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India, migration to British Africa

Migration A–Z


  1. Maritsa V. Poros

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm287

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Poros, M. V. 2013. India, migration to British Africa. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


The migration of Indians to the African continent long preceded the formation of British colonies in eastern and southern Africa. Indian migrations were part of historical trade routes across the Indian Ocean (Lach and Van Kley 1993). Those routes had connected the western coast of India to Persia, Arabia, and the eastern coast of Africa since before the beginning of the Christian era. Thus, some of the first Indian arrivals to British Africa – primarily Uganda, British East Africa, and South Africa – continued in that tradition as traders looking to expand their commercial activities across the Indian Ocean. Although Indians in British Africa are well known for their commercial success and long history of trading activities, many Indians arrived in British Africa under much harsher conditions. They were recruited or coerced as indentured labor to work in agriculture, mining, and the railroads, especially in the case of Southern Africa. Despite the different conditions under which Indians came to British Africa, they settled in large numbers in countries such as today's Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Africa. In East Africa, their residence lasted at least until the independence and Africanization policies of those countries in the 1960s created the impetus to move again; most then went to Britain, though many stayed. In South Africa, Indians had become part-and-parcel of the society and many have remained throughout its turbulent racial history. Indians also migrated to other parts of British Africa, where small communities still exist today. However, knowledge about these historical communities is scant. Therefore, this article focuses on Indian migration to British East Africa and South Africa.


  • Asia;
  • political economy;
  • cultural diversity;
  • imperialism;
  • farming;
  • ethnic conflict;
  • transnationalism