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Indian Africa

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Adam Michel

From the Trading-Post Indians to the Indian-Africans

Michel Adam

In memory of Cynthia Salvadori

Texte intégral

  • 1 See the chapter written by Laurent Nowik in this book. The figure of 350,000 attributed to people o (...)

1Just like Southern Africa (South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe), the three countries of East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) have minorities from the Indian sub-continent amongst their population. Locally referred to as “Asians”, these people are essentially concentrated in the cities, particularly Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Kampala, but can also be found in smaller urban centres, and even in the remotest of rural townships. The East African Indians, whose main occupations are in business, manufacturing and the service industry and who make up a large proportion of the liberal professions, play a leading social and economic role, considering their number. Divided into multiple religious communities, but united in a mutual feeling of meta-cultural identity, their arrival in East Africa followed two demographically disproportionate migratory waves: the first one took place before the 20th century and mainly brought in island and coastal traders (Lamu, Zanzibar, Mombasa); the other, which was largely characterised by a wider social diversity (labourers, employed workers, technical workers, small-scale traders, etc.), resulted from European colonisation. Reaching a population of over 350,000 people in the beginning of the 1960s, the Indian diaspora went through great changes in terms of population growth, with a 100,000 decline towards the end of the 1970s and a contemporary rise of 150,000 (100,000 in Kenya, 40,000 to 50,000 in Tanzania and 10,000 in Uganda)1. Resulting from xenophobic reactions, this demographic instability was also caused by identity insecurity. It explains difficulties for members of the diaspora to fit into the newly founded national entities. In addition, the relatively high population growth recorded from the 1980s should not conceal the fact that the ratio of this immigrant population to the entire population of the three countries shrank from about 1 % in 1963 to 0.15 % in 2007. In relation to the urban population, this decline is even more spectacular for Kenya alone, dropping from 18 % in 1962 to 1.5 % in 2001.

Brief background on immigration

2Let us look at a map of the African continent. Whereas the continent’s entire western coastline borders the immense part of the Atlantic Ocean, its eastern coastline borders an interior sea lined by countries that are endowed with commercial traditions: the Emirate coast, the southern part of Persia, India, which even shares its name with the eponymous ocean and has since ancient times dotted its shores with trading posts. Arabs, Persians, Indians and even adventurous traders from the Far East had already set foot on the eastern coast of Africa many centuries ago. Undoubtedly the Arabs were the forerunners, according to ancient testimonies, with some of their arrivals dating back to ancient history. After exploring the fertile islands off the coast, which were temperate and could easily be defended against all kinds of assailants, they established their slave trade colonies there. Five or six centuries before the Europeans created their “Sugar Islands” in the Caribbean, the Arabs had invented all the features of a socio-economic and social-cultural model, which, though less elaborate, was largely ahead of the West Indian establishments. The Indian Ocean islands of Lamu, Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia, which produced sugar and spices in addition to being a gateway for slaves and slave trade goods, were under the influence of emirates that were transplanted from the Gulf. They became the crucible of a hybrid civilisation known as the sah’el ( “shore” in Arabic) country. The pronunciation of the word sah’el was corrupted and later become Swahili. Like in the Caribbean (and later in the neighbouring Reunion and Mauritius islands), there emerged a Creole society (Arab, African and Muslim), which was oriental in nature and quickly became Islamised, with multiple dominant social strata of freed slaves and slaves. Equally, as with the Creole languages of the Caribbean region, a new language –Swahili, which combines Arab words and Bantu syntax – gained currency among the poor and became dominant in the entire society.

3The early Indian traders quickly found their place in this urbanized and prosperous society that straddled the two continents. Using the Arabs intermediaries who were already present deep inland, they set up their first trading posts, introducing their import-export agents. Thus goods were exchanged in both Indian-Arab and Afro-Asian overseas trade: utensils, furniture, cloth, perfumes, arms and other manufactured goods against treasures from the African hinterland: gold, ivory, rhinoceros horns, dye (mangrove wood) and precious wood.

4Almost all the Indian traders from East Africa were from the north-western part of the sub-continent, known to be the cradle of ancient and brilliant civilisations as well as the centre of intense economic activity: Sindh (today part of Pakistan), Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra. This region was occupied four thousand years ago by Vedic invaders, and therefore the home, in some way, to primitive Hinduism. Since then, it has experienced diverse cultural influences (particularly Greek Buddhist, Christian and Muslim) and was the centre of the Turkish-Moguls who ruled India for centuries. The region was also the crucible of multi-religious efflorescence, some of which gave rise to India’s great minority faiths: Reformed Islam (Ismailia and Bohra community), Parsism, Sikhism, break-away Hinduist faiths of Swaminarayan and Arya Samaj, etc. Located on the route between the Persian Gulf and the capital cities of the Great Moguls (Lahore and Delhi), Gujarat, in particular, has been since the end of the European Middle Ages one of the main industrial and trading centres of the peninsula. Situated at the edge of a vast cotton-producing region nicknamed the “Manchester of India” by the British, the Ahmedabad metropolis, the province’s economic capital, was known for its wool, cotton and silk factories, its iron plants, and its goldsmith art (Goody 1999: 156). Often run by representatives of religious minorities, big commercial companies had already been practicing long distance trade for years, exporting to southern India and the Middle East and supplying royal palaces in Punjab and royal residences in Rajasthan and Sindh.

  • 2 It is difficult to retrace whether the typical shape of dhows’ sails were the result of specific cl (...)

5Between the western coast of India, the Persian Gulf, the Arab Peninsula and East Africa, the climate facilitated sea voyages. During the monsoon called winter monsoon in the northern hemisphere (from October to March), the trade winds (kaskazi) blew from the northeast to the southeast, towards which it steered the ships coming from eastern coast of India, the Oman Sea and the Gulf of Aden. During the monsoon called summer monsoon (kuzi, from April to September), the wind would blow to the opposite (apath known as “Sabean”). This change in soft and warm breeze was in marvellous tune with the type of ships used locally for centuries and whose origin can probably be traced back to Arabs or Persians2. These ships, called dhows in English, with a stern helm and a rigging gaffer known as “lateen” (with a triangular sail supported by an antenna), sailed with difficulty against the wind but gained high speeds with tail wind. Even before reaching the East African shores following the trade winds, the Arab dhows would sail freely along the counter trade winds up to the northern Indian ports, from Bombay to Gujarat. In India, ships similar to the type used by the Arab (kotia, dhangi, boom, barig, manji, mota) sailed along the winter monsoon in the Arab peninsula, from where they sailed along the Hadramaut coasts up to the Ormuz straits before sailing again further down towards Mogadishu, Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa, Pemba and Zanzibar (Jewell 1976). A dhow sailing in the opposite direction to this itinerary, initially leaving Gujarat in October, could, after reaching Madagascar, make a complete loop from April and sail via Comoros, Zanzibar, Mombasa and the Arab Peninsula (Blanchy 1995: 40-42).

  • 3 In spite of contradictory testimonies, the role of Indians in the slave trade, at least financially (...)
  • 4 Although the nominal ownership of clove plantations was retained by prominent Omani Arabs, most of (...)

6The port towns of Mombasa and Zanzibar, which enjoyed robust protection from their Arab sovereigns, witnessed early arrivals of large colonies of Indian traders. Two religious communities from Gujarat were mainly represented in these towns: the Jains who broke away from Hinduism and are known for their experience in finance and overseas trade; and Ismailis who are Shia Muslims with Hinduist influence the Ismailis’ ancestors came from Persia and Syria and found refuge in India at the start of the 14th century. After resisting the misadventures of the Arab-Portuguese rivalry, the Mombasa Indians witnessed the building of Fort Jesus at the end of the 16th century; going by Portuguese accounts, it involved several thousand labourers from Gujarat and Malabar. For their part, the Zanzibari Indians, who initially restricted themselves to the import-export trade, credit and, apparently, to the slave trade, extended their influence on the local economy3. From 1840, while the Omani Arabs consolidated their power, Zanzibari Indians acquired many administrative responsibilities (customs, port authorities, state bank). In the early 1870s, numerous clove plantations changed hands in their favour and big Indian businesses enjoyed significant monopoly in the colony (Prunier 1998: 192)4. In 1875, there were more than 5,000 Indians in Zanzibar, mainly from the Ismaili community (2,725), Hindus (814) and the Shia Bohra community (543) (Salvadori 1989: 8).

7As explained by Marie-Aude Fouéré further below, the Zanzibari Indians gained from British presence during the last decades of the 19th century but the cohabitation between Indians and Germans in former Tanganyika led to some frictions, as Indians endured rigorous strengthening of the apartheid system that the English had already established in Zanzibar. Nevertheless, the massive arrival of Indians in East Africa dates back to the beginning of British colonisation in Kenya and Uganda. It was a response to a deliberate imperial deployment plan between the Indian sub-continent, on the one hand, and Westerners opposing the African colonies, on the other.

8The prospect of a long-term establishment of Great Britain in East Africa, which was strategically important in the Anglo-German and Anglo-French rivalry in the region, was also a source of economic and demographic interest. East Africa had great agricultural potentials under pleasant climatic conditions; and like South Africa, it offered vast expanses of sparsely populated land for the immigration of pioneer settlers. In the global organisation of British supremacy, the functional division of tasks and populations was the basis for the establishment of the grandiose imperial federation imagined by Cecil Rhodes, the audacious prime minister of the Cape colony. Even before the issue of European settlement arose, India was the best placed to play the auxiliary role of the United Kingdom in East Africa. Suffering from chronic overpopulation and having just previously experienced devastating famine, it offered – with the benefit of regaining its own social and demographic balance – the resources for a docile and qualified emigrant population, which was in the then hierarchy of people positioned as superior to ethnic groups that were thinly spread out in the African bush.

“Settlers can be chosen from India’s over-populated provinces”, wrote in 1893 a British administrator in Uganda, “and that could be a relief to the concerned districts. They could provide us with labourers, artisans and coolies, as well as soldiers and policemen. In addition, the needs of these more civilized settlers… could considerably boost import volumes while the result of their efforts would increase export volumes … Moreover, their agricultural methods… would sooner or later be imitated by Africans (Lugard 1893: 488-489, cited by Prunier 1990: 20).

  • 5 To mark the capture of Malindi in 1895 and during the conquest of Buganda between 1898 and 1899 (Pr (...)

9From an administrative point of view, the first British protectorates in this part of the world were therefore mere extensions of the British Empire in the Indies. Whereas the Indian rupee became the undisputed legal tender, the core of the lower cadre civil service was staff from India, particularly Goans of Indian-Portuguese descent who were Catholics and multi-lingual. The British occupation army also consisted of Indian recruits, mostly Sikhs and Muslims from Punjab and Baluchistan. In Kenya and Uganda, regiments of Indian mercenaries took part between 1895 and 1899 in several military operations under British command5.

  • 6 One of these agents was Alibhai M. Jeevanjee, an important figure in the history of the Indian dias (...)
  • 7 Borrowed from “Kuli” after the name of an Indian tribe then considered primitive, the term coolie w (...)

10When the decision was made in 1895 to build the railway that linked the Indian Ocean coast and the Buganda protectorate, the company that won the construction concession (the Imperial British East Africa Company) charged several agents to recruit staff in India. They concentrated their search in northern, eastern and southern provinces: Baluchistan, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu (Madras)6. The English, having already been impressed by the quality of Punjabi labourers who participated decades earlier in the construction of the Indian rail network, thought they would not get better manpower anywhere else for the East African project. Among those considered in the beginning, there were also excellent geometricians and technicians, specialists in bridge construction and other artisan skills (Kapila 2001: 1). Thus a majority of the 32,000 people who came from India and landed at the port of Mombasa were not simple coolies (Jain 1989: 45)7. Beside the qualified labourers (masons, carpenters, copper smiths, mechanics, locomotive drivers, cooks, etc.), there were also a good numbers of artisans, as well as representatives of literate professions: geometricians and surveyors, telegraphists, writing staff, accountants, nurses, photographers, etc. Moreover, the contract workers were accompanied by an uncounted crowd of independent immigrants, attracted by prospects of benefiting from prosperous activities that would depend on salaried manpower remunerated at tariffs that were by far higher than those offered in India: assorted traders, tailors, barbers, musicians, acrobats, etc.

  • 8 The three-year contracts signed with the railway company required workers to work for sixteen hours (...)

11In addition to the perilous and difficult voyages from Indian ports to Mombasa, the contingent of immigrant contractual workers was subjected to treatment that was often harshly criticized. This underscored the toughness of the railway construction work, which the high number of patients and injuries as well as a high mortality rate clearly show. From August 1896 to December 1901, the completion date of the 931 kilometre line from Mombasa to Port Florence (Kisumu), 2,493 Indian workers, (about 10 % of the staff directly employed in the construction project) died of illnesses or accidents (including 28 people eaten by lions). Close to 6,500 workers were involved in serious work-related accidents and were declared maimed (Kapila 2002: 3; A.A.H. 2000)8.

  • 9 According to an initial count, 6,724 people did not apply for repatriation (Ghai & Ghai 1965: 3). I (...)
  • 10 Indian historian R.R. Ramchandani recalls furthermore that despite the Indian Emigration Act (1883) (...)

12Following the completion of the railway construction, the majority of the contractual workers who survived returned in their country9. Contrary to a tenacious myth that is still recounted today among Indians and Africans, and contrary to the case of South Africa where a large section of citizens of Indian origin are daughters and sons of the first indentured labourers (or contractual workers) at the beginning of the 20th century (Landy 2003: 189), the contemporary Kenyan Indians are not descendants of the hard labourers who were directly incentivised into expatriation by the colonial power10.

  • 11 From 1911, the British administration put an end to the use of the Indian rupee and started removin (...)

13Soon after the return of the railway construction employees to India, the British administration, which was keen to rapidly develop the Kenyan protectorate and resumed its population plan developed ten years earlier, tried to encourage a small community of Indian farmers to settle, preferably along the railway line. Allotments of 30 hectares of land was offered to Patel farmers from Gujarat in Kibwezi, Makindu, Machakos, Limuru and Kisumu for growing maize, vegetables, sugar cane, and especially cotton, a delicate and difficult crop to grow, but for which the Indians had a long and solid experience. Their experience, however, had no future. Whereas the consolidation of the German presence diminished the ambitions of the British Empire in the region, the appeal of the Kenyan hinterland had in the meantime stirred up the appetite of emigration applicants in England. After predicting in 1901, in the words of the Ugandan high commissioner, that “East Africa would become America for the Hindus”, the British administration opted in 1907 for the exclusive settlement of European settlers, confining the few remaining Indian farmers in the lowlands of the territory, before barring them from any access to ownership of farmland (Mungeam 1966: 103). From 1911 to 1920, a complete turn-around of the British colonial policies led to the break of administrative ties between Uganda, Kenya and India. Kenya, which became a colony of the crown in 1920, freed itself from the tutelage of Bombay, adopted the English shilling and replaced the highest ranking Indian civil servants with British officers from the motherland11.

14The scrapping of the vast Indian-African confederation scheme did not, however, hinder immigration from the sub-continent. Contractual incentives notwithstanding, Indian immigrants, on the contrary, continued to arrive as the years went by, as a result of individual initiatives maintained over the years through diverse family and neighbourhood networks. A number of these immigrants were business apprentices and other independent workers, who were keen to take advantage, just like the British, of development of the territory. As British historian Robert Gregory notes, Indians quickly understood while acquiring money (no matter how little) that Africans represented a vast market that the settlers ignored (Gregory 1993: 11). A little later, this market extended to the Europeans, then to the Indians themselves. Business, services, qualified artisanship, technical maintenance (in which Indians had remarkable expertise) were therefore the activities that the newcomers engaged in. Indians in Uganda, which was somewhat a remnant of the old Indian African colonization plan, also obtained permission to own farmland and engage in farming activities. This is how they were able from 1920, using rented or purchased land, to turn to cotton and sugar cane farming, either by renting or buying land. In 1935, cultivated land by Indians for sugar cane and cotton farming was, according to Gérard Prunier, nearly equal to the area under cultivation by Europeans: 21,306 acres compared to 22,564 acres (Prunier 1990: 41).

  • 12 In the meantime, the Mombasa Indian Association was founded in 1906 under the leadership of a Bohra (...)
  • 13 In the Mombasa area, on the other hand, other people (including Brahman) also condemned to death we (...)
  • 14 During this period, Indian political agitation resurged but without clear success. In 1921, Indian (...)
  • 15 The Kenya Legislative Council (abbreviated as LegCo), created in 1906, only comprised representativ (...)

