Kanembu in Niger

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

This people group speaks Kanembu, a Kanuri language that has various dialects.

Up until the 1200s, the Kanembu were the most powerful people group south of the Sahara, advancing their position by importing technology. However, their empire rapidly declined during the 1500s under the strength of other more aggressive and powerful rulers.

Where Are they Located?

Most Kanembu live in the desert region of northwestern Chad, just northeast of Lake Chad. They inhabit an arid region of thin thorny bushes. Vegetation is seasonal, since the area receives less than twelve inches of rain per year. Part of their homeland is in southeastern Niger and northeastern Nigeria.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Kanembu are primarily farmers and stock breeders. Many families keep small gardens in the fertile wadis (valleys or streambeds). In good wadis, which are occasionally watered by streams, farmers can harvest corn twice a year and wheat once. Those living around Lake Chad make use of the moist, fertile polders (wadis that have been artificially created by damming a small inlet of the lake). Frequently, Kanembu farmers have a surplus of grain, which they export north by camel and across Lake Chad to Nigeria by canoe.

The Kanembu's ancestors were herdsmen; and today, many Kanembu still tend cattle. In the north, some are semi-nomadic, migrating for brief periods with their cattle. Others are settled farmers, raising livestock and growing millet on ground fertilized by the manure of their cattle.

The Kanembu have a stable social structure. Each village has a secular chief and a religious leader who provide material and spiritual guidance. Families are large, and some of the men have more than one wife. They live in straw huts that are built near sandy depressions where water collects.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Arabs migrating from the North and East spread into Chad with Islam during the tenth century. Today, Islam is strong among the Kanembu. They are generally orthodox, faithfully following Islamic practices, with the exception of a few rural traditions.

Interestingly, there are a few points of resemblance between their religious ideals and those of Christianity: the belief in one only God, who is eternal, the creator, omniscient; the existence of protecting spirits (or angels); the concept of the sanctuary or "holy of holies" and the Spirit of God who communicates; and various analogies to explain complex concepts.

What Are Their Needs?

Although some young boys travel to Nigeria's Borno State to attend Islamic high schools, most Kanembu are illiterate. Their villages lack modern schools and health care, facilities that are hindered by the absence of quality roads.

The Islamic faith has been passed down among the Kanembu from generation to generation. Parents forbid education in secular schools, even if it means no education at all. They only allow their children to study Arabic, since it was the language of Mohammed. The Kanembu desperately need willing workers to live among them and demonstrate God's love to them in practical ways.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Niger and share Christ with the Kanembu people.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Kanembu towards believers so that they will be receptive to the gospel.
Pray that God will raise up teams of intercessors who will faithfully stand in the gap for these precious people.
Ask the Lord to raise up a strong church planting movement among the Kanembu people in Chad, Nigeria and Niger.

Scripture Prayers for the Kanembu in Niger.



Profile Source:   Keith Carey  

People Name General Kanembu
People Name in Country Kanembu
Pronunciation kuh-NEM-boo
Alternate Names Kanembou; Karkawu; Kenembu
Population this Country 36,000
Population all Countries 1,000,000
Total Countries 3
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 1  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 12489
ROP3 Code 104570
ROP25 Code 303643
ROP25 Name Kanembu
Country Niger
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 27  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Country Niger
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 27  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Map of Kanembu in Niger
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.02 %
Ethnic Religions
4.98 %
0.00 %
95.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Kanembu
Language Code kbl   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Kanembu
Language Code kbl   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Kanembu

Primary Language:  Kanembu

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2001)
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Film / Video Jesus Film Jesus Film Project
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Photo Source James Lane 
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Keith Carey 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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