Soninke in Côte d'Ivoire

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Have you heard of the Ghana Empire? It existed from 750 to 1240 AD in West Africa. The Soninke people were the founders and rulers of the Ghana Empire. When the empire ended, the Soninke were scattered across West Africa including the nation of Cote d'Ivoire, also known as Ivory Coast. The Soninke make up only about one percent of the population of Cote d'Ivoire. Cote d'Ivoire gained its independence from France in 1960. The economy grew during the presidency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny who ruled the country with his one-party government until 1993. Since that time Cote d'Ivoire has suffered two civil wars and numerous human rights violations. Cote d'Ivoire became the leading world exporter of cocoa in 1979. Cocoa is used to make chocolate. Other exports include coffee, rubber and palm oil.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Soninke live in the rural northern part of Cote d'Ivoire near the borders with Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. The main occupations of the Soninke are agriculture, animal husbandry and trade. The social structure and organization of the Soninke are typical of Mande-related people groups. They are farmers who raise sorghum, rice, peanuts, and their staple crop, millet. They also raise large numbers of goats, sheep, horses, chickens, and cattle. They do very little fishing and hunting, and trade is extremely important. The Soninke trade in the local markets. They also travel to markets in other regions to trade their goods. Today the Soninke have one of the highest rates of male labor migration in West Africa. Much of the male population is absent from the home doing migrant work, which often lasts from two to four years. With the women, old men and children left behind, a form of matriarchal (female-dominated) society has evolved. Most Soninke live in compact villages surrounded by their farm and grazing lands. Houses line both sides of the main street, and a mosque is typically located at the village square. Soninke marriages require the payment of a bride-price. In contrast to most neighboring tribes, the bride-price is given to the bride rather than her parents and becomes part of her dowry. They forbid pre-marital sexual relations. They accept polygamy (having more than one wife), with each man being limited to four wives by Islamic law. In the past, inheritances were passed down from fathers to sons. Muslim rules govern the dispersion of property: one-eighth goes to the widow, while equal shares go to each son and half shares go to each daughter. Soninke parents encourage their sons to pursue a secondary education while the daughters receive at best a primary education.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Soninke are Sunni Muslims heavily influenced by folk religion, a belief in natural spirits. The Soninke try to obey the teachings of the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. Sunnis believe that by following the Five Pillars of Islam that they will attain heaven when they die. However, Allah, the supreme God of the universe, determines who enters paradise. Sunnis pray five times a day facing Mecca. They fast the month of Ramadan. They attend mosque services on Friday. If a Muslim has the means, he or she will make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her lifetime. Muslims are also prohibited from drinking alcohol, eating pork, gambling, stealing, using deceit, slandering, and making idols. The two main holidays for Sunni Muslims are Eid al Fitr, the breaking of the monthly fast and Eid al Adha, the celebration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to Allah. Friday is the day of rest with Soninke attending their local mosques.

What Are Their Needs?

Among all the Soninke in Cote d'Ivoire, there are few if any Christians. Those who decide to follow Christ will suffer persecution. Therefore, evangelizing is extremely difficult. Most Soninke have not yet heard a clear presentation of the gospel in their heart language.

Prayer Points

Pray that the believers who will soon come from the Soninke will be established in the faith and share the love of Isa or Jesus with their family and friends. Pray that the Lord sends team of medical and agricultural experts to the Soninke in Cote d'Ivoire to tell them about Jesus and help with their practical needs. Pray that the Lord raises up a Disciple Making Movement among the Soninke in Cote d'Ivoire in this decade.

Scripture Prayers for the Soninke in Côte d'Ivoire.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Soninke
People Name in Country Soninke
Pronunciation suh-NING-kay
Alternate Names Azer; Sarakole; Sarawulé; Serahuli; Serer; Toubakai
Population this Country 228,000
Population all Countries 3,197,000
Total Countries 10
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 5
People ID 14996
ROP3 Code 109413
ROP25 Code 307660
ROP25 Name Soninke
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
25.00 %
0.00 %
75.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Soninke
Language Code snk   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Soninke
Language Code snk   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Soninke

Primary Language:  Soninke

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2001-2018)
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
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories One Story
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories Story Runners
Film / Video Video / Animation Create International
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Soninke Jesus Film Project
Film / Video My Last Day video, anime Jesus Film Project
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Bible for Children Bible for Children
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Photo Source Link Up Africa 
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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