15By the early days of the colony, the issue of the status of Indians had been presented to the two European governments – British and German – that had imposed their rule in the region. In the Deutsch Ost-Afrika colony, the tripartite system of apartheid established by the German administration ( “Europeans”, “Natives”, “Indians”) was continued in 1918 by the British colonial power. Comparable systems of planned and controlled coexistence were imposed in Kenya and Uganda, though in the latter it was more informal because of the low number of foreign residents. In the Kenyan colony, Indians however had difficulties accepting a harsher discriminatory regime than in India and a regime that restricted their social upward mobility. Overturning the very conformist British East Africa Indian Association, which was founded in 1907 with the approval of the colonial authorities, Hindu youngsters founded the East African Indian National Congress in 1914. It served as a body for the defence of immigrant’s rights12. While British colonial troops fought the German army along the Deutsche Ost-Afrika border, several leaders of this replica political party were accused of treason and arrested, tried and sentenced to death and finally deported to India13. For its part, the European population (3,175 people registered in Kenya in 1911) showed its concern over the massive influx of Indian immigrants. Between 1919 and 1923 it was engaged in a bitter conflict with the colonial administration, which was against the introduction of a quota system. In 1923, the British colonies department made a decision that favoured the interests of European settlers without meeting all their demands (Devonshire White Paper)14. It pledged to control Indian immigration. Managing to get more delegates to the colony’s new Legislative Council – following elections demanded by the settlers – Indians did not obtain parity with Europeans as they had demanded. The ban on land acquisition was maintained, except in the urban areas15.

  • 16 The same ratio of 1 Indian to 3 Europeans remained during the entire colonial period (see the chapt (...)

16Census figures show that these immigration controls lacked efficiency, particularly in Kenya. From 11,787 in 1911, the Indian population rose to 25,253 in 1921 (Gregory 1993: 2). Instead of relatively stagnating (according to the wishes of the European minority), it went on to double regularly every ten years, reaching 176,613 in 1962, three times the number of European settlers (Nyaggah 1974: 215; Prunier 1998: 197; Nowik, infra)16.

  • 17 There are now about 850,000 people of Indian origin (68 % of the population) on Mauritius island an (...)

17As independence approached, the population of expatriated Indians in East Africa had original features that made it resemble in composition the small Indian communities in Mozambique and Madagascar, but distinguished it from the large Indian diasporas in South Africa, Mauritius and Reunion Islands. Coming mostly from the northern regions of India, it consisted of sons and daughters of independent immigrants – especially businessmen and craftsmen; this distinguishes East African Indians from the Indians who settled in southern Africa and the Mascarenes, who were mostly descendants of “engaged” workers originating from southern and eastern India in the 19th century17. Although the population featured a dynamic occupational diversity – and in particular domestic staff and salaried employees in the colonial administrations – its dominant professional orientation placed them in some sort of continuity with the traders at the trade posts, whose presence in Africa dated back from centuries before.

  • 18 Similar figures were reported in the Uganda colony (Dharan Ghai 1965: 84). See notably Nowik, below

18From the beginning of the colonial period – and despite discrimination – the Indians developed rapidly and their material well-being improved a lot. With a great desire to succeed, striving to exercise strict discipline in savings and solidarity, and taking advantage of relative European powerlessness over their ambitions and the unfailing solidity of their family networks, those who were already well-educated and had received training in modern professions progressively imposed their expertise in areas that could have been mistaken to be an exclusive – if not reserved – European domain: lawyers, physicians, architects, geometricians, consultant engineers, real estate agents. Having regained the positions occupied in the previous century by maritime trade post operators of the maritime counters, they established a near-monopoly of wholesale and import-export business and gained an increasingly firmer foothold in banking activities and industrial production. According to Kenya’s 1962 census statistics, 65 % of them were engaged in businesses or liberal professions, with only 5 % holding unskilled jobs (GK 1966: 27)18.

19Whereas the apartheid policy – which especially barred their access to all establishments of excellence frequented by the British (schools, clubs, restaurants) – kept them away from the European population, Indians also remained physically, socially and culturally separated from the African population. Barred in their majority from land and agricultural activities and concentrated in cities and towns (despite the very early presence of small Indian businesses in the most remote townships), where they came together in distinct districts, maintaining their own schools, temples, food businesses, hospitals and clubs, they developed in isolation, keeping their habits and way of life intact.

  • 19 Gérard Prunier explains the contradictions of the European position, convinced that the presence of (...)
  • 20 The most famous of the radical Indians in the joint social struggle with Africans was Makham Singh, (...)

20From the beginning of the 1930s, in the face of European ambivalence towards them, a number of Indian personalities seized, however, the opportunity to express their grievances, adding their voices to those of early African nationalist activists in demanding for equal political rights and an end to discrimination19. After the cooperation in Kenya with the Young Kikuyu Association championed by the ephemeral director of the East African Chronicle, Manilal Desai, other Indian personalities (Makham Singh, founder of Kenyan trade unionism, Haroon Ahmed, Pio Gama Pinto, Jaswan Singh, and Francesco de Souza) openly supported the independence movement, particularly defending Jomo Kenyatta20. Though more lukewarm than in Kenya, there was similar cooperation in Tanzania and Uganda, with the Asian Association declaring support for the Tanzanian National Union in 1960 and the Indian Muslim group backing the Uganda Action Group nationalists (Maharaj 2003: 111).

  • 21 Refer especially to Ghai & Ghai (1965: 35-51).
  • 22 Gérard Prunier notes, in this respect, that the Indian personalities involved in the anti-colonial (...)

21Such political commitment did not, however, get the explicit backing of the diaspora. Indeed, despite its arrogance and array of humiliations as well as its multiple restriction against status and class promotion, colonial rule did not present only disadvantage for the Indians21. Considering the social and cultural isolation of immigrants, and uncertainty over political future heralded by independence, the entrenching of the status quo under the British could guarantee coveted economic positions (particularly the near monopoly in certain activities) while maintaining at least some protection against possible retaliatory measures from Africans22.

  • 23 Class distinction within the Arab-Swahili society was strict between waungwana (aristocrats, who fo (...)
  • 24 There were two sets of measures which, contrary to what had been announced, were only applied after (...)

22There lies the explanation of the difficulties faced by Indians in the diaspora in the three East African countries following independence. Xenophobic reactions in Zanzibar (1964), in Kenya (1967) and in Uganda (1972) led to massive exodus of Indians. As an Indian author explains, the issue of citizenship was then at the centre of talks with African governments (Maharaj 2003: 119). Zanzibari Indians, who generally held British passports and lived separately from Africans, attracted popular opprobrium with their dual status as foreigners and social haves, likening them to the former Omani Arab masters23. In Uganda and Kenya, Indians were granted a two-year ultimatum to take up the country’s nationality – albeit as an option. Initially hesitant, the number of applicants for Ugandan identity increased sharply by the end of the grace period. The Ugandan nationalists accused them of opportunism, labelling them “paper citizens” (Maharaj 2003: 119). In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta’s government took its nationalism a notch higher in the pretext of guaranteeing the development of its nationals. In November 1967, licences of non-Kenyan businessmen were cancelled. Although this measure did not lead to dramatic expulsions of almost the entire Indian population as seen five years later in Uganda, it led in the long run to the departure – which was in fact forced – of about 80,000 people, which was close to half of the immigrant population24.

  • 25 In 1962, businesses belonging to Indian immigrants contributed 73.6 % to the tax revenue of the Uga (...)
  • 26 The arrival of train loaded with tens of thousands of Indian-Ugandan refugees to the Nairobi centra (...)
  • 27 The percentage of Indians having Kenyan citizenship, which was estimated at 59.35 % in the 1989 cen (...)
  • 28 These speculators made it a point to get back their former businesses a little later from the heavi (...)
  • 29 For details on these businesses (particularly in Kenya), see Prunier (1998: 204-207), Otenyo (1998: (...)

23As explained by several contributors to this book (particularly Godfrey Asiimwe on Uganda), the abrupt and, as a matter of fact somewhat unexpected, exile of a section of the population that played a leading role in business, services and partly in the production apparatus had profound damaging consequences on the national economies25. The psychological repercussions and the political shockwaves of these measures were equally felt both in India and Europe, and even in some African capitals26. Whether African States were driven by a chain of events (like in Uganda following the fall of Amin Dada) or they managed to reconsider their positions on their own contrition (like in Tanzania and Kenya), they adopted measures guaranteeing Indians restitution of their expropriated properties and actively giving them incentives to resume their activities. The case of Kenya is remarkable in this respect. The Indian population, which fell to 78,000 in 1979 and further declined following the 1982 xenophobic riots, rose once again to stabilize at around 100,000, half of whom acquired Kenyan nationality (see chapter by Laurent Nowik in this book)27. This demographic resurgence, apart from being the probable result of pressure that was brought to bear on Kenya by international donors, also came about because of favourable treatment of Indians by President Daniel arap Moi, who got into a tactical alliance with the Indian high society to check the increasing financial influence of the emerging Kikuyu middle class. Thus in 1986 a section of businessmen who were dispossessed in 1967 turned to manufacturing by purchasing various multinational subsidiaries that had set up in Kenya at the beginning of the 1960s and had been liquidated by their owners because of unfavourable politics in Africa (Prunier 1998: 204)28. Unscrupulous wheeler-dealers also took advantage of the new Kenyan government’s magnanimity towards Indian economic interests to engage in financial fraud, setting in motion reverberating scandals. The events of the recent past seriously dented the reputation of the entire Indian community in East Africa29.

Population overview: mobility and identities

24The population of East Africans of Indian origin, estimated at about 150,000 as mentioned above (two thirds of them living in Kenya), now consists of about 60 % national citizens (probably a lot more for Tanzania and quite distinctly less for Uganda), while the rest of the population are either citizens of India (between 10 and 40 %), of Pakistan (2 to 3 %) or citizens of Western countries (especially the United Kingdom). The population of the Indian-Pakistani diaspora more than halved in the past half century, owing this resurgence in numbers in part to fresh immigrants. This resurgence, which was unequal depending on the country – and proportional in a way to the numerical weight of the massive departures that characterized the ten years that followed independence – mostly affected Uganda (where a majority of the expelled vowed not to return), then Kenya, and to a lesser degree Tanzania, with the exception of Zanzibar. This influx of immigrants, who were apparently remotely related to previously well-established residents, proved difficult to classify both by demographic composition (sex ratio, marital status, age, profession, etc.) and by origin (on the basis of which part of the Indian subcontinent or other “primary” immigration countries they came from exactly).

  • 30 Having been issued with tourism visas, the immigrants were granted residence and work permits, as w (...)

25In addition to the influx – which is becoming less and less significant – of engaged spouses from India by families, a third type of “modern” immigrant has emerged over the last few years. This recent wave is mostly made of single young graduates belonging to the Indian middle class who are exposed to unemployment in their regions of origin, apparently following affirmative action to promote the low castes (scheduled castes). With high qualifications (particularly in data processing and information technology, technical business and management), these expatriate candidates come to somehow “replace” young African Indians elites who themselves are expatriates in the West. They work in manufacturing, banking, import-export and international hotel industry. Less demanding in terms of salary and often shunned by many African Indians, they are unwelcome by most Africans. As will be demonstrated a little further, economic rather than cultural reasons constitute a compelling argument in explaining the Indian employers’ preference for them. Nicknamed “rockets”, their detractors say their ultimate objective is to attain an international career, preferably in a Western country. Their demographic volume is as difficult to estimate as the number of these young workers in irregular status or the number of those of them who obtained residence status through corrupt practices30.

26Like in any situation of constant immigration, the accumulation of several migration “waves” in East Africa gave rise to a socio-historic stratification between “old families” going back several generations of existence in Africa, and neo-migrants born abroad (often in India) with no roots in the host country. As Godfrey Asiimwe notes in the case of Uganda, even though relations with the African population are not always advantageous for the Creole families, cultural conflict between the latter and the neo-migrants arises in each of the three immigration countries: on the one hand, assimilation, even superficially, of the rudiments of African culture (knowledge of the practices, mastery of the Swahili language, etc.), and on the other, ignorance about Africa, more avid adherence to religion, little attachment to certain ancestral traditions, etc.

  • 31 Average age in Kenya (1999): 30.5 years; 60 years old and above accounted for: 8.6 %; average age i (...)
  • 32 Laurent Nowik mentions further below the following percentages: in Kenya, 75 % of the diaspora are (...)
  • 33 Thus the current concentration of Indians in Kampala (69 %) as highlighted by Laurent Nowik contras (...)

27As a consequence of the recent contribution of immigrants from the last two waves (and characteristic of constantly reconstituting diasporas), the immigrant Indian population in Africa is dominantly young and presents an even more marked sex ratio imbalance (about 110 men to 100 women), particularly in Uganda, a country that experienced an almost complete overhaul of the Indian settler population following the 1972 expulsions31. The bulk of the Indian-Africans, who until recently remained alien to farming, are concentrated in cities (about 85 % in Kenya and Uganda, and an unknown percentage, but probably the same, in Tanzania)32. This disproportionate population distribution in favour of important urban centres should not conceal the fact that, in certain declining ratios compared to the previous situation, representatives of the diaspora are also present in almost all smaller urban centres as small-scale traders (dukawallahs) and sometimes in the simple rural townships as previously mentioned33. Going hand in hand with carrying out all kinds of trade activities (selling imported and locally manufactured products, buying agricultural products, micro-credit), this spreading out thus creates contact between a section of the immigrant community and urban or rural African populations.

28A final demographic characteristic of Indian populations is their extreme geographical mobility, generally associated with families scattering both within East Africa and at a transcontinental level, from the Middle East to Britain, from North America to Australia. Their life histories show that few families did not have some individuals or groups of individuals who moved residence several times in the last century, often simultaneously associated with a change of state or profession. A frequent characteristic of the emigrant populations is the propensity to repeatedly move at the end of the initial migration and quickly exhibit a sign of dissatisfaction while at the same time showing the capacity to cope with it by migrating afresh. It also shows the capacity of reinvention occasioned by the geographical explosion of families, thereby reducing to nothing – or at least severely weakening – the claim of being native frequently displayed in Africa by people of Indian origin. If it is true that the redeployment in space of family networks is undoubtedly a multidimensional factor for personal reinvention – or “re-packaging” of the self (whether professional, linguistic, cultural, etc.) – within Africa; this does not bring into question, to those concerned, the self-definition of cultural identities, as the collective desire to define themselves today on a larger scale than before bears witness to: “African Indians” rather than “Indian-Kenyan”, “Indian-Ugandan” or “Indian-Tanzanian”. For young members of the Indian diaspora, the transnational character of such new collective identities is not conceived as detrimental to their integration; on the contrary, as will be seen a little later in this book, they consider it as an asset which African states involved in the globalization process can benefit from, seeing that they are somehow a vanguard group of globalization on the African continent.

General characteristics of the Indian diaspora in East Africa

  • 34 It is known that Muslims make up 97 % of the population in Pakistan (77 % Sunni, 20 % Shia, 3 % Hin (...)
  • 35 In Kenya, the Jains and the Sikhs in 2002 were respectively 21.5 % and 10.7 % of the total number o (...)

29Even though most of them are from only one region of the subcontinent (south-eastern Pakistan, north-western and western India), the immigrants in East Africa form a miniature society in each of the countries they have settled, evoking a sense of “miniature India”. With some specific exceptions (particularly the “untouchables”), all the classes and religious communities in existence on the Indian subcontinent are represented in East Africa, albeit in proportions that do not reflect the situation in the former motherland. While Muslims – and, within the group of Muslims, Shia – have a higher population ratio in East Africa than in India (35 to 45 % for Muslims, depending on the country, compared to 14 % in India; and 46 % for Shia in East Africa compared to 15 % in India), people of the middle and lower middle class – corresponding to the Hindu class category of Vaishya – are slightly over-represented. As will later be evident, belonging to these categories cannot be established with any certainty34. Within the group locally known as “Hindus”, the ratio of the schismatic and break-away organizations (Jains, Sikhs, etc.) is abnormally high, often more than a third of the total number compared to 7 % in India35.

Table 1.1 Indian population distribution in Kenya by community of origin

Table 1.1 Indian population distribution in Kenya by community of origin

*While the ratio of Hindus gradually increased, the ratio of Muslims decreased up to 1962
before rising once again.
** Author’s estimates

Source: Ominde (1984: 35) and the author’s estimates

Table 1.2 Ratio of breakaway and schismatic religious groups in Kenya compared to the Indian Hindu population (2001)

Table 1.2 Ratio of breakaway and schismatic religious groups in Kenya compared to the Indian Hindu population (2001)

Source: Author’s study

  • 36 In 1953, the Indian government census showed that there were 2,399 jati, but their number is in rea (...)

30As the chapter examining this issue explains in detail later on, the Indian-Africans are organized in about hundred communities, which are themselves linked in communal federations according to the three criteria of religion, region of origin and socio-professional class. The third criterion, which is less explicit but often perceptible among the Hindu breakaway groups and the non-Hindu groups (including Muslims and Christians), is a systematic feature among the orthodox Hindus in the classic form of belonging to one of the class orders (varna or “colour”) and more explicitly affiliation to a caste (jati). According to the distinctions required by the Manu laws, there are, as it is commonly known, four varna in the symbolic panorama according to which the Hindu society is stratified: Brahmans (priests), Kshatriya (warriors, holders of political power), Vaishya (farmers, craftsmen, businessmen) and Sudra (servants). As has just been noted, the varna, which are never explicit, are very rarely mentioned and sometimes are even unknown to the individuals who make them up – except notably for the Brahmans and Kshatriya (more frequently referred to in this collection as Rajput), are in turn divided into a multitude of castes36. Formally abolished in India in 1950, the castes did not disappear from the symbolic landscape that defines the subcontinent: from Pakistan to Bangladesh, from Nepal to Sri Lanka. Nominally present in East Africa in the form of communities as already mentioned, the castes – called gnati in Gujarati – as we will see, which stopped carrying out their magisterial duty of professional registration, however retain, at least partially, their social and symbolic importance. In India there are still two class categories called “out varna” that are not represented in Africa: the “untouchables” (known as harijan or dalit, a category that has its own castes) and the aborigines (tribes or adivasi), a designation that applies to animist minorities living away from the large religious majorities.

African Indians – Minorities without concessions?

31The East African Indians - a population that was classified, as mentioned earlier, in a professional and socioeconomic position between Europeans and Africans, and occupied jobs and carried out service functions in communication, surveillance, subordinate command, trade or specialized production - were also accorded an intermediate status during colonial rule. As subjects of the crown, they were not subjected to the work permit (kipande) system at the same level as some Africans – like Kenyans in the Native Reserves. However, since they were deprived of some of the rights associated with British citizenship, they were socially in a subordinate position. The apartheid system imposed on them narrowly limited their social development, barring their access (by law or as a matter of fact) to places frequented by Europeans (schools, hospitals, clubs and sports circles, restaurants, hotels, etc.) and closing them up in a rigid setting, thus restricting their socialization. Within the colonial context, the Indian community, including castes and religions – while maintaining its internal social and class hierarchy – thus found itself in a position equivalent to that of intermediate castes in India, with the British (or Germans during the Deutsch Ost-Afrika rule) occupying the top of the hierarchy. Barred from accessing the high-ranking positions of responsibility and power and necessarily subjugated, both socially and ethnically, to the imperial leash, Indians in general dominated the large mass of the Africans but were unable to exercise tutelage over them.

32This analogy with traditional India – where the castes cohabit within a system of hierarchy but do not always impose their power over each other, except in the two extremes of the social spectrum – undoubtedly contributed to having Indians in East Africa accept the colonial interlude without protesting too much, even though – as mentioned earlier – an active minority resolutely supported the independence movement. Following independence, the legal framework behind the community system was abolished. At the same time egalitarian and democratic principles were put in place: equality between all citizens in enjoying rights and freedoms, creation of a single public education system, universal suffrage, free access for all citizens – in consideration of their merits alone – to all professional and political positions, ban on division of labour along ethnic and community lines, etc.

33Asked to choose between leaving and being incorporated into the new society and politics, the majority of the Indians opted for a middle ground, choosing to settle in the country but rejecting complete integration in accordance with the wishes of the new authorities. Keen not to jeopardise the sectors considered vital for the country’s prosperity, the East African governments accepted this compromise. Although in several cases it was poorly managed at the expense of the immigrant communities (particularly in Zanzibar and Uganda), the newly created order has persisted to this day. Its features can be described as follows:

  1. Desire to retain and affirm cultures of origin,

  2. Partial continuation of community and class division of labour,

  3. Maintaining retention of community auto-segregation,

  4. Low social and political participation,

  5. Contradictory relations with India,

Desire to retain and affirm cultures of origin

34The African Indian’s micro-cultures encompass a set of practices, norms, and representations that are a direct product of the society of origin, and have been kept and reproduced for close to a century. This is the case particularly in language, type of food, etiquette, body aesthetics, family organisation, education system and norms, religious beliefs, etc. Although some of these cultural ingredients are undoubtedly unique to every religious or regional community, many are shared by the entire diaspora (we will revisit this point that has already been tackled and discussed above).

35It is well known that the elements of micro-culture, as shown by the Indian case, are likely to change with time, not only because of their own dynamics, but equally due to cultural contact. The porosity of every culture therefore indicates its capacity to ingest the external contributions. Two observations can be made in this respect:

  1. The extraordinary labyrinth of religious, socio-professional and regional ramifications (more than one hundred and fifty distinct associations in the whole of East Africa) is indicative of the desire by the immigrant Indians to keep intact the own community’s socio-cultural identity, whatever the dynamics of its internal transformation. Even though this multitude is appropriate for the situation in the diaspora (where the ties of solidarity are expressed more intensely in smaller circles of the in-group), it reveals the fact that some dynamism of segmentation that is typical of all religious groups in India has been maintained in East Africa.

    • 37 Africans use linguistic borrowing often unknowingly. Here we list only a few borrowed words: haramb (...)

    It is remarkable that although settled in a massively African environment, the Indo-African cultures seem to have hardly been affected, but instead have borrowed from the West, particularly Anglo-Saxon. However, there are many examples of borrowings from Indian cultures by African cultures: linguistics; technical and architectural; culinary and dietary, etc.37

36The relentlessness of Indian communities in their desire to keep their original cultural matrix alive and unaltered – by way of massive translocation outside their borders – reveals a paradox that goes contrary to the thinking of proponents of vernacular authenticity. Whereas there hardly exists a religion that can be more identifiable with a region as Hinduism, the very existence of the diaspora – and more so its perpetuation as well as its indefinite spread throughout the world – makes Hinduism explode externally. This deprived it – in a similar manner as the other Indian religions that have been greatly influenced by Hinduism – of its primary authenticity. This issue, which we will revisit, is at the heart of debates on African Indian identities, on their contemporary metamorphoses and how they entrench themselves – still in a conditional or an incomplete manner – in the dominant cultural and political contexts of their host countries.

37While first ignoring the theme of internal transformations that are unique to each of the cultures that characterise communities of Indian origin, we will briefly mention in this book the case of religion, language, diet, clothing and ornamental practices, as well as social and family organization.

  • 38 In the strict sense of the word, there is no “origin” or “creation” of the world in Hindu mythology (...)

38a) In East Africa there are hundreds of mosques and temples for various congregations of immigrant Indian minorities. Some of them are conspicuous and majestic, occupying central locations in the three capitals of the region (especially in Kampala and Nairobi) while some are more modest, sometimes tucked away in the backyards or discovered by chance at the edge of a small urban township, like the minuscule charming mosques – often miniature replicas of huge monuments in Punjab – that are spread in rural parts of Kenya’s Central Province. Cast in stone and deeply rooted in the soil, the Indian diaspora’s religious presence is as affirmed as it is displayed in a traditional African universe that lacks cultural edifices, and rivals Christian religious monuments (this is the scenario in Mombasa and Dar es Salaam) and even contrasts with the latter’s relative discretion (in most provincial towns). In all of the cases, it symbolises the visible and lasting nature of Indian presence in the region, at times acquiring some sort of telluric legitimacy, halfway between the (very African) chtonian deities and the marine world that connects them with the world of the origins. Such is the case in Mombasa where there has been for nearly a century a curious Hindu temple built inside a sea cave whose floor is submerged by water when the tide is high. Against a natural, dark and a little troubling science-fiction backdrop, something ressembling a statue sculpted by backwash erosion, covered by algae and shellfish and decorated by the faithful, with cloth faded by the sea sprays, make up the figurines of a primary cult (cow, elephant, turtle, etc.)38. Nothing is less African than this theatre of wild nature, which seems to have existed since time immemorial.

  • 39 As mentioned in the foreword, Gujarati is the most widespread regional language. Similar to Gujarat (...)
  • 40 A study carried out in 1988 among Sikh women in Nairobi indicates that 51 % of the sample studied s (...)
  • 41 In Kenya, the use of Indian languages is encouraged among the youth through several FM radios and a (...)

39b) All Indian-Africans are multilingual. All speak the language of their region of origin (Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, etc.) – except Goans39. This is the language used within the family and for intra-community communication. Through various means (television, community organisations), the learning of Hindi, one of the official languages in India, is widespread and enables the immigrants to maintain cultural contact with their motherland. With the exception of recent immigrants, the Indian-Africans are also fluent in Swahili, the language of communication in Tanzania and Kenya used in everyday interactions with Africans, especially in professional settings. In smaller towns, Indians occasionally speak an African vernacular language (for example Kikuyu in Nyeri town or Kimeru in Meru, just to mention a few examples known to the author)40. But this acceptance of African languages does not come with any symbolic, aesthetic, literary or emotional penetration and seems confined to functional use. The language of inter-community communication is English. Moreover, its use currently tends to go beyond communication between various vernacular groups. Used as elsewhere as the language of social development, English is becoming the internal communication language among some Ismaili communities as well as within a number of families that have embraced modernity, especially the youth, notably among those who often travel abroad41.

  • 42 Apart from those who are strictly vegetarian by religious obligation (Brahmans, Jains, etc.), the r (...)

40c) The attachment of people of Indian origin to their dietary practices captures the attention of all observers. Whereas African diets (which generally have little variety) have quickly changed in composition or lost their exclusive nature following their contact with Western societies, the great Indian cuisine and its daily modes of consumption have only undergone slight changes. Largely inherited from the northern India’s Moghol traditions, the cuisine is not connected to any community in particular, but has emerged from regional traditions. Its reference community notwithstanding, it particularly has a range of vegetarian recipes with multiple olfactory and taste variations, with the vegetarian diet extensively spread to include even Muslims42. The meticulous respect for and near obsession with quality and the origin of the ingredients, the exact wording of the recipes, the order of the dishes, the table protocol and aesthetics, the ritual precautions taken in its arrangement owe less their adherence to routine constraints than to strict religious and ritual prescriptions, in which subjugation to the need for purity (jutha) can easily be identified. It is not so surprising given that this particular and over-defined dietary mode applies to everyone and has identically been reproduced for generations. Despite the many decades that have gone by since the first days of the emigration, there is not a single Indian-African who can accept to, even occasionally, compromise the absolute rule of never departing from the dietary prescriptions. This dietary exclusiveness has some consequences in terms of relationships: even though – having gone past any other type of impediments – commensality cannot be ruled out between Indians and Africans, it can only happen asymmetrically based on the Indian dietary model.

  • 43 Other more casual or festive dietary customs were maintained during immigration. This is the case o (...)

41As the chapter on family points out a little further, the great complexity in the recipes, the length of preparation and the wide range of dishes at every meal, as well as the preparation of ordinary meals demand from women a lot of domestic work. That explains the large number of restaurants that have traditional cuisine in their menu. Mostly patronised by men, these restaurants also cater for whole families, particularly at the weekend. For several years now, it has become imperative almost everywhere to hire cooks of African origin at home. In the eyes of Africans this is considered an important innovation that is indicative of decisive symbolic progress among the representatives of the diaspora43.

42Once again, apart from the Catholic Goans, who have for a long time embraced Western adjustments, the retention of dress styles and body aesthetics is another characteristic of Indian-African cultures, particularly among all types of women and in lower class and populous areas. Both inside and outside the house, regardless of the community they belong to or their region of origin, women mostly wear saris embellished with a veil of similar colour (ordeni) together with a tunic (kamiz) and trousers (pajama) if they are from the northern Indian tradition. The wearing of a light head veil, which in the past would be lowered to cover the mouth, comes from female confinement rule inherited from Muslim influence (purdah or dupatta). With the exception of young girls, a minority of newly married young women, and some representatives of religious minorities (Ismaili community, reformed Bohra community), it is rare for women to permanently adopt Western attire; those who do it retain, in any case, their traditional clothing for community and religious events.

  • 44 Refer further to the chapter on socio-religious communities.

43Bohra community women wear long-sleeve tunics (kamiz) and sport discreetly colourful attire (clear beige, pink, pale blue). Keeping off the sari, they generally cover their heads with a small hood that flows to the shoulders (ridha) and is elegantly arranged. To conform to supposed feminine modesty requirements, which is more or less imposed by the current religious direction, this garment is relatively new (about fifteen years old). It replaces the sari, which in the past used to be worn by all Indian women, regardless of their religion44.

  • 45 This repulsion with regard to shoes (or leather cases for cameras) explains the need to leave them (...)

44Apart from the Bohra community, men generally dress Western away from home. In the intimacy of their homes or on festive occasions, they don traditional attire in white or ivory: long shirts (kurta) or tunic (kamiz) and narrow trousers (pajama still called panjabi). For Muslims, this attire is often a must at the mosque, while at Hindu temples it gives way to the simple seamless peplum (chomin, known as dhoti in northern India). Bohra community men often display traditional adjustment in daily life and all of them or nearly all permanently wear the small Islamic white cap embroidered with golden threads. The Sikhs are noticeable by their large turban that conceals their long hair and whose colour (white or black) is an indication of their intra-community belonging. Whether Muslim or Hindu, the men can occasionally keep a moustache, but never the beard except for the Bohra community and the Sikhs. Hindu men (and, in fact, Muslim men as well) are not allowed to wear gold. Some have a silver ring decorated with a red or orange stone called haqiq (amulet). Among the Hindu, the use of leather shoes or any other leather object (purse, watchstrap), which was strictly forbidden in the past because of contact between the body and a piece of animal, is now accepted and widespread45. Even though among Hindu married women old ornamental practices, such as inscribing a colourful point on the lower forehead (sindhor or bindi) or the insertion of a jewel on the left side of the nose (sari) are now considered vestiges of the past, the usual wearing of bracelets or golden jewellery is still a must. It is the same case among the Muslims (particularly the Bohra community) for the beautiful practice of having colourful red-brown geometric drawings on palms of the hand and on the ankles.

  • 46 See the chapter below by Michel Adam, “Family, family life and marriage…”

45d) The social and domestic organization of Indian-Africans, which is described in more detail in the chapter on family46, follows complex arrangements whose structure has nevertheless hardly changed since the earliest days of immigration. Often placed in the category of the indivisible family (in reality an “asymmetric communal family” in the typology of Le Play (1871), the traditional family has remarkably resisted the assaults of modernization in spite of strong protests from the youth, who are well versed in Western ways.

46In the asymmetric communal family model (joint family), brothers cohabit with their wives and their children (Kapadia 1966). Property is treated as indivisible possession among brothers (bhay) who can incorporate, if the need arises, parallel cousins, adopted boys and brothers-in-law (variant known as mitakshara unique to northern India). The younger brother who desires to leave the community must sacrifice his share, unless in the best of cases he receives a small consolation. Even though for several decades now the joint brothers have given up the cohabitation in the strict sense of the word (even when they reside more often than not in the same area), it is in business management that this model has best found its expression. Under the shadow of the patriarch’s (bapuji) watch, the brothers often work in the same office and share managerial duties (financial management, staff management, etc.).

47As mentioned in the chapter on socio-religious communities , the Ismaili community and the minority Bohra community were pioneers in the emergence of a push for not only social reform aimed both at emancipating women but also for the increase of more “out of the norm”, away from the more liberal areas, in “out of the norm” matrimonial unions and “reconstituted” families. In the majority of cases, on the other hand, caste endogamy (an issue that will be explored later) remains the norm and marriages continue to be arranged. Among the Muslims (Shia in particular), the preference for domestic endogamy (Ego marriage with a patrilateral parallel cousin) strengthens cohesion in the group of brothers and reconstitutes in the second generation the equivalence between brothers (first cousins) and brothers-in-law. Divorces are a very rare exception. They are completely forbidden among the Hindu but sometimes tolerated among the Sikhs; their occurrence is generally limited among the Muslims by obligatory intervention of conciliation processes. Remarrying widows and divorcees is not allowed. In most families, the home is a space that strangers, particularly males, cannot easily access. Being the primary institution, with places of worship and premises for association, for ancient traditions (particularly dietary tradition), it remains under a patriarch’s control – in reality overshadowed by his wife, the near-absolute mistress of the household – and whose authority cannot be undermined.

48Whereas they tend to die away in other Indian diaspora countries (notably in South Africa), the caste classes remain in existence in East Africa, as indicated a little earlier, without ever being explicit, except through corporatist associations (gnati), its sweetened and respectable contemporary manifestation.

  • 47 See the chapter on socio-religious communities for the example of gnatis demanding Kshatriya ascend (...)

49Few Indian-Africans acknowledge the persistence of caste prejudices within their community. Members of the higher castes, who vocally display their class origins, defend their identity by saying they attach very few relational consequences to it. Whereas the number of castes in Africa is much lower than in India (about twenty compared to several thousand), rare are the lower caste members who have failed to accomplish any real leap in personal development, including accessing traditionally reserved professions. Attributing this to democratic principles, they do not tend any less to disguise their origins, either by drawing falsified family trees or suggesting that the situation of their ancestors could have been due to a momentary and collective lowering of their previous class47.

