The Fula or Fulanis are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Sahel and West Africa, widely dispersed across the region. They inhabit many countries, mainly in West Africa and northern parts of Central Africa but also in South Sudan, Sudan, and regions near the Red Sea coast.
They make up the largest ethnic group in Guinea. Major concentrations of Fulani people exist in the Fouta Djallon highlands of central Guinea and south into the northernmost reaches of Sierra Leone.
The approximate number of Fula people is unknown due to clashing definitions regarding Fula ethnicity. Various estimates put the figure between and 40 million worldwide.
The origins of the Fulani people are unclear and various theories have been postulated. The ethnogenesis of the Fulani people may have begun as a result of interactions between an ancient West African population and North African populations such as Berbers or Egyptians. Their West African roots may be in and around the valley of Senegal River. They likely reflect a genetic intermix of people with West African, North African, and Arabian origins, and have been a part of many ruling dynasties particularly in the Sahel and West Africa.
The majority of the Fula ethnic group consisted of semi-sedentary people as well as sedentary settled farmers, artisans, merchants, and nobility.As an ethnic group, they are bound together by the Fula language, their historyand their culture. More than 96% of the Fula are Muslims.
Fulani in English is borrowed from the Hausa term. Fula, on the other hand, is taken from the Manding languages. It is also used in English and sometimes spelt with an "h" at the end. The French borrowed the Wolof term Pël.
There are generally three different types of Fulani based on settlement patterns: There are the Nomadic/Pastoral or Mbororo, The Semi-Nomadic, and the Settled or "Town Fulani". The pastoral Fulani move around with their cattle throughout the year. Typically, they do not stay around for long stretches. The semi-nomadic Fulani can either be Fulɓe families who happen to settle down temporarily at particular times of the year or Fulɓe families who do not "browse" around past their immediate surroundings. They may even possess livestock but do not wander away from a fixed or settled homestead.
Settled or Town Fulani live permanently in villages, towns, and cities and have given up nomadic life completely, in favor of an urban one.
Many West African leaders are of the Fulani descent including the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari; the President of Senegal, Macky Sall; the President of Gambia, Adama Barrow; the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh; and the Prime Minister of Mali, Boubou Cisse. They also lead major international institutions, such as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed; President-Elect of the United Nations General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande; and the Secretary-General of OPEC, Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo.