale Kingdoms of Zimbabwe and Mozambique and the "Rozwi Empire.
On the coastal section of East Africa, a mixed Bantu community developed through contact with "Muslim "Arab and "Persian traders, "Zanzibar being an important port in the "Arab slave trade. The "Swahili culture that emerged from these exchanges evinces many Arab and Islamic influences not seen in traditional Bantu culture, as do the many "Afro-Arab members of the Bantu "Swahili people. With its original speech community centered on the coastal parts of Zanzibar, Kenya, and Tanzania – a seaboard referred to as the "Swahili Coast – the Bantu Swahili language contains many "Arabic "loan-words as a result of these interactions. The Arab slave trade also brought Bantu influence to "Madagascar, the "Malagasy people showing Bantu admixture, and their "Malagasy language Bantu loans. Toward the 18th and 19th centuries, the flow of "Zanj (Bantu) slaves from Southeast Africa increased with the rise of the "Omani "Sultanate of Zanzibar, based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. With the arrival of European colonialists, the Zanzibar Sultanate came into direct trade conflict and competition with "Portuguese and other Europeans along the Swahili Coast, leading eventually to the fall of the Sultanate and the end of slave trading on the Swahili Coast in the mid-20th century.
(millions, 2015 est.)
|% Bantu||Bantu population
(millions, 2015 est.)
|"Democratic Republic of the Congo||77||80%||62||B, C, D, H, J, K, L, M||"Kongo people, "Mongo, "Luba, numerous others ( Ambala, Ambuun, Angba, Babindi, Baboma, Baholo, Balunda, Bangala, Bango, Batsamba, Bazombe, Bemba, Bembe, Bira, Bowa, Dikidiki, Dzing, Fuliru, Havu, Hema, Hima, Hunde, Hutu, Iboko, Kanioka, Kaonde, Kuba, Kumu, Kwango, Lengola, Lokele, Lupu, Lwalwa, Mbala, Mbole, Mbuza (Budja), Nande, Ngoli, Bangoli, Ngombe, Nkumu, Nyanga, Pende, Popoi, Poto, Sango, Shi, Songo, Sukus, Tabwa, Tchokwé, Téké, Tembo, Tetela, Topoke, Tutsi, Ungana, Vira, Wakuti, Yaka, Yakoma, Yanzi, Yeke, Yela, total 80% Bantu)|
|"Tanzania||51||90%?||c. 45||E, F, G, J, M, N, P||"Sukuma, Gogo, Nyamwezi, Nyakyusa-Ngonde, numerous others (majority Bantu)|
|"South Africa||55||75%||40||S||"Nguni ("Zulu, "Xhosa, "Swazi, "Ndebele), "Basotho (South Sotho), "Bapedi (North Sotho), "Venda, "Tswana, "Tsonga, total 75% Bantu|
|"Kenya||46||80%||37||E, J||"Kikuyu, "Luhya, "Kamba, "Kisii, "Meru, "Kuria, "Aembu, "Ambeere, "Wadawida-Watuweta, Wapokomo and "Mijikenda, numerous others (80% Bantu)|
|"Uganda||37||70%?||c. 25||D, J||"Nkole, "Tooro, others (majority Bantu)|
|"Angola||26||97%||25||H, K, R||"Ovimbundu, "Ambundu, "Bakongo, "Chokwe, "Lunda, "Ganguela, "Ovambo, "Herero, "Xindonga (97% Bantu)|
|"Malawi||16||99%||16||N||"Chewa, "Nyanja, "Tumbuka, "Yao, "Lomwe, "Sena, "Tonga, "Ngoni, "Ngonde|
|"Zambia||15||99%||15||L, M, N||"Nyanja-Chewa, "Bemba, "Tonga, "Tumbuka, "Lunda, "Luvale, "Kaonde, "Nkoya and "Lozi, about 70 groups total.|
|"Zimbabwe||14||99%||14||S||"Shona, "Ndebele, numerous minor groups.|
|"Cameroon||22||30–70%||c. 7–15||A||more than 130 groups, c. 30% Bantu and 40% "Semi-Bantu|
|"Republic of the Congo||5||97%||5||B, C||"Kongo, "Sangha, "M'Bochi, "Teke|
|"Botswana||2.2||90%||2.0||R, S||"Tswana or Setswana, "Kalanga, 90% Bantu|
|"Equatorial Guinea||2.0||95%||1.9||A||"Fang, "Bubi, 95% Bantu|
|"Gabon||1.9||95%||1.8||B||"Fang, Nzebi, "Myene, "Kota, "Shira, "Puru, Kande.|
|"Namibia||2.3||70%||1.6||K, R||Ovambo, Kavango, Herero, 70% Bantu|
|"Swaziland||1.1||99%||1.1||S||"Swazi, "Zulu, "Tsonga|
|"Comoros||0.8||99%||0.8||E, G||"Comorian people|
|Sub-Saharan Africa||970||c. 37%||c. 360|
In the 1920s, relatively liberal South Africans, missionaries, and the small black intelligentsia began to use the term "Bantu" in preference to "Native" and more derogatory terms (such as ""Kaffir") to refer collectively to Bantu-speaking South Africans. After "World War II, the "National Party governments adopted that usage officially, while the growing African nationalist movement and its liberal allies turned to the term "African" instead, so that "Bantu" became identified with the policies of "apartheid. By the 1970s this so discredited "Bantu" as an ethno-racial designation that the apartheid government switched to the term "Black" in its official racial categorizations, restricting it to Bantu-speaking Africans, at about the same time that the "Black Consciousness Movement led by "Steve Biko and others were defining "Black" to mean all non-Afrikaner South Africans (Bantus, Khoisan, Coloureds, and "Indians).
Examples of South African usages of "Bantu" include:
A Kikuyu woman in "Kenya