50Are the castes condemned to rapid extinction in East Africa? An analysis made over fifty years ago by British anthropologist David Pocock (Pocock 1957) made a distinction between the ‘caste system’, whose consistency was compromised, and the ‘caste classes’, which was obviously an enduring social reality. This analysis still seems relevant today. It explains – as we will see now – that the strength of subscription to class produces its most significant effect less in the professional than in the matrimonial domain.

51According to Célestin Bouglé’s classic analysis, the caste system is organized along three principles: ‘hierarchy’, ‘hereditary specialization’ and ‘reciprocal repulsion’ (Bouglé 1969: 2-3). That the first two principles can no longer apply to the situation in the diaspora can be easily verified. Indeed, as long as it forms a system, the caste social model functions correctly only if all the castes are represented in the hierarchical order that corresponds both to the functional division of labour and symbolically prescribed ritual exchanges. Without this complementarity – which, by closing up every group in a particular area of intervention, excludes competitive relationships and conflicts of belonging – every caste is able to acquire real economic and symbolic autonomy and go beyond its initial status. This is the situation in East Africa where, owing to the risks of immigration as well as to community dispersion (notably in the small provincial towns), some castes are over-represented (for example Patels, Lohanas, Banyas) while others are absent (the largest part of the sudra castes, as well as the “outcasts” or “untouchables”), whereas sometimes there is lack of control and regulation that can maintain the status quo’s good order (particularly the representatives of the priestly class). What remains in East Africa of the complex link that once existed in India between the ploughman and the cowherd, the cowherd and the tanner, between these and the multiple craftsmen as well as specialized tradesmen, and between all these groups and the representatives of the administrative, political and religious hierarchy? As we will see a little later, the professional distortions that affect all the castes, more or less without exception, are therefore understandable.

  • 48 In East Africa, the rule that bars different jati members from sharing food has been relaxed. For e (...)
  • 49 On class travesty in India, see also Morris (1956: 203).

52These distortions, however, do not go so far as to affect the honorary and ceremonial status that are unique to every caste and that appear as the final guarantee of the symbolic hierarchy defended so vehemently by the higher castes. They correspond to the persistence of the third principle (the ‘reciprocal repulsion’ that generates avoidance and endogamy) – though it is now manifest in the price of expensive contortions (distance marriages) and relational accommodation between representatives of fragmented groups48. We saw previously that in a traditional setting (described many times by the authors here) collective status promotion is possible in India, most often when members of the group are simultaneously able to change professions and impose on their entourage the existence of truncated family trees. If in East Africa, as we have just mentionned, the first condition corresponds to the trajectory of many pretenders to social ascension, the latter is less easy to fulfil considering the existence of networks of mutual acquaintance unique to north-western India (the region where most of the immigrants come from). Finally, there is a third hurdle for the credibility of the travesty. Any pretence about rise in class necessarily dictates that the group undergoing upward mobility models its behaviour on the Brahman reference ideal (adherence of vegetarianism and prescriptions of relational contact, etc.). However, this transformation in daily conduct finds itself on a contradictory path with the opportunistic necessities of professional success that necessitate increased contact with groups known to be impure (Europeans and Africans). How can one avoid occasionally taking meat or alcohol under professional circumstances, etc.? The social upward mobility aspirations are therefore in contradiction with both economic progress and the need to fit into the wider society49.

Partial survival of the community and class division of labour

53We alluded a little earlier to community and class division of labour established during British colonial rule. Independence weakened the very foundation of this model following the rise of the Africans and the decline of the Europeans. Yet, the social strengths behind it were maintained due to the sustainability of the advantages gained for decades and the consolidation of the sociocultural structure that had ensured their protection. This explains the survival, at least partially in Kenya, and even perceivably in Tanzania and Uganda, of a religious and ethnic division of labour both within the population, and within the Indian diaspora in particular.

  • 50 Reference is especially made to David Himbara’s study, though a bit old (1994).

54Let us take Kenya as an example: an approximate review based on various assessments suggested by economists shows that families of Indian descent have maintained involvement in 80 % of the industrial sectors: construction, metallurgy, small-scale mechanics, glass, chemist and pharmaceutical products, food, textile and clothing sectors, furniture, motor vehicle assembly and spare parts, electricity, timber and carpentry50.

  • 51 The chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association is also a personality of Indian origin, Abid A (...)

55A study carried out in 1997 by the French Embassy in Kenya estimated that Indians controlled 90 % of business activities and a substantial fraction of industry (P.E.I.K. 1997). 75 % of the members of an important pressure group on government institutions, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), were Indian (P.E.I.K. 1997: 22). Led for several years by Indian-Kenyan figures, it is now under the chairmanship of Oshwal Jain, Vimal Shah (head of Bidco Oil Refineries) as its chairman51.

  • 52 Source: study by the author that complements an earlier study by the French Embassy in Kenya. Gidra (...)
  • 53 The Federation of Kenya Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (FKPM) is entirely controlled by members of th (...)

Table 1.3 Industrial sectors in which Indian-Kenyans were highest ranking in 200852:53
– Textile industry (about 75 % of investments: 50 textile and spinning mills, 350 clothing businesses): Industrial Plant (P.S. Sandhu) and other businesses owned by Nitin Chandaria and Girish Chande; as well as Kamyn Industries Ltd (Aga Khan); this sector is currently adversely affected by competition from imported products from India and the Middle East.
– Pharmaceutical industry and laboratories (60 % of investments), including two businesses fully controlled by Indian financers: Cadila and UB Pharma; as well as Lab & Allied, Cosmos, Elys (Hindu Patel families), Regal Pharmaceuticals, Metro Pharmaceuticals (Shah families), Macs Pharmaceuticals (Sunni Muslim Chaudhry family); Indian-Kenyan businesses are also leading in generic medicine imports, particularly from India, the leading world producer of this type of medicines; among the big importers is Beta Health Care (J.H. Shah)54.
– Agro-food industry: Bidco Oil Refineries Ltd (Vimal B. Shah, Oshwal Jain), United Millers Ltd (Sunil N. Shah, Oshwal Jain), House of Dawda (H. Dawda, Lohana Hindu), Premier Foods, Farmer’s Choice (Diamond Laljee, Ismaili), Truc Foods (R. Malde).
– Paper and packaging industry: Panafrican Paper Mills Ltd (N.K. Mohatta), Prestige Packaging Ltd (Bimal Kantaria), Chandaria Industries (Maganlal Chandaria), All Pack Industries (Aga Khan), Cardboard Manufacturers (K. Shah), Dodhia Packaging (Shah), Sil Pack Industries (N. Shah), Paper Bags Ltd (K. Shah).
– Tyres: Sameer Group (Naushad Merali, Ithnasheri Muslim), Nyanza Tires (N. Shah).
– Chemical industry, plastic material and industrial packaging (sector 90 % controlled by Indian-Kenyans): Everyday Batteries (Naushad Merali), Plastic and Rubber Industries (Aga Khan), Kenya Litho Ltd (Aga Khan), Kenpoly (D.H. Chandaria), Acme Containers (Mukesh Shah, supplying to Coca Cola, breweries, etc.); and also Crown Industries (Shah), Packaging Industries (N. Shah), Metro-Plastics (H. Shah), General Plastics (R. Shah).
– Iron industry: (80 % controlled by Indian-Kenyans): Steel Africa Ltd (Suli J. Shah), Kenya Aluminium Industrial Works Ltd and Africa Metal Co (Manu Chandaria), Mabati Rolling Mills (Manu Chandaria & S.J. Shah), Tononoka Steel (N. Savala, Oshwal Jain), Devki Steel Works (N. Rawal, Brahman Hindu); and also Apax Steel (P. Nathwani, Lohana Hindu), Insteel (Manu Chandaria & S.J. Shah), Steel Makers Ltd (R. Patel), Corrugated Iron (Patel Hindu).
– Cement: Athi River Mining (Pradeep Paunrana), company also present in Tanzania.
– Utility and passenger transport motor vehicle assembly: Marshalls-Tata (controlled in the past by Ketan Somaia), Ashok-Leyland, which includes import businesses, especially Colt Simba (A.K.C., Popot, Ismaili).
– Printing (several small-scale plants, 60 % controlled by Indian-Kenyans): General Printers Limited (Suru Tanna, Lohana Hindu); and also RAMCO (R. Patel), Printing Industries (K. Dave, Brahman Hindu), Print First (K. Shah), Rodwell Press (Gudka), Regal Press (C.B. Shah), Bizone Ltd (Patel), Kenya Litho (Aga Khan), Modern Litho, etc.
– Leather industry: Leather Industries of Kenya, Embassy Industries Ltd (Aga Khan).
– Electrical production: Tsavo Power (Aga Khan).
– Electrical material and installation (90 % Indian-Kenyan): Switchgear (N. Shah), Power Technics (Naresh Mehta, Navnat Jain), Mehter Electrical (P. Mehta, Visa Oshwal Jain), Reliable (P. Shah, Navnat Jain).
– Domestic electrical appliances: Reefer Manufacturers Ltd (Aga Khan).
– Industrial fishing (Lake Victoria): Alpha (Aga Khan).

  • 54 After the collapse of the Ugandan shilling following political upheavals in the 1975-1985 decade, I (...)
  • 55 Located in Nyanza (west of the country), the Rift Valley and along the coast, the cotton production (...)
  • 56 The sale of fresh fruits and vegetables (92 % to the EU) as well as cut flowers accounts for 50 % o (...)
  • 57 It is almost impossible to do an inventory of recent land acquisitions, and even more difficult to (...)

56The involvement of Indian-Africans in various sectors of the economy has varied with time, especially since most Indian entrepreneurs – taking advantage of the ability of families to divide labour and the transnational networks often associated with them – alternate and sometimes combine investment and speculation, trade and production, with the latter activities being used in all sectors without exception, even in agriculture. This is how, for example, after making money in the early 1980s in the resale of Ugandan coffee obtained from the black market, Indian businessmen engaged in setting up (or recapitalization of) banks in Kenya54. Other investors purchased agricultural land in the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania and set up in the two countries integrated plantation textile production (cotton, sisal) for spinning and weaving55. Similar agro-industrial integration operations were carried out for the production of sugar in Kisumu, a region between Uganda and Kenya. After securing markets, Indian businessmen in Kenya engaged in the integrated production of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as cut flowers for export, quickly taking up an important place in this market56. Whereas land buyers are today representatives of several communities (Hindus, Sunni, Ismaili, Ithnasheri Muslims, etc.), during the decade between 1970 and 1980, most of the agricultural land was bought by Sikhs, essentially representing the Jat or Zamindar group whose attachment to land in India is well-known. In Uganda, Tanzania, and even in western Kenya (Eldoret and Kisumu), large tracts of land were thus acquired for wheat, coffee, tea and sugar cane production. Such land transfers were not always condemned by Africans, who considered agriculture more honourable and less predatory than business –business being widely perceived as an area where prosperity was achieved at the expense of Africans57.

Table 1.4 Indian-Kenyan investments in agriculture and agro-industry in Kenya (2008):
– Sugar and sugar industry (essentially in Nyanza and Kisumu): Kibos Sugar (Sikhs), Miwani Sugar (Sikhs), Agro Food & Chemical (Mehta family), West Kenya Sugar (Patel Hindus);
– Cotton, sisal and textile fibres: Girish Chande (Lohana Hindu) and a number of farmers along the coast;
– Fruits (mangoes): a number of small-scale farmers in the coastal region and Ukambani area (Patel Hindus, Sunni Muslims, etc.);
– Grains (Narok region, Rift Valley, Eldoret): Global Freight (Ithnasheri Shia families), Raiply (Sikhs), L. Chab (Sikhs), R.M. Patel (Patel Hindus);
– Tea and coffee: Sasini Tea & Coffee (Naushad Merali, Shia Ithnasheri), Dejee Medjee (Patel Hindu, also mango producers);
– Fresh fruits and vegetables, horticulture and cut flowers (a number of farmers in Nairobi and Naivasha areas): Frigoken (Aga Khan), Sunripe Ltd (Shanti Shah), A.A.A. Growers (Ismailis), East Africa Growers Ltd (Punjabi Hindus Arya Samaj), KHE (Patel Hindus), Vecipro-Umang (Punjabi Hindus), Prima Rosa (Kamani family, Navnat Jains), East African Growers (Mahjan family, Punjabi Hindus), P.J. Dave (Brahman Hindu family), etc.
Source: study by author

  • 58 Indian-Africans own a little over half of Kenya’s hotel industry. For example Serena (about twenty (...)
  • 59 Second operator in Kenya after Safaricom and owned by the Sameer Group (Ithnasheri Shia).
  • 60 We do not mention here other profitable activities like taxi hire and urban minibuses. In Mombasa, (...)

57The involvement of Indian interests in the banking sector is considerable. In Kenya, 25 out of a total of 44 banks (including four leading banks) are entirely or partly controlled by Indian groups. In Uganda, four of the main banks are also in the hands of Indian-African families. Financial groups that are predominantly Indian-African in Kenya also control the insurance sector, a significant portion of import-export activities, a significant part of the hotel industry (Ismailis) and the main pro-opposition mass-circulation daily, The Daily Nation (Ismailis)58. At a more diversified financial scale, Indian-Kenyans hold virtual monopoly in many businesses and services: telecommunications (Celtel)59, wholesale and retail businesses, real estate, computer services, advertising, tourist agencies, garages and service stations, shopping malls (Sarit Centre, Village Market in Nairobi) as well as one of the two main retail chains (Nakumatt, controlled by a Visa Oshwal Jain group). Finally, real estate investment is an individual resource booster which the vast majority of manufacturers and businessmen turn to. As a financial shock absorber (especially in the current situation of fresh competition in the retail sector), purchase and resale of land for building, investment property, industrial buildings, villas and rental apartments are often the main income for many small and medium-scale businessmen60.

  • 61 Distribution of the 25 banks (out of the total 44) entirely or partly controlled by Indian-Kenyan c (...)

Table 1.5 Banks and insurance companies in Kenya (2007–2008)61
I. Banks
1. African Banking Corporation Ltd (ABC Bank), Shamaz Savani, Hindu, 7 agencies classified as Medium in the Banking Survey of
Kenya 2. Bank of Baroda, K.N. Manvi, 6 agencies classified as Medium
3. Bank of India, AK. Jalota, 4 agencies classified as Medium
4. Chase Bank Ltd Kenya, Zafrullah Khan (mixed capital), 2 agencies classified as Small
5. City Finance Bank Ltd, S.V. Ramani (mixed capital, involving Equity Bank run by Africans), 1 agency classified as Small
6. Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd, Isaac Awuondo (mixed capital, including the Kenyatta family), 12 agencies classified as Large in the Banking Survey of Kenya (No. 6 overall)
7. Credit Bank, Narendra K. Agrarwal (mixed capital, mostly capital from Africans), 4 agencies classified as Small
8. Credit Finance Corporation Bank (CFC), M. Soundararajan (mixed capital, particularly South Africans), 6 agencies classified as Large
9. Diamond Trust Bank Ltd, Nasim Devjee (Aga Khan), 5 agencies classified as Large (No. 10 overall)
10. EABS Bank Ltd, R. Arora (Hindu), 9 agencies classified as Medium
11. Equatorial Commercial Bank Ltd, Hassan Rizvi & Sameer Merali Group (Ithnasheri Shia Muslims), 2 agencies classified as Small
12. Fidelity Commercial Bank Ltd, Sultan Khimjee & Raminder Bir Singh, 3 agencies classified as Small
13. Fina Bank Ltd, Frank Griffiths & D.H. Chandaria (mixed capital), 5 agencies classified as Medium
14. Giro Commercial Bank Ltd, Gidoomal family (Hindu), & M.P. Sastry, 6 agencies classified as Medium
15. Guardian Bank Ltd, M. Chandaria family & Gopinath H. Bhatt, 5 agencies classified as Medium
16. Habib Bank A.G. Zurich, Muhammad H. Habib, Iqbal A. Allawala (Muslim family), 4 agencies classified as Medium
17. Habib Bank Ltd, Dawood Habib family (Agha Khan), 4 agencies classified as Small
18. Imperial Bank, A. Janmohamed (Muslim family), 5 agencies classified as Medium
19. Investment and Mortgages Bank also known as I & M Bank, Suresh Raja, Sarit Shah (Oshwal Jains) & Arun S. Mathur, 9 agencies classified as Large (No. 7 overall)
20. Middle East Bank Kenya, A. Esmail, Peter Harris (mixed capital, dominantly Belgian), 2 agencies classified as Small
21. Oriental Commercial Bank Ltd, Shanti Shah, B.K. Dutta (Hindu, mixed capital), 4 agencies classified as Small
22. Paramount Universal Bank, Manilal Doodhia (Visa Oshwal Jain family) & Ayaz Merali, 3 agencies classified as Small
23. Prime Bank Ltd, Rosik C. Kantaria (Hindu) & Vasant K. Shetty, 9 agencies classified as Medium
24. Prime Capital and Credit Finance Ltd, Rosik C. Kantaria (Hindu), 1 agency classified as Small
25. Victoria Commercial Bank Ltd, Yogesh K. Pattni (Hindu), 1 agency classified as Small
Sources: Oloo (2007) and study by the author.

