If there is any continent in the world with the proudest and loveliest of people, it is the African continent. With a population of over 1.2 billion people, who call “Africa” their home, there are very few who actually know the origin of the name.
Many do not care. They just love the name Africa. Not because of its noble sound, but because it means home – it means strength – it means riches in human and natural resources. And above all, it means POWER and LOST GLORY. A glory they are willing to reclaim.
But we at Liberty Writers Africa strongly believe that there is power in a name. And it is wrong for anyone to answer a name they don’t know the meaning.
The thing about history is that if people are not keen to document and boldly tell their stories, foreigners will one day hijack the missing pieces and come up with their own version of your history. This has been Africa’s challenge in the past centuries.
Below we will outline some of the popular narratives and accounts, bearing in mind that Africa is home to the entire world.
Africa Was Not Named After the Roman Conqueror Scipio Africanus:
Some Africans have refused the name Africa because they believe the name came from a Roman conqueror named Scipio Africanus. His full names were Pulius Cornelis Scipio, and he was never the one who gave Africa its names.
The name “Africanus” was his nickname given to him by his fellow Romans after he returned from his African invasion. It was a title of honor for his military achievements on African soil.
He wasn’t born with the name Africanus. Just like Julius Caesar, who was named “Julius Caesar Germanicus”, for invading modern day Germany. Germanicus means “the victor in Germania.” So, the Africanus in Scipio’s name simply means “victor in Africa.”
The Roman Theory:
Many historians have said that the name “Africa” was given by Romans who named the continent after the Berber tribe that lived in the Carthage area, which is today called Tunisia. The Berber lived on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea.
The historians have taught that the Romans called the region Afri-terra, which meant “the land of the Afri”. And from Afri-terra, they would have formed the single word “Africa”.
But on the contrary, other historians hold a different position and opinion on this. They suggest that the suffix “ica” could have also meant “the land of the Afri”, just like the Celtae or Celts of France are referred to as Celtica.
Many also believe that the name Africa was a misinterpretation by the Romans of what the Berber called their home. The Berber referred to their home as “Ifri” which means cave and meant the Berbers were cave-dwellers.
What makes these Roman accounts look credible was the fact that the name Africa has been in use in Rome for centuries, even though it was used in referring to only North-Africa.
The Phoenician Theory:
Historians who have given the Phoenician theory believe that the term “Africa” was gotten from two Phoenician words, “friqi” and “pharika”. The two words mean corn and fruit, and so historians assumed that the Phoenicians called Africa “the land of corn and fruit”.
This theory would make some sense, because truly the Phoenicians who inhabit the present-day Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, often sailed across the Mediterranean to trade with their ancient Egyptian neighbors.
The Nile Valley, in Egypt was once very fertile and was known as the breadbasket of Africa, with abundant harvests of fruits and corns.
The Weather Theory:
There are historians who have attributed the name “Africa” to the climate of the continent. They liking the name “Africa” to the Greek word “aphrikē”, which means “the land that is free from cold and horror.”
Many others believe that the name “Africa” could be from a Roman word “aprica”, which means “sunny”, or another Phoenician word “afar” which means “dust”.
The Africus Theory:
This theory assumes and claims that Africa got its name from Africus, a Yemenite chieftain, who invaded North Africa around the second millennium BC. He was said to have named one of his founded settlements in the newly conquered lands as “Afrikyah”.
This theory, even if it holds any water, has been lost to time and somehow sounds shallow.
The Geographical Theory:
This theory by certain historians claims that the name of the continent came from far away from India, and was brought by the traders. According to the Sanskrit and Hindi word “Apara” or “Africa”, literally means “a place that comes after”. If this is viewed in a geographical context, then it means “a place to the West”.
By geography, the Horn of Africa is most likely the first land that was reached by the explorers who crossed westward across the Indian Ocean from the South of India.
The Egyptian Origin of The Name Africa:
A few diverse and credible historians have maintained that Africa never got its name or the idea of it from Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Hindus or any Caucasian group. They maintain that the word “Africa” is indigenous to the continent.
The Romans and Greeks only started to use this name after their contact with the African people. And these contacts with Africans happened during the Greek conquest of Egypt, and the Roman conquest of Egypt and North Africa.
According to the historian Ivan Van Sertima, the term “Afru-ika” means “birthplace” or “Motherland”. The term “Af-rui-ka” means “to turn toward the opening of the Ka, womb or birthplace”.
Another Egyptian theory of the source of the name Africa is from the name of the 4th dynasty Pharaoh, Kh-afre.
It is believed that modern Egyptologists and historians mixed up the order of the hieroglyphs (ancient Egyptian writing) and wrote “Kh-afre” instead of the original “Afre-kh” which the ancients wrote, and which meant Africa.