Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have agreed to form a joint Kiswahili council to promote linguistic and cultural cooperation in the region. The creation of the body, called BarazaLa Kswahili la Afrika Mashariki in Kiswahili, is seen by observers as critical to reviving the project for a regional political, economic and cultural entity, the so-called East Africa Community, with the indigenous language as the lingua franca.
Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by over 100 million people in the region stretching from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique. It is one of the official languages of the African Union and is accepted by the United Nations as a working language. The regional council is expected to take office early next year and will comprise representatives of existing national Kiswahili councils, national government, media and publishing houses and cultural organisations.
There are an estimated 1,500-2,000 languages spoken in Africa, excluding dialects, sign languages and languages that are whistled or clicked.