II. Insurance companies (2008, about 40 % Indian capital): 1. Apollo-APA (Visa Oshwal Jain and other African capital)
2. Cannon (Talwar, Punjabi Hindu)
3. CFC Life Heritage (P.K. Jani, Brahman Hindu and other African capital)
4. Fidelity Shield Insurance (M. Kurjee, Ismaili)
5. Geminia (M. Shah, Visa Oshwal Jain)
6. General Accident (M. Shah, Visa Oshwal Jain)
7. Jubilee Insurance & Diamond Trust Bank Associates (Aga Khan)
8. Kenindia (Manu Chandaria, Malindra Mehta, Lohana Hindu and other Indian capital)*
9. Trident Insurance (Diamond Laljee, Ismaili)
* The Kenindia general insurance company is the result of a merger in 1978 of four Indian companies with subsidiaries in Kenya: New India Insurance Co, United India Insurance Co, Woriental, Fire & General Insurance Co, Life Insurance Corporation of India. Kenindia is the largest insurance company in East Africa.
Source: study by author.

58There was a debate throughout the 1990s between proponents of purely African capitalism (mainly Kenyan Kikuyu) and Indian businessmen, the key players in the region’s industrial development, in which the latter blamed the former of overestimating the capacity for initiative and investment of African capitalists who are still largely held prisoners by a profit and speculation economy model (Grignon 1996 based on Swainson 1980; Himbara 1993, 1994, 1997). If it is true that matching the business achievements against the entrepreneurial success stories recorded over thirty years, then some African personalities – either as competitors or partners of Indian-Africans – are fresh from winning accolades, they remain a small minority compared to the latter, who easily win accolades, and have undoubtedly been at it for much longer.

  • 62 Vijay & Bikhu Patel (Waymade Healthcare), Bharat Shah (Sigma Pharmaceuticals), Navin Engineer (Chem (...)

59Let us add that Indian-Africans are not content with occupying a major position in the economies of their respective host countries. They have sometimes acquired leading positions and property outside Africa, even at the heart of industrial Europe. This is particularly the case in the United Kingdom where the six leading distributors of pharmaceutical products in 2005 were Indian-Kenyans62.

  • 63 In 1963, the figures for the three professions of doctors, teachers and lawyers were as follows: Do (...)

60The influence of Indian-Africans goes well beyond the spheres of production, import-export, finance, distribution and services. In the whole of Kenya, a simple look at the professional pages of telephone directories reveals that representatives of the Indian diaspora are more than 30 % of the lawyers, accountants and architects, 35 % of the doctors, 25 % of the surgeon dentists, and 25 % of the dispensing pharmacists63. In much smaller proportions (which could not be established), Kenyans of Indian origin also occupy high public service and university positions apart from being members of senior management positions and pilots in airlines.

Indian-African businesses

61Beyond its financial, legal and social characteristics, the power wielded by members of the Indian diaspora in some sectors is also reflected in the very strictly patrimonial nature of business capital firms as well as the community aspects and the broadly nepotistic policy of recruiting staff.

  • 64 More than thirty years ago, John Zarwan studied various capitalistic ownership formulas in Indian-A (...)

62a) We talked a little earlier about the persistence in East Africa of the joint communal family model, which is widespread in northern India (Kapadia 1966). Peter Lachaier (1992) attempted to describe the family business model, known as “lineage market firm”, prevalent in India among Cutchi Lohana Hindus but whose exact equivalent is observable among members of the diaspora community. Capital raised within the family remains very frequently concentrated in the hands of the founder (the first generation patriarch) while the group of sons share amongst themselves administrative and managerial responsibilities and prepare the company for expansion, and then bequeath having done as much as they could, a position to each grandson. Although not a guarantee given internal family disputes, this desire for expansion – which leads both to more sons and business growth – can be related, according to Pierre Lachaier, to the fact that “every Hindu is born with debts on the head” (1992: 866). Sometimes called “theological”, these debts are a sign of gratitude to the deities (they are then paid as a sacrifice). Other founding entities, like the wise visionary origins, commentators of Veda or ancestral figures (sapinda) also demand offerings, forcing any human being to enhance their charitable ability and sire sons to proceed in turn with the libations (Ibid.: 866). The contemporary increase in inheritance disagreements – between father and son or brothers – is as a result not only of the rise in individualism, but also the gradual opening up of capital to people outside the nuclear family64.

63b) In a typical Indian-African business, the top executives belong to the family circle or people from the same community in the narrow sense of the word (same religious affiliation, same caste, same region of origin), while the junior and middle level staff are recruited from a wider community circle (belonging to other castes, but from the same region of origin, for example). Although Indian-African businesses employ largely African staff, this staff are generally relegated to junior positions. With the notable exception of some Ismaili institutions (media and hospitals), few African staff are recruited to hold positions of responsibility or that would ensure promotion to senior management.

64Among Indian minorities, the old caste divisions of work have partly remained without hindering the professional economic progress because of the combined phenomenon of modernization of techniques and capitalist concentration.

  • 65 The Hindu Council and the Chandaria Foundation help these destitutes.

65Except for a few marginalized “rockets”, the persistence within the diaspora of some pockets of poverty seems to be partly related, in the first place, to caste affiliations. The Indian poor, who are not very visible as they are secluded in old Indian neighbourhoods neglected by their occupants (in Nairobi, for example, the most dilapidated parts of Kirinyaga or Pangani areas), are often found in the lowest class categories: Kumbhar Gujarati potters, Cutchi Sunnis, etc. It is impossible to number these people, who have been forsaken in social emancipation and who form disparate groups, being small artisans, unskilled workers, service workers, long- term unemployed, or poor elderly people65.

66Secondly, with regards to what has been mentioned above, specialization by caste is still noticeable in many professions. Moreover, it should be noted at the outset that such specialization cannot be – and never has been – only relative, given as already noted, the very small number of jati represented in the diaspora. Even though, as equally noted in the chapter on socio-religious communities, a majority of Brahmans are, like in the past, in an intellectual profession (lawyer, university, banking, etc.), other groups at the tail end of the social hierarchy have embraced modernity while maintaining symbolic attachment to their identity base. Sonis, formerly goldsmiths, now hold all the watches and jewellery shops and control the precious stones business; the Dhobis (laundry workers) exercise a monopoly in the cleaningironing business; the Mochi ( “cobblers”) dominate leather and footwear work (manufacture, wholesale and retail business); the Lohanas (cloth merchants) and the Memon Sunnis (former Lohanas converted to Islam) maintain their grip on the textile wholesale business, while Wanza Darji ( “tailors”) are specialists in the clothing industry. Ramgarhia Sikhs (Tarkhan, Raj, Luhar) dominate construction and automobile businesses (auto mechanics, spare part sales, service stations, etc.), and even sometimes in the agro-industry business (where the Zamindar, high class Sikhs, have invested). Other categories have undergone more progressive changes. Owners of elegant hair salons, Nayee ( “barbers”), are also physicians and surgeons – a symbolic continuum similar to the changes Europe experienced over three centuries. The Sutars, former carpenters, are now public works contractors, architects and engineers.

  • 66 The chapter on socio-religious communities sheds additional light on these professional orientation (...)

67Linked or not to caste membership, there are also specializations that go with regional origins or religious beliefs – for doctrinal or circumstantial reasons. As noted by Goody (1999: 152), Hindus in general (and the breakaway groups in particular) are not opposed to interest on credit, like Muslims are, but some minority groups within them do demonstrate some degree of tolerance in this respect. This could explain the high proportion of schismatic communities among Indian businessmen in East Africa as well as their specialization in certain activities. In general, it appears that investment in the money business was, like in India, a preserve of the Jains and Ismailis, and overseas business that of the Bohra Shia, Ismailis and some Hindu groups66. Traditionally, long distance Bohra traders (who, for their part, condemn interest on credit) have diversified their activities, with some of them curiously acquiring, as we noted earlier, monopoly in hardware and glassware business. As for the Sunnis, some specializations amongst them could not be explained. Thus the Sunni Cutchi (who were initially divided into so many sub-castes) are generally small-scale traders while their Kokni co-faithful (from Maharashtra) have specialized in shipping. Zamindar Sikhs, who were initially mercenaries in the British Army, are now in intellectual professions (architects, academics, etc.), but do not forget some of the activities in which the most populous group of the Ramgarhia have already invested, such as public works, the automobile sector, and agro-industry.

68Nevertheless, the diversification of activities within each class group, which is independent of the push for upward mobility towards old professional categories, shows that the caste barrier has ceased to be an insurmountable obstacle. Intellectual professions are no longer the preserve of high-ranking castes. Even though it has not yet been possible to clearly explain the persistence of residual old corporate positions, we may suggest that they owe their survival, on the one hand, to comparative advantage gained in sectors that are unique to them, and, on the other, to the mere inertia of succession devolution and acquired situations.

  • 67 For details on the community or traditional corporate records, see chapter on socio-religious commu (...)

Table 1.6 Community positions in some sectors (without excluding participation by representatives of other communities)67
– Advocates, university academicians: Brahman Hindus, Ismailis, Bohra Shia community, Arya Samaj Hindus, Goans, Parsis
– Agro-industry: Sikhs (especially Zamindar), Lohana and Patel Hindus, Ithnasheri Shia
– Architects: Sikhs, Parsis, Kokni Sunnis, Sutar Hindus ( “carpenters”)
– Automobile: Sikhs, Ismailis, Bathia Hindus
– Banking, insurance: Ismailis, Oshwal Jains
– Business (cloth): Oshwal Jains, Lohana Hindus, Memon Sunnis
– Business (small-scale): Cutchi Patel Hindus, Oshwal Jains, Sunni Muslim
– Chemicals, plastics, rubber: Oshwal Jains, Ismailis
– Cleaning: Dhobi ( “launders”) Hindus
– Clothing (clothing industry and business): Wanza Darji Hindus ( “tailors”), Goans
– Doctors: Nayee Hindus ( “barbers”), Patel Hindus, Jains
– Electricals and domestic electric appliances (industry): Jains, Kokni Sunnis, Ismailis
– Engineers: Sikhs, Sutar Hindus ( “carpenters”)
– Food (industry): Oshwal Jains, Lohana Hindus, Ismailis
– Goldsmith, jewellery: Soni Hindus ( “goldsmiths”)
– Hair salons: Nayee Hindus ( “barbers”)
– Hardware, sanitary equipment: Bohra Shia community
– Hotel industry: Ismailis
– Large-scale distribution: Oshwal Jains
– Leather: Mochi Hindus ( “cobblers”), Ismailis (leather industry)
– Media: Ismailis
– Metal (industry): Oshwal Jains, Patel et Lohana Hindus
– Overseas business: Bohra Shia community, Bathia Hindus
– Paper, packaging: Oshwal Jains, Hindus, Ismailis
– Pharmacy: Jains, Patel Hindus
– Public works: Sikhs, Sutar Hindus ( “carpenters”), Bohra Shia community, Kokni Muslims, Cutchi Patel Hindus
– Real estate: Bohra community, Sikhs
– Textile: Oshwal Jains (business), Ithnasheris, Ismailis (production)
– Timber and wood industry: Sikhs, Kokni Sunnis

69The breakdown, at least partially, of community division of labour has had other consequences. In spite of an unquestionable supra-community feeling shared among all representatives of the Indian diaspora – particularly in circumstances of xenophobic threats – a sense of intra-community unity was strongly maintained within each community, as well as the necessities of solidarity among their members. This has led to increased inter-community rivalries that likely fuel disparaging stereotypes. These dissensions are less frequent or less sensitive between large religious “blocs” as within them: even though the Lohanas (considered as a “body”) are commonly opposed to the Jains and the Bohra community (or the Ithnasheri) to Ismailis, there are relatively few examples of prejudice or hostility between Sunni and Shia Muslims and between Hindus and Muslims. This issue will be revisited in the pages below as well as in other chapters of this book.

Maintaining community self-segregation

70Kept apart from the British during the colonial period, the Asians of East Africa, on their side, did not spare their efforts to avoid cohabitation with Africans, opting for intra-community sociability, imposing endogamy rules and carefully avoiding certain residential areas. Existing cultural differences between Indians and Africans have always been given as an explanation to these tendencies. Whatever their religious attachment and caste belonging (this issue correctly applies to Hindus and representatives of higher castes), Indians feel repulsion for a certain number of African cultural traits (animal sacrifices, beef consumption, initiation rites or funeral rites, among others). Given that there was already some form of segregation and endogamy within their own communities, Indians – the proponents argued – could only remain in enclosed circles by keeping themselves away from Africans. Regardless of the validity of these comments, the fact is that such a situation was not surprising to Africans in any way since apartheid was already in existence at that time. In fact, Africans suffered the same problems of limited citizenship just like Indians.

71If this situation were to be adapted to the present period, the practice of ‘separate development’ would go against the wishes expressed by Africans to end any kind of exclusion. From an Indian-African point of view, the centripetal and protectionist decision taken by all societies could be justified by several reasons: 1) in the eyes of those concerned, it was a way of maintaining cultural identity; 2) it brought social security protection to every community – as a minority – that the state proved incapable of providing; 3) it would facilitate future community commitment to collective development without harming all citizens.

  • 68 The current spatial division of communities was introduced in 1948 through an urban planning progra (...)

72a) Residential segregation is the most visible way which people of Indian origin have used in East Africa to stay apart. Nowhere else than in Nairobi is such segregation so visible, and it concerns all statutory and religious sub-groups. Largely confined in the northeastern part of the city (Parklands and Westlands), Indians share a same territory divided into several communal perimeters which, for some of them, have collective and enclosed housing provided with common services (security, garbage collection, maintenance of lawns, baby sitting, etc.). In such protected areas rarely visited by Africans – apart from domestic workers – Indians live and mix among themselves and visit one another like citizens of a miniature country of their own68.

  • 69 For historical details about African-Asians in Nairobi, read also Adam (2006: 340-343). Residential (...)

73Residential segregation has not been significantly reduced since independence due to the fact that there has been an increasing separation of work places (trade, workshops, etc.) and residential areas. In the three East African capitals, increasing urban insecurity is one of the major factors contributing to this phenomenon: in the first place, urban insecurity leads to the concentration of commercial activities in more secure areas; this intensifies or doubles up other forms of classical social segregation that exist almost everywhere in the world other than Europe. In addition, it leads to the formation of self-sufficient communal ghettos. Few families are able to resist this siege-like mentality69.

  • 70 However, certain parents are divided between giving the best formal education to their children and (...)
  • 71 As mentioned further in this text, exceptions are made in favour of certain Anglo-Saxon schools tha (...)

74b) When the situation allows, residential segregation is worsened by academic segregation. Although the main issue here is to maintain their identity, Indian schools have responded to demands for quality education that is supposed to maintain them at a higher level70. These schools are beneficiaries of many grants from their respective communities. They usually seek recognition from international universities in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada without considering the requirements of the national system of education in their host nation. Even though their student populations are limited (all the communities do not have enough students to open schools, which only exist in big towns), their creation responds to a common desire that has strong financial backing. As far as primary and secondary schools are concerned, it is noteworthy that since there is freedom of choice, communities (in particular Muslims) always give priority to girls’ schools. They hardly show reluctance in sending boys to schools that do not belong to their own community (these schools must however be Indian)71. This is the case of the Ithnasheri, who own only one girls’ school in Nairobi.

Table 1.7 Schools
1. Hindu schools
– Arya Boys School, Ngara (an average cost friendly school that attracts Arya Samaj Punjabi Hindus)
– Arya Girls School, Ngara (an average cost friendly school that attracts Arya Samaj Punjabi Hindus of)
– Arya Samaj Girls School, Parklands Avenue, Parklands
– Arya Samaj Nursery School, Ngara Road, Ngara
– Brook House Schools, Parklands (Dasa Jain)
– Cutchi Leva Patel School, Nairobi South (Patel)
– Oshwal College, Westlands, a private university institution offering undergraduate degree courses in management and information science. It signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Manchester (Jain)
– Premier Academy, Forest Road, Parklands (Patel)
– Visa Oshwal Boys Secondary School, Mpaka Road, Parklands (Jain)
– Visa Oshwal Girls Secondary School, Parklands (Jain)
– Visa Oshwal School, Mpaka Road, Parklands (Jain)
2. Muslim schools
– Aga Khan Academy, Parklands (Ismaili)
– Aga Khan High School, Upper Parklands (Ismaili)
– Aga Khan Mixed Primary School, Parklands Avenue, Parklands (Ismaili)
– Aga Khan Nursery School, Ngara (Ismaili)
– Cutchi Gujarati Schools, Ngara Street (Ngara) and Mtama Road (Parklands)
– Jaffery Girls Schools (Ithnasheri)
– Langata Complex (Bohra)
– Madrassa al Rasul, Karen (an Ithnasheri religious school meant for African converts)
– Muslim Girls Secondary School, Park Road, Ngara (of Sunni Punjabi origin)

  • 72 This information was given by Murtaza Somjee, the community chairman. Half of the students admitted (...)
  • 73 This complex is the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa. See the chapter on the Ismaili below. In this part (...)
  • 74 Other than Braeburn School, there are also other non-religious affiliation prestigious schools (but (...)

