Muslim Yao in Zambia

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Large Yao kingdoms came into being as mighty Yao chiefs took control of the Niassa province of Mozambique in the 19th century. During that time, the Yao began to move from their traditional home in today's Malawi and Tanzania, which resulted in the Yao populations they now have. The most important result of the great chiefdoms was the turning of the whole nation to Islam around the turn of the 20th century and after the 1st World War. Because of their trade with the Arabs, the Yao chiefs (sultans) needed scribes who could read and write Arabic. The Islam teachers who were employed and lived in the Yao villages, made a significant impact on the Yao people because they could offer them literacy, a holy book, smart clothes and a square, instead of round, houses.

Furthermore, the Yao sultans strongly resisted the Portuguese, British and German colonial rule, which was viewed as a major threat to them. The British, who were seen as Christians, tried to stop the slave trade by attacking some of the Yao slave caravans near the coast. They freed the slaves and confiscated the ivory, which the slaves had been transporting. The greater Yao chief Mataka decided that becoming a Christian would have a negative economic impact on his people, while Islam offered them a social system, which would assimilate their traditional culture. Because of the political and ritual domination of the chiefs, their conversion to Islam caused their subjects to do likewise.

Where Are they Located?

Yao people live in most of the countries of southern Africa including Zambia, but most live in Mozambique, Tanzania or Malawi.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Yao people wear charms in a vein effort to protect themselves from ill health. They often use folk cures rather than modern medicine.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Islam which the Yao of Zambia have embraced is not the orthodox form, of the Middle East, but is totally intermingled with a traditional animistic belief system. It is often referred to as Folk Islam.

What Are Their Needs?

Yao people need adequate medical facilities and schools that will help their children deal with the challenges of the 21st century.

Prayer Points

Pray that Yao people in Zambia will put their full trust in the God of the Bible rather than in the spirit world and charms.
Pray for Yao believers in other countries to take the gospel to the Yao people in Zambia.
Pray for a Disciple-Making movement to emerge among Yao communities in Africa.

Scripture Prayers for the Yao, Muslim in Zambia.


Profile Source:   Keith Carey  

People Name General Yao, Muslim
People Name in Country Yao, Muslim
Natural Name Muslim Yao
Pronunciation yow
Population this Country 5,400
Population all Countries 3,018,000
Total Countries 4
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names Ajawa; Ayao; Chiyao; Wajao
People ID 15988
ROP3 Code 110980
Country Zambia
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Eastern province: Chipata district, Kapata township; Katete district.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Zambia
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Eastern province: Chipata district, Kapata township; Katete district..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016

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Primary Language Yao (5,400 speakers)
Language Code yao   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Yao (5,400 speakers)
Language Code yao   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Yao

Primary Language:  Yao

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1880-2008)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1898-1994)
Bible-Complete Yes  (2014-2015)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching
Audio Recordings Online New Testament
Audio Recordings Online New Testament
Film / Video God's Story video
Film / Video Video / Animation
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Yao
Film / Video King of Glory movie
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video Magdalena video
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children
General Gospel resources links
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file
Mobile App Download audio Bible app from Google Play Store
Text / Printed Matter Bible: Yao
Text / Printed Matter Literacy primer for Yao
Text / Printed Matter Topical Scripture booklets and Bible studies
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 1.00 %)
3.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
97.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
Other Christian
Roman Catholic
Photo Source The I Am Yawo Project 
Profile Source Keith Carey  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more