75All Asian-African schools admit students without consideration of their origin or religion. However, a glimpse at students’ classes and group photos shows that more than 90 % of them are of Indian origin. For instance, according to figures given by the school management, 98 % of students in Oshwal Jain Girls Secondary School in Nairobi are of Indian origin. However, the students’ religious affiliations are extremely diverse: 30 % of them are Muslims in the same Jain school; only 16 % are Ithnasheri in Jaffery community school72. In her contribution on the Ismaili community, Colette Le Cour Grandmaison explains further why in East Africa the well-to-do families of Indian origin are attracted by the complex school model recently opened in Mombasa by the Ismaili73. It is worth noting that in Nairobi, a major percentage of students registered in Braeburn School (a famous school managed by Americans) come from rich Indian-Kenyan families74.

76c) Asian-Africans’ passion for a communal way of life is not only limited to housing and education. Anyone who has ever lived in Nairobi knows the existence of Asian hospitals: the Shah Hospital (belonging to the Jain), the Guru Nanak Ramgarhia Sikh Hospital (belonging to the Sikh), and the Aga Khan Hospital (belonging to the Ismailis). Aga Khan and Nairobi hospitals (whose medical personnel is in majority composed of Asian-Africans – 80 %), admits a cosmopolitan clientele that is mainly composed of Europeans living in Kenya.

77d) The Asian-African social life, just like a community of newly arrived experts, is shown by their preference for intra-community contacts. The existence of numerous associations attached to religious or corporatist organisations has been already discussed. These include sports clubs, women groups, youth and charity associations, etc. If they do not always engage themselves in their own social circles (or may be due to the need of not strengthening the socio-cultural barriers that isolate them from the rest of the population), Indians also invest in a number of clubs, some of which are of British origin and predate their recent social promotion. In Nairobi, this is the case of the so-called “sports” clubs (in reality they are more social than sports clubs) such as: the Karen Country Club, the Muthaiga Golf Club, the Nairobi Club, the Nairobi Gymkhana, the Parklands Sports Club, etc. Other groups that were recently created are of North-American origin and they include: Lyons, Giants, Round Tables, Rotary (all have a high Hindu participation). Finally, some clubs like the Aga Khan Sports Club, the Goan Gymkhana, the Simba Union Club (Sikhs), etc. are strictly Asian.

  • 75 It is also worth mentioning the existence of several musical groups for the youth. The most famous (...)

78e) Governed by the customs that give preference to intra-community contacts, the social life of families of Indian origin is organised in accordance with a closed mentality that leaves little room for Africans. More interaction is noticeable at family levels and in bigger circles like statutory and religious groups (family meetings, home invitations, religious ceremonies, other associations, etc.). In addition, professional, friendly or social ties (going to the same clubs in particular) exist between representatives of diverse communities, including interaction between Hindus and Muslims75.

79Relations between Hindus and Muslims have for many decades been characterised by many clashes on the whole sub-continent. However, collective relations between Hindus and Muslims of Indian origin in the diaspora are characterised by friendliness, mutual respect and assistance. A good number of representatives of the Hindu diaspora in Africa belong to marginal religious groups like the Jains, the Sikhs, the Swaminarayan, etc. In rebellion to the caste system, these groups maintain a tradition of tolerance and friendship with Muslims as is traditionally the case with Sikhs. On the other hand, the Ismaili and the Bohra who are largely found in Eastern Africa are symmetrically followers of the same tradition of tolerance.

  • 76 This feeling is well expressed by Rasna Warah, a Kenyan journalist from a Sikh family that original (...)

80Beyond the intercommunity rivalries mentioned before, a common social and geographical origin and the existence of a common cultural and linguistic heritage is also a major factor that unifies Asian-Africans of all different kinds of religious affiliation. Given their geographical origin (North –Western states of India or provinces bordering Pakistan), East African Asians usually belong to socio professional groups whose definition (and name like the case of the Cutchi) goes beyond religious borders. The case of the Punjabi group illustrates the situation of these business families that were separated half a century ago by the artificial border that divided Punjab. These people have business and cordial relations with at least three communities (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs)76. Beyond these local and sector rapprochements, and whatever internal differences (essentially statutory or religious) that exist, Asians of diverse origins remain united by adhering to the same big and ancient civilisation whose major components are obvious to all: language (Gujarati for the majority, if not Urdu, Punjabi or Hindi); etiquette and social customs, way of dressing and dishes; most secular rituals (almost all of them are of Hindu origin and are generally observed by Muslims); almost same statutory prejudices as far as socio-professional categories are concerned; and finally, they always have a common conviction that largely transcends religious belonging. Given that they have the same difficulties due to the fact that they are immigrants and that they have to defend the same rights, the representatives of the diaspora have a feeling that they have a lot in common but little to share with Africans.

81Their sense of unity is again increased by the fact that since they have been in the diaspora, all Asian communities are considered by Africans as belonging to one socio-cultural entity. In the eyes of the Africans, who are generally poorly informed about the complex differences that distinguish numerous communal sub groups, the social class of East African Asians (usually described as a privileged class) can only be defended by a strong coalition that is efficient and receives many resources that go beyond religion. The sense of identity that unifies them is based on how they are looked upon by others.

Poor social and political integration

82In contrast to the strong integration of Asians in key sectors of national economy, poor relations between them and the Africans is the result of the social gap between the two groups and the segregation policy maintained by communities of Asian origin.

83Endogamy represents the culmination or conclusion of a group-centred sociability that is almost inevitable and not very keen to expansion. It is also in line with the internal constraints of the Asian society, whose main features need to be broadly remembered.

  • 77 See Michel Adam, “Family, family life and marriage… .” below.

84As explained further in this book, marital relationships in India are governed by complex rules that organize exogamy in the horizon of endogamy that goes beyond the family levels (except in cases of endogamy at family level that is specific to some Muslims as already mentioned)77. Apart from exogamy prescribed to exclude incestuous relations, there are two types of endogamy in India: religious endogamy and caste endogamy. Religious endogamy is general, though nowadays one can witness a few exceptions in liberal circles. As for caste endogamy, it is one of the pillars of marital relationships among Hindus. Although it cannot be openly invoked by Muslims and Sikhs, it is still strictly applied in most families.

85In the patrilineal and patriarchal context of India, all forms of endogamy may be subject to asymmetric arrangements. The common form of asymmetric marriage is what is called anuloma; whereby a man of a higher status marries a woman of a lower status. This explains why a Brahman man who claims patrilineal tradition may be allowed to take as his wife a woman of lower status condition. In the same way, a Muslim will be allowed to marry a non Muslim (considered of lower status, but subject to her conversion to Islam later on). This is because a symmetrical marriage will not be accepted, since it would mean that the Muslim community would lose children born from that marriage. Apart from the anuloma marriage, there is also pratiloma marriage (an Ego marriage with a woman of higher status) which can be practised occasionally, especially in wealthy families without a male heir.

86However, an asymmetrical marriage can only be planned between couples that have a certain social proximity but not between people from different status orders. This explains why there were few, if any such relations between Asians and Africans. In fact, religious differences were another factor that explain why these two groups could not marry one another. As for marriages between Muslims, they theoretically remain possible between couples of the same faith. However, their number remains limited because, on the contrary, Muslims prefer familial endogamy. This practice is still widespread among many faithful that include Asians and Africans. In addition, we examined the functional character of such a marriage in the context of a joint communal family, especially among the Shia.

  • 78 See the chapter on socio-religious communities.

87It is therefore understandable that, whatever their feelings towards Africans, Asians have not been willing to engage in inter-marriage. This conclusion, however, does not apply to all faiths. While mixed marriage was never observed among Hindus who strictly follow Hinduism, cases of inter-racial marriage between Asians and Africans exist among the Sikhs78. There is a high incidence of mixed marriages among Muslims, especially in the coastal region. It is actually the issue of religious affinity that contributed to mixed marriages among Muslims. The social dimension is however not completely excluded because a large number of Arab-Swahili families in this region belong to former rich businessmen.

88No research has been conducted on the important issue of Indo-African sociability that is represented by inter-racial marriages between Asian Muslims and Africans. In Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and in other coastal cities like Malindi and Lamu, there is an unknown number of Indo-Swahili couples, yet several Asian families admitted that they had at least one member of African ancestry in their genealogy. The correlation between frequency of intermarriage and social status seems nevertheless proved. Among the Shias, the Aga Khan Ismailis seem most open to inter-ethnic marriages. This phenomenon is however rare in higher socio-professional categories. As for the Sunnis, the highest proportion of mixed marriages is found among the Badala (secondarily among the Kokni).

89Secondly, the existence of male hypergamy implies that children are attached to the paternal lineage and therefore to Indo-African identity especially when it comes to religion. As the book tries to show later, this integration creates difficulties especially outside the coastal areas (where cultural mixtures are old) and in non-Muslim regions of the country.

  • 79 Reduced to the Kenya Indian Congress, the East African Indian National Congress ceased to exist in  (...)
  • 80 In 1963, Jomo Kenyatta proposed to nominate a Minister of Indian origin, but according to a Member (...)
  • 81 Constituencies of Igunga (Rostam Aziz), Kilwa-Kisiwani (Gulamabbas Dewji), Morogoro-Kusini (Sameer (...)
  • 82 Kampala (Sanjay Tanna), Buganda Kingdom (Rajni Tailor); a councillor in Kampala Municipal Council ( (...)
  • 83 In Westlands constituency situated in Nairobi, communities of Indian origin unsuccessfully presente (...)
  • 84 Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission.
  • 85 17,000 out of 27,000 voting stations (information communicated by Rashmin Chitnis, honorary chairma (...)

90The low involvement of the Asian diaspora in the country’s political life was for a long time testified by collective aloofness by the members of various immigrant communities. We previously reported the battle waged by an intellectual and liberal minority in support of anti-colonial struggle led by Africans. Largely unknown to the masses and largely edged out – as seen previously – through tactical means, this involvement also suffered ups and downs just after independence. Since they were discouraged by xenophobic reactions, members of the Asian diaspora adopted low-profile political positions, while strengthening signs of their commitment to integration (such as the adoption of the citizenship of the host country). This is why in the wake of independence, “Asian” political associations and unions were dissolved. If they had remained in place, people would have suspected that Asians were willing to continue defending purely “ethnic interests”79. This wish of removing distinctive statutory identity was however not compensated by an integrative political commitment. In fact, certain personalities of the diaspora never ceased being informally present in corridors of power where they actively played different roles of lobbyists. Thus, some of them were repeatedly compromised in various scandals: illegal financing of political parties, massive tax evasion and smuggling of all kinds. Meanwhile, the Asian community as a whole refused, even in Kenya, any parliamentary participation80. On the contrary, with the declared wish of making Asian-Africans recognize that they have the same citizenship as Africans and with the resolution that was affirmed time and again to defend the cause of minority cultures, such political timidity is currently changing for the better especially in Tanzania and Uganda. With a parliamentary representation of six legislators in 2007, the Indo-Tanzanian minority is capable of making its voice heard at the national level.81 With two strong members of parliament, the Asian voice in Uganda is politically well represented given the fact that its population is low82. Kenya is trailing in this area because Asians are only represented by one Member of Parliament, Ahmed Shakeel Shabir, a Punjabi Muslim, former mayor for Kisumu, currently a legislator from Nyanza83. Certain intellectuals of Asian origin played an important role in Kenyan politics without taking sides. That is the case of a well-known lawyer, Professor Yash Pal Ghai (a Punjabi Hindu) who was in charge of the constitutional reform committee a few years ago84. During the 2007 elections, several Asian organisations pulled their resources together to mobilize voters. The Hindu Council organised a major civic education campaign among the youth (through radio presentations and public meetings in Indian schools). Being a member of the committee of domestic election observers (Kenya Election Domestic Observation Forum), the Hindu Council also sent observers to many voting stations85.

Unclear relations with India

  • 86 In 1996, India was Kenya’s fifth exporting country. It was in fact client number one in Africa, far (...)
  • 87 A person is considered of “Indian origin” when s/he has had an Indian passport or if one of the par (...)

91The past strained relations with the countries of the Indian subcontinent and particularly with India, which had for long impaired the relations between members of the Indian diaspora and the successive governments of the three East African countries, are currently settled. After the partition of India, the new states of the Union of India and Pakistan sent separate ambassadors to Nairobi, the capital of the three main colonies in East Africa. After expressing his sympathy for the movement of African independence, the Indian ambassador had to deal with protests from the British government. The Indian government, on the contrary, adopted an attitude of complete neutrality after independence. “We have made it clear to our people in Africa… they should neither expect help nor protection from us if they are seeking special rights that are not in the interest of Africans” (Pandit Nehru’s statement quoted in Prunier 1990: 116). Then subsequent episodes of heightened tension following the events of 1963 (Zanzibar), 1967 (Kenya) and 1972 (Uganda), relations between the East African states on the one hand, and those of India and Pakistan on the other hand gradually eased over the years. Being emissaries of the Commonwealth and enjoying the status of High Commissioners, Indian and Pakistan ambassadors occupy a high rank in the hierarchy of diplomatic protocols. There are currently several cooperation agreements in education and commerce between India, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Indian Technical Economic Cooperation that trains African engineers and technicians in India; India Joint Trade Agreement and the Joint Business Agreement). Although the level of trade remains modest, the Kenyan government also accepted that regular flights run between Mumbai and Nairobi86. For its part, the Indian government encourages members of the Indian diaspora to contribute to the development of their countries of origin. Whatever their nationality, people of Asian origin living outside national borders benefit, under Indian law, from a special status called Non Resident Indian (NRI)87. For most Asian-Africans, however, relations with India are still embarrassing and contradictory, thus revealing persisting difficulties in their identity position.

92Without any demographic survey to rely upon, it is currently difficult to quantify the migration flows between India and the East African countries since the time of the first mass population relocation prompted by the British towards the end of the 19th century. There is no statistical information available, either, on the exact proportion of the population of Indian origin living in Africa who had been born outside the country’s borders. Given that a significant part of the first immigrants who came to construct the railway went back to India after the railway completion, the majority of today’s members of the Indian community have to seek their roots in post-1907 migrations. Taking into account the arrival of spouses “recruited” in India and the recent influx of unregistered immigrants, the proportion of people of Asian origin born in Africa is likely to be at least 50 %.

  • 88 Figures gathered by the author varied according to the number of people interviewed (Hindu Council, (...)

93Even though links with their ‘mother’ country may have been cut for a long time, every Asian-African dreams of visiting the place of his/ her ancestors at least once in his/her lifetime. The trip to the Indian subcontinent is a major goal for all families, though its accomplishment is however not affordable for people from humble backgrounds. Most families go to Gujarat and sometimes extend to Maharashtra and Punjab. The trip, undertook like a pilgrimage, frequently results in disappointment however. Indeed, due to the separation of families that occurred in India since the time of the earliest migrations, most immigrants do not have good kinship networks that can give them a warm reception that mirrors their expectations. Although some may be proud to display their economic success, this does not usually last because the larger family circles consider it usurped or improperly acquired. For some, the poverty levels they witness in their places of origin make them leave quickly and it is at times the reason why they never go back. Only the perspective of university education attracts candidates to stay in India for long, though those who can afford usually give preference to English-speaking universities of the West88.

  • 89 See the chapter on family and marriages.

94In line with keeping caste endogamy, another reason for travelling to India is the search for suitable spouses, especially women. The earlier existence of this ancient practice, as mentioned above, is meant to expand, in the small demographic context of immigration and for each endogamous community, the circle of permitted spouses. The period between December and February is dedicated to this search. In Gujarat, Hindu families have contacts with Brahmins who are responsible for coming up with lists of young girls to marry. Although the demographic decline of certain emigrant communities has made it difficult, in Africa, to have marriage negotiations that conform to traditions (the most common norms being isogamy or hypergamy, as mentioned previously), most sources are unanimous that the number of spouses recruited from India has significantly declined over recent years. Such is notably the case with less prosperous communities – especially the Sunni Muslims – which, for most of them, have severed their links with the motherland and whose frequency of travelling to India is the lowest, some of their community members having in fact never left the African continent. This is also the case with the minority of rich upper-class families in which, as seen before, a growing number of marriages no longer respect traditions. Women meant for distant marriages, on their side, are now rare in India, except those destined for European countries89.

95The growing decline of interpersonal relations with places of origin is in sharp contrast to the high attachment given to the Indian culture, whose mainstay remains the former homeland according to all immigrants.

  • 90 News of massacres rapidly reached the African colonies and stirred up passions: after separating fr (...)
  • 91 Particularly from the town of Baroda (Gujarat), a famous artistic centre.
  • 92 Another sign of attachment to cultural productions from India. In 1988, according to a study carrie (...)
  • 93 See Singaravelou (2003: 24). The expression “masala culture” comes from an assortment of spices tha (...)

96Everyone knows of the tragic partition of India in 1947 that led to the breakup of the former Indian Empire and shook the political balance in the subcontinent. This breakup, which strongly affected Africa, brought about sharp conflicts between Hindus and Muslims, notably in Kenya90. For the majority of Asian-Africans, this event did not erase the feeling depicted above that their roots are embedded in the same place. That is why families from the regions currently administered by Pakistan still see the Indian confederation as one entity. It is therefore no wonder that one of the missions of Indian ambassadors is to perpetuate this vision since it is expected of them to permanently revive the cultural identity of the diaspora. Located in the heart of Nairobi, with an impressive library, the main cultural service of the Indian High Commission in Kenya is to organise intercultural exchanges like: Indian languages teaching (with emphasis on Hindi which provides access to classical and contemporary literature), fellowship programs, dancing and drama festivals91, music recitals, conferences, etc. On these occasions, community associations invite artists, intellectual or religious personalities from India. The considerable affluence that goes with these events bears witness to the passion with which diverse cultural aspects of the former homeland are welcomed in Africa92. These “masala cultures” – a term used as a parody to designate the local diaspora sub-cultures in all countries where there are Indian immigrants – are maintained through such renewed exchanges93.

  • 94 In other cases (the old Oshwal temple on Oshwal Road in Pangani and other Hindu temples in Kampala) (...)
  • 95 Other than religious circles, the Ismaili built several prestigious buildings in Kenya like the Rah (...)

97Another feature that shows that Asian-Africans are worried about a possible shift from their canon or authentic culture of origin is proved by the way they pray. Religion is in fact considered a privileged conservatory of tradition. Since they are very keen on passing this tradition to their children (who are usually very present in religious structures), Asians in the African diaspora have proved to be very strict with religion. This is strengthened by the importance of numerous religious associations. Just like the Brazilian settlers who imported carved facades for their churches from Portugal in the sixteenth century, several religious associations ordered entire temples from India in detached pieces (this is the case of the big and beautiful Swaminarayan temple in Nairobi that was recently built along a busy avenue)94. These practices cost a lot of money but believers of different religious affiliation never hesitate to support them. Without noticing that they at times do the same thing to their religious buildings, Asian Muslims make fun of those oversized temples that are built by Hindus at the entrance of major cities95.

Uncertain future for the middle class

  • 96 See the chapter on relations between Africans and the representatives of communities of Indian orig (...)

98The economic and social upheavals currently experienced in East Africa (reorientation of international investment and exports, growing competition from Southern Africa and Asian countries) exert dissimilar pressures on various categories of the Asian diaspora. In the category of small and medium sized businesses (retailers of fabrics and house wares, not to say dukawallah), many people are suffering from the market pressure brought about by newcomers in the retail trade: Africans of various origins (Kikuyu, Luo, Somali) as well as Chinese. While some people, according to their Asian-African rivals, benefit from preferential treatment obtained from government officers after bribing them (patent waivers, cancellation or reduction of customs duties and tax grabs, fraud on social legislation, etc.), the others, sometimes suspected of violating the same regulations (especially fraudulent importation), are accused of unfair business practices: selling below the cost price, distribution and sale of second hand clothes at very low cost (mitumba), etc.96

  • 97 In 2006, Kenya received about 1.8 million tourists, most of them residing in coastal seaside comple (...)

99In general, especially in Kenya, retailers, wholesalers and small manufacturers complain about lack of a national development policy, particularly for poor and middle class Africans. This is a prerequisite for the growth of domestic demand that is necessary for commercial prosperity. While denouncing the extremes of emphasis on “tourism and agricultural export” (particularly in the area of fruits and vegetables and flowers in which, many Asian-Africans are largely shareholders), these same businessmen and manufacturers are demanding a reduction in energy costs, an increase in domestic production of cereals, sugar and cotton, and the establishment of free zones, etc.97

Challenges and future of integration

100In the first place, Asian-Africans are working hard to reject the accusation that they keep Africans away. They believe that their integration efforts have however been poorly rewarded. After giving up citizenship of their mother countries and acquiring that of the host country, they are also demanding the same attributes and rights: the right to security of their property, adherence to constitutional principles, tolerance vis-à-vis other communities, participation in duties of common interest. As proof of their adherence to these principles, members of the Asian diaspora argue that they usually mix with Africans whom they agree portray them in the most positive light in public. These statements overlook the fact that relations with Africans are hierarchical and limited. Given the division of community work, there are few circumstances and situations in which Asians within the same institution work with Africans on an equal footing. Except in very rare cases of a few senior officials (or those from some hospitals already mentioned), there is no example of a situation where Asians are subordinate to Africans.

101Loyal to their countries of adoption and governments (to which they make declarations of allegiance), and seeking to improve their public image among Africans, Asian-Africans are heavily engaged from their point of view, to solidarity with the underprivileged. Being the main taxpayers, they highlight the involvement of Asian organizations in the national development effort. As a philanthropic foundation, it is true that the Aga Khan Foundation is involved in important assistance programs, preventive health care and welfare. On a smaller scale (especially in comparison to the number of its members), the Hindu Councils are also involved in several educational campaigns and charity work: supporting schools, demonstrating solidarity with the affected families during famines, floods, fires in slums, epidemics, the fight against AIDS, etc. Despite media campaigns conducted by the daily press (especially the daily newspaper The Daily Nation controlled by the Aga Khan as seen before), these activities largely remain unknown to Africans, although the amounts involved are relatively modest as compared to the resources of Africans.

  • 98 This opinion is mainly expressed by Rasna Warah (1998: 52).

102As already mentioned, Asian-Africans envision a national ideal that respects multicultural differences so as to justify their communal options. Like all ethnic groups in the country – some of them being threatened to lose their identities today –Asian-Africans are claiming protection of their traditional culture. As their spokesmen argue, Asian-Africans (an autonym that describes African citizens of Indian origin) are entitled to be respected for their cultural and linguistic attributes. According to them, maintaining the cultural diversity unique to each state in Africa is far much more necessary because, having been colonized, they do not offer a model of national culture apart from the one promoted by the British – but unanimously rejected98.

103Without excluding their hypothetical combination, two perspectives are emerging today for the Asian diaspora in East Africa:

  • 99 However, migratory mobility is sometimes limited to trips within the three East African countries, (...)

104a) The first possibility is that of redeployment, which can be traced through the establishment of transnational networks. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, Indian families have for a long time followed the examples of other diaspora in that they practise the policy of spreading their members and heritage in several countries based on internal solidarity ethos. This modus operandi is well known to all analysts of financial and commercial networks and it has many advantages: reduction of economic devastation based on pogrom assumptions, expulsion or even simple business failure, ensuring the rapid withdrawal of capital, diversifying complementary activities in the same branch or in the same industry, facilitating the export policy of an industrial firm, etc. Across East Africa, the effectiveness of these networks is intensified by the transnational nature of organizations (some organizations such as Lohanas publish a directory that gives names, addresses and even the blood group of all members settled in East Africa). As a consequence of multiple changes in the diaspora over the past half-century, the international dispersion of families of Asian origin somehow thrives on its own; the presence of Indian colonies in the new country of emigration, thus encouraging new departures – as is the case today for Canada and increasingly for Australia99. And this strangely leads to the creation of new community tropisms: Ismailis in Canada (especially Vancouver Province), Hindus in Australia, and Muslims in Britain and the Middle East. Facilitated by a multilingual education, the frequent acquisition of multiple passports and the presence of many Asian communities in the five continents, the prospect of new settlement is partly also the consequence of predictable pursuit of university education abroad. Trained in other Commonwealth countries (Britain, Canada and Australia) or the United States, members of the new generation are often encouraged to stay there, preferring the risk of expatriation to those of returning to their countries. Their motives are many: fascination with the western world, marriage on the spot with a foreign spouse, desire to affirm their vocation rather than follow the paternal way of life, desire to escape from the often oppressive guardianship of the family members, mistrust vis-à-vis the economic and political future of Africa, etc. Forming a “migratory chain” of multiple steps (Singaravelou 2003), these expatriations benefit, to some extent, the Asians who remain in Africa (especially where expatriates run activities that complement those of their relatives). As already mentioned before, one should not imagine that the new immigration from India would compensate for the exodus of the younger generation as the redeployment movement would eventually lead to a serious decline of the Asian-African population in the region.

105The propensity for secondary migration obviously varies according to communities and social conditions, but such differences are difficult to measure. In general, one can say that families that are less motivated to leave their host country are at the two extremes of the social spectrum. If the owners of successful businesses have no desire to leave their host country (the youth may in turn rely on the prospect of inheritance), it is the same for the poorest families, but for very different reasons (no available resources to prepare for departure, no prospects abroad, no relationship network). At the collective level, communities that currently seem to be more stable are the Sunni Muslims, the Bohras and the Sikhs.

106b) Without denying the cosmopolitan nature of family ties and their economic interests, activists of Asian origin are currently working for civic integration in Africa. Belonging to the intellectual and liberal groups of the bourgeoisie (scholars, lawyers, industrialists, etc.), these groups are generally from religious minority: Ismailis, reformed Bohras, Hindu dissenters, Parsis, etc. Without a declared political attachment and forming simple group relations or informal associations, they represent a democratic trend in which several issues meet that mobilize a certain international leftist, liberal, humanist and reformist thinking: human rights and promotion of women, protection of ethnic minorities, moralization of economic behaviour (fight against corruption, tax compliance, etc.), environmental protection. Displaying their identity as citizens, they intend to speak on behalf of their citizens in general and not on behalf of Asian-Africans in particular. They facilitate various cultural and civic campaigns (they are notably responsible for the exhibition “The Asian-African Heritage” presented in Nairobi in 2000–2001), and also intend to promote reconciliation between Asians and Africans, particularly marriage behaviour – some of them actually giving the example of intermarriage. Without being prejudicial to their future, these actions still find little resonance among Africans.

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Notes

1 See the chapter written by Laurent Nowik in this book. The figure of 350,000 attributed to people of Indian origin could be broken down as follows on the eve of independence: Kenya: 176,500 (official figure) to about 200,000 (estimates by some authors); Tanzania: 90,000 (including Zanzibar: 13,000); Uganda: 75,000. These approximate figures do not include people who may have not been counted during census.

2 It is difficult to retrace whether the typical shape of dhows’ sails were the result of specific climatic conditions in the Indian Ocean or in use earlier to sail on the Mediterranean sea.

3 In spite of contradictory testimonies, the role of Indians in the slave trade, at least financially, has apparently been demonstrated up to 1860. However, the Jains probably managed to distance themselves from this trade (Mangat 1969: 7; Chrétien 1989: 183-184; Reclus 1888: 756-757). Indeed, there are communities of descendants of African slaves who became Hindus in north-western India and in south-eastern Pakistan called Sidi (Gujarat), Makarani or Habbish (Sindh) according to their regions. Several thousands of them took up military careers after serving initially as peasants under various maharajahs.

4 Although the nominal ownership of clove plantations was retained by prominent Omani Arabs, most of them were auctioned in favour of Indian money lenders (see chapter by Marie-Aude Fouéré in this book).

5 To mark the capture of Malindi in 1895 and during the conquest of Buganda between 1898 and 1899 (Prunier 1990: 20).

6 One of these agents was Alibhai M. Jeevanjee, an important figure in the history of the Indian diaspora in Kenya. See chapter 13 in this book.

7 Borrowed from “Kuli” after the name of an Indian tribe then considered primitive, the term coolie was actually avoided in the terms and conditions of the employment contract as it was considered offensive (Kapila 2002: 2).

8 The three-year contracts signed with the railway company required workers to work for sixteen hours per day without any weekly leave. The workers were allowed to get married but not during working hours, which meant they had to marry at night. Moreover, the spouses had to live in a separate home. For every day of absence, the employer withheld an amount equivalent to wages for eleven and half days (A.A.H. 2000). For an anecdotal account of this episode in colonial history, see Miller (1971) and Patterson (1985 [1907]).

9 According to an initial count, 6,724 people did not apply for repatriation (Ghai & Ghai 1965: 3). In reality this figure seems to have decreased to 2,227 after 1906 (Prunier 1990: 23). Some of these people were engaged by the railway administration whose staff (locomotive drivers and mechanics, conductors, switchmen, telegraphists, station masters, etc.) consisted of immigrants of Indian origin. After 1902, construction work towards Uganda continued at a slower pace. The railway line reached Jinja in 1910, but only reached Kampala in 1931. Meanwhile, the construction lines between Kenya and the Ugandan capital continued along the lakeshores.

10 Indian historian R.R. Ramchandani recalls furthermore that despite the Indian Emigration Act (1883), 97.5 % of the Indian emigrants left India without a contract (mentioned by Prunier 1990: 25).

11 From 1911, the British administration put an end to the use of the Indian rupee and started removing civil servants from India. Whereas Delhi succeeded Calcutta in 1911 as the capital city of the empire of Indies, Bombay retained the administration of East Africa.

12 In the meantime, the Mombasa Indian Association was founded in 1906 under the leadership of a Bohra community personality, Alibhai Jeevanjee (already cited); it was even more critical in tone.

13 In the Mombasa area, on the other hand, other people (including Brahman) also condemned to death were executed in Voi in 1914 (Kapur Dromson 2007: 115-116).

14 During this period, Indian political agitation resurged but without clear success. In 1921, Indian activists seeking to abolish discriminatory statutes attempted to close ranks with young Harry Thuku and other nationalist leaders of the Young Kikuyu Association (YKA). Harry Thuku’s arrest in 1922 and the dissolution of YKA ended this initiative.

15 The Kenya Legislative Council (abbreviated as LegCo), created in 1906, only comprised representatives nominated by the British governor, all of them Europeans in the beginning. In 1908, after protesting against this injustice – and enjoying the support of Winston Churchill, the then Colonies Secretary – Indians got one representative; the latter however refused to sit arguing that, as British subjects, members of his community had the right to equal representation with the Europeans. The Indian demands were rekindled in 1916 by Indian lawyer Manilal A. Desai, founder of The East African Chronicle newspaper, who was linked to influential Hindu and Indian-Muslim personalities such as Mamgal Dass, Alibhai M. Jeevanjee, or Suleiman Virjee. In 1919, The East African Chronicle allowed Harry Thuku, cited above, to write in its columns. Harry Thuku, the firebrand secretary of the Young Kikuyu Association, turned himself into the mouthpiece of Indian demands, and even sent a petition to London regarding this matter. After a number of adventures (marked by the threat of insurrection by settlers), the British colonies secretary who succeeded Churchill in 1922, Lord Devonshire, allowed Indians to have 5 elected members of the LegCo compared to 11 members representing Europeans whose population was nearly three times less. Arabs were gratified with a delegate. On the other hand, Africans only managed to get representation by a missionary. At the same time, Indians in Uganda also got a seat in the LegCo. Created in 1926, the Legislative Council of Tanganyika accepted three Indian representatives out of 23 seats. The Africans only accessed LegCo in 1945.

16 The same ratio of 1 Indian to 3 Europeans remained during the entire colonial period (see the chapter by Laurent Nowik in this book). In Uganda, the Indian population rose from about 1,000 people in the beginning of the 20th century to 32,000 people in 1948 and 74,308 in 1969. In present-day Tanzania (first Deutsche Ost-Afrika then Tanganyika, excluding Zanzibar), the Indian population experienced a similar growth: 3,000 people in 1900; 9,000 in 1914, 10,000 in 1921, 46,000 in 1948; 88,500 in 1967 (according to Prunier 1990: 239-239 and Nowik, below).

17 There are now about 850,000 people of Indian origin (68 % of the population) on Mauritius island and about 200,000 (28 % of the population) on Reunion island. Outside South Africa (which counts 1,150,000 Indians, 2.6 % of the population), there has been a marked decrease in Indian populations over the last few years in other Indian diasporas in the Indian Ocean and southern African countries: between 15,000 and 20,000 in Madagascar, about 10,000 in Mozambique, a few thousand in Malawi (10,630 in 1961), Zambia (7,790 in 1961) and Zimbabwe (10,630 in 1961). In total, the Indian diaspora in eastern and southern Africa together with that in Madagascar and Mascarene could be estimated in 2008 at about 2,400,000 people. From the point of view of religious adherence, most of the Indians in South Africa are Hindus while most of the Indians in Madagascar are Muslim (karan), both Sunni and Shia, particularly the Bohra community. In the other southern African countries, Hindus are dominant. According to Prunier (1990: 247-254), they were 70 % in 1961 in Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), 45.4 % in Northern Rhodesia (present Zambia), and 37 % in Nyasaland (present Malawi). As for the Muslims, they are mostly composed of Sunnis.

18 Similar figures were reported in the Uganda colony (Dharan Ghai 1965: 84). See notably Nowik, below.

19 Gérard Prunier explains the contradictions of the European position, convinced that the presence of Indians was useful but fearing they would claim too big a stake – and, in addition, also fearing the growing bid, against London’s wish, to acquire some sort of autonomy for the colony, based upon the South African model. The idea of autonomy for the settlers was unsuccessfully revived in 1949 (Prunier 1998: 198-200). Agehananda Bharati ironically attempted to document the clichés conveyed by European settlers against Indians: “The Indians are sly and distrustful and have difficulty socializing with others; they are arrogant, cheats and thieves, they swindle their business partners; they are apprehensive, their houses are dirty, they are unbearably stingy, they lower the status of their neighbours due to their stinginess, even when they can afford the luxury; they practice family favouritism and monopolize business in favour of their relatives; it is impossible to trust them in business or other areas in general. They live below their means and consider that it is immoral to spend all their profits” (Bharati 1972: 170).

20 The most famous of the radical Indians in the joint social struggle with Africans was Makham Singh, a Sikh who created the Labour Trade Union of East Africa in 1936, led the Mombasa dock workers’ strike in 1939 and was condemned to ten years in jail by the British (Desai 1989). Still in Kenya, pro-independence Indians in 1959 formed the Kenya Freedom Party (KFP), allied to the Kenya National Party (led by Daniel arap Moi) which they were unable to join. The KFP merged with KANU in 1963 (Seidenberg 1983). Pio Gama Pinto was assassinated under unclear circumstances in 1963. Cynthia Salvadori (1989: 341-342) presents a relatively exhaustive summary of activities against colonial rule in Kenya by Indian personalities or groups between 1906 and 1963.

21 Refer especially to Ghai & Ghai (1965: 35-51).

22 Gérard Prunier notes, in this respect, that the Indian personalities involved in the anti-colonial protests were engaged in the extreme left of the political equation and hardly represented the whole expatriate community (Prunier 1998: 199). Details on this period can be found in Seidenberg (1983: 129-162). Marie-Aude Fouéré notes in this book that Indians also shied away politically from African nationalists in Tanzania, see below.

23 Class distinction within the Arab-Swahili society was strict between waungwana (aristocrats, who for most of them were descendants of the first Omani Arab occupants) and washenzi (illiterate people of African mainland origin who were often of slave descent). The 11-12 January 1964 coup d’état, known as the revolution, was backed by most of the washenzi; it led to the union between Zanzibar and Tanganyika, is said to have killed several thousands of Arabs, including Indians, who were considered their allies (the exact total number of the victims has never been established however). Almost all Indians left the island then, with only a handful later gradually returning to the islands.

24 There were two sets of measures which, contrary to what had been announced, were only applied after a two-year ultimatum: the Immigration Act obliged non-citizens to obtain a work permit and the Trade Licensing Act restricted engaging in business to Kenyan citizens, except in certain districts in the cities. These provisions elicited such bitter protests that, according to an MP of Goan origin, Fitz de Souza, by the end of the ultimatum issued to obtain naturalization (12 December 1965), 12,000 applications from people of Indian origin had not yet been reviewed by the Kenyan authorities (Warah 1998: 33). Within a period of one year and a half, between November 1967 and March 1969, more than 20,000 undoubtedly left. More people continued to leave, albeit to a lesser extent, up to the mid-1980s.

25 In 1962, businesses belonging to Indian immigrants contributed 73.6 % to the tax revenue of the Uganda colony (Prunier 1990: 85-86).

26 The arrival of train loaded with tens of thousands of Indian-Ugandan refugees to the Nairobi central station gripped the attention of the public in India and Europe. The expulsion elicited harsh condemnation from Presidents Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, but did not draw any protests from other African countries, including Kenya.

27 The percentage of Indians having Kenyan citizenship, which was estimated at 59.35 % in the 1989 census, fell in 1999, according to Laurent Nowik (below), probably because the rise in figures of naturalized Indians was not high enough to compensate the marked increase of the number of freshly-arrived clandestine immigrants.

28 These speculators made it a point to get back their former businesses a little later from the heavily indebted African buyers.

29 For details on these businesses (particularly in Kenya), see Prunier (1998: 204-207), Otenyo (1998: 276-282) and Grignon (1998a: 334-336). In Tanzania, the Indians went along without too much damage with the political developments set in motion from 1967 by President Julius Nyerere. After the nationalization measures that in 1967 affected all the banking institutions, the main industries and most of the land other than that meant for residences of their owners, the Ismaili community made joint venture proposals to the Tanzanian government. With their population almost halved (about 45,000 in 2006 compared to 88,500 in 1967), the situation of Indian-Tanzanians more or less stabilized. It is worth noting that a very large majority of Indians resident in Tanzania now have Tanzanian citizenship.

30 Having been issued with tourism visas, the immigrants were granted residence and work permits, as well as passports through underhand means. While pointing out the high number Indian travellers who cross the East African borders with tourism visas (particularly in Uganda), Laurent Nowik (below) underscores how much it is almost incomprehensible that these visa holders, who could as well be “rockets” or even young “engaged” spouses, are authentic Indian tourists paying a visit to their emigrant family, or even Indian-Africans who have kept their Indian passport. It is equally almost impossible to appreciate the future prospects of the fresh immigrants, since not all of them are willing, nor do they have the means, to extend their migration to Western countries.

31 Average age in Kenya (1999): 30.5 years; 60 years old and above accounted for: 8.6 %; average age in Uganda (2001): 27.6 years; 60 years old and above accounted for: 3.4 %; average age in France (2008): 39.9 years; 60 years old and above accounted for: 21.8 % (data provided by Laurent Nowik).

32 Laurent Nowik mentions further below the following percentages: in Kenya, 75 % of the diaspora are concentrated in Nairobi and Mombasa while in Uganda, 69 %, are resident in “greater” Kampala.

33 Thus the current concentration of Indians in Kampala (69 %) as highlighted by Laurent Nowik contrasts sharply with the situation that prevailed in the post-independence period when only 42.5 % of the Indians resided in Kampala compared to 57.5 % in other parts of the country, out of which 33 % were settled in the eastern provinces (calculated from figures provided by Prunier 1990: 230).

34 It is known that Muslims make up 97 % of the population in Pakistan (77 % Sunni, 20 % Shia, 3 % Hindus and Christians). But the ratio of immigrants in East Africa with roots in today’s Pakistan is very low (between 2 and 10 % depending on the country). In East Africa, the proportion of Muslims is considerably higher in Tanzania (about 40 %) and lower in Uganda (20 to 30 % according to the estimates). As shown by the table above, the ratio of Muslims has risen progressively in Kenya since independence.

35 In Kenya, the Jains and the Sikhs in 2002 were respectively 21.5 % and 10.7 % of the total number of Hindus instead of 0.3 % and 2 % in India. Among the explanations attributed to the low proportion of orthodox Hindus in East Africa are the Manu laws that bars them from crossing the seas (Kala Pani: “black water” or “black sea”) for fear of pollution upon contact with non-Hindu populations that do not observe the purity prescriptions - the violation of this rule could lead to expulsion from one’s caste and reincarnation into a lower one. Apparently the over-representation of religious minorities among Indians overseas – as well as among the Muslim – was in reality due to other reasons that will be explained Below.

36 In 1953, the Indian government census showed that there were 2,399 jati, but their number is in reality much higher. Rajput initially referred to Rajasthan inhabitants who consisted of a relatively high ratio of Kshatryas.

37 Africans use linguistic borrowing often unknowingly. Here we list only a few borrowed words: harambee (from Hari Amba: a Hindu divinity invoked by railway workers); mama kali (from Kali: goddess personifying evil); debe (unit of measure of about 4 gallons or 16 litres widely used in the Kenyan rural areas and derived from dubba, a can made of metal used in northern India for transporting drinking water); landhi (rustic house built of wood and iron sheets). There are borrowed words from Indian languages into Swahili. Neera Kapur Dromson gives some examples in her article (2008: 288 and passim).

38 In the strict sense of the word, there is no “origin” or “creation” of the world in Hindu mythology. On the other hand, one may talk of “original personalities”. In Vishnu’s second of the 10 reincarnations, the sea turtle plunges into the ocean after the great floods to take possession of the “immortality liqueur”.

39 As mentioned in the foreword, Gujarati is the most widespread regional language. Similar to Gujarati, Cutchi is spoken particularly by small minorities of Cutchi Patel (Hindu) and Cutchi Sunni (Sunni Muslims) who come from the border districts of present-day Pakistan. Cutchi is a mixture of Sindhi and Gujarati; morphologically it is not very distinct from Gujarati, but it is phonetically close to Sindhi.

40 A study carried out in 1988 among Sikh women in Nairobi indicates that 51 % of the sample studied spoke at least four languages fluently (11.5 % spoke at least five languages), with the percentage of those who spoke only two languages not exceeding 13.1 % (Gurwitz 1988: 114).

41 In Kenya, the use of Indian languages is encouraged among the youth through several FM radios and a private television channel. A subsidiary of KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation), East FM Radio represents all the communities. It broadcasts in English and Hindi, and employs many “rockets” considered to speak Hindi more fluently. Run by Hindu Lohana and financed through airtime advertisements by Indian-Kenyan businesses, Sound Asia Radio broadcasts music programmes, interviews with Indian leaders as well as general news in English, Gujarati and Hindi. These two radios are totally politically neutral. Owned by the Ismaili community, Nation TV broadcasts in English, Gujarati, Hindi and Arabic.

42 Apart from those who are strictly vegetarian by religious obligation (Brahmans, Jains, etc.), the ratio of vegetarians is higher among the Choti Jat (low class castes) than among the middle class. Meat consumption is very closely associated with alcohol. It is therefore higher among men than women, particularly among the Banya (Patel, Lohana). It is also related to regional origin: the Cutchis are massively vegetarian; the Punjabis (attached to a regional tradition of sophisticated gastronomy dating back to the presence of the Moghol sovereigns) are mostly meat eaters (the Sikh as well as some representatives of the other religions). One of the reasons why Punjabis and Gujaratis have difficulties socializing is due to the fact that Punjabis are often meat and alcohol consumers whereas Gujaratis are all more or less strictly vegetarian.

43 Other more casual or festive dietary customs were maintained during immigration. This is the case of the quid of areca or betel, particularly among men. Having a sialagogue action and supposed to have digestive virtues, it is especially taken after meals. In the cities of East Africa, there are Indian districts with small-scale manufacturers of quid of betel whose stalls, fitted with some form of counter, display a wide variety of sugary ingredients for making quid of one’s choice. The classic recipe consists of spreading a fine layer on a leaf of betel (pawn, kapoori) a mixture of lime and katho (scarlet powder that heavily colours saliva). The leaf is then filled with sharpened areca walnut to which is sometimes added pieces of dates and various colourful and fragrant syrups to one’s taste (cardamom, anise, mint, etc.). The product looks like some sort of big vegetable slipper that fills the mouth of a strong sugary flavour. Among the other sweet appetisers or digestives, the popular kiosks also offer faludas (milk-based cream dessert with spices, jelly and ice cream), sowadana (a mixture of caraway and sesame seeds), or gori (set of small pills made from tobacco, mint and other spice to which opium was added to it in the past). For prophylactic purposes, neem is used. It is a small and very bitter leaf considered to be an efficient adjuvant of skin softness.

44 Refer further to the chapter on socio-religious communities.

45 This repulsion with regard to shoes (or leather cases for cameras) explains the need to leave them outside Hindu temples.

46 See the chapter below by Michel Adam, “Family, family life and marriage…”

47 See the chapter on socio-religious communities for the example of gnatis demanding Kshatriya ascendancy. With the influence of reformist movements such as Arya Samaj, some Indians of the African diaspora today tend to think that varnas ranking is associated with merit or personal qualifications, and not heritage. Underlined by Gandhi, this gloss line of thought leads to the dissociation of varna from the jati system, and to the reconstitution of honorary classes altogether. Thus, a person from a low caste of craftsmen (choti jât) can be ranked in the vaishya category if s/he honourably succeeds in business, or even in the Brahman class in case s/he opts for an intellectual profession. Such an interpretation is in formal contradiction with Bhagavadgita’s canonical affirmation that “one must do the work he is born to do”.

48 In East Africa, the rule that bars different jati members from sharing food has been relaxed. For example, commensality is possible between Brahmans and Lohanas (traders), Bathias (traders), Sonis (goldsmiths), Darjis (tailors); but it is impossible with Dhobis (laundrymen), Mochis (shoemakers) and Kumbhars (potters).

49 On class travesty in India, see also Morris (1956: 203).

50 Reference is especially made to David Himbara’s study, though a bit old (1994).

51 The chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association is also a personality of Indian origin, Abid Alam. With a large processing industry, strong tourist capacity and a fast-growing agro-export sector, Kenya is the main economic power in East Africa and one of the leading economies on the African continent after South Africa. Estimates of the study by the French Embassy corroborate the findings by several economists in 1990 that 75 % of the businesses with more than 100 salaried employees and 84 % of those with capital of over 100 million shillings were in the hands of Indian families (Grignon 1996: 498).

52 Source: study by the author that complements an earlier study by the French Embassy in Kenya. Gidraph Wairire presents a more detailed picture of these activities further below in his chapter on Indian-Kenyan businesses.

53 The Federation of Kenya Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (FKPM) is entirely controlled by members of the Indian diaspora (Oshwal Jain and Shia Bohra community). See KMD (2006). The Kenyan pharmaceutical industry produces about 20 % of the medicine consumed (including anti-retroviral generics), with the remaining 80 % being imported mainly from India, and to a lesser extent from Europe and South Africa (The Pharmaceutical Sector in Kenya 2005).

54 After the collapse of the Ugandan shilling following political upheavals in the 1975-1985 decade, Indian buyers bought Ugandan coffee at low prices and resold it on international markets at a higher price, taking advantage of the wave of high prices at the time. After President Daniel arap Moi dismantled banks in Kenya controlled by members of the Kikuyu group in 1983, these Indian speculators invested massively in this financial sector. As also indicated previously, businesses that had been abandoned in 1982 in Kenya, as well a several multinational companies abandoned by their Anglo-American shareholders, were bought back cheaply in 1985 by their former owners (Grignon 1998; Prunier 1998).

55 Located in Nyanza (west of the country), the Rift Valley and along the coast, the cotton production from Kenyan plantations was inadequate to meet the needs of the local cotton industry that had to import from Uganda and Tanzania. Kenya also imported part of its textiles and clothes (The textile and clothing industry in the Kenya 2005). This was the same in Uganda and Tanzania where the production of the textile industry, though high, could not meet the needs.

56 The sale of fresh fruits and vegetables (92 % to the EU) as well as cut flowers accounts for 50 % of the Kenya’s export revenue. This sub-sector employs about 2 million people (Vegetables and fruits in Kenya 2006). The Frigoken brand (Aga Khan) dominates fresh fruits and vegetables in Kenya.

57 It is almost impossible to do an inventory of recent land acquisitions, and even more difficult to identify the beneficiaries. Some among them are known, like the Aga Khan and the Merali family (Ithnasheri Shia), who are tea plantation owners. Others include Patel groups and Sunni Muslim families in Kenya’s Central Province and in Ukambani region.

58 Indian-Africans own a little over half of Kenya’s hotel industry. For example Serena (about twenty hotels owned by Aga Khan), the Sarova chain (7 hotels, including Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, owned by an Indian-African consortium); a number of big hotels along the Indian Ocean coast: Bamburi Beach Hotels (Aga Khan), Reef Hotel (Sikhs), Leopard Beach Hotel, Baobab Beach Hotel, etc. The chairman of the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association is Mr. Kuldip Sandhi (Sikh), owner of the Reef Hotel around Mombasa.

59 Second operator in Kenya after Safaricom and owned by the Sameer Group (Ithnasheri Shia).

60 We do not mention here other profitable activities like taxi hire and urban minibuses. In Mombasa, for example, almost all taxicabs belong to small Indian-African or Arab companies and are rented to drivers, who are generally African. The drivers commit to return the cars every evening to the owner’s garage and hand him 70 % of the revenue (checked against the figures on the milometre) after refilling the car at their expense. Owners have to meet the costs of service and maintenance. Drivers also rent the urban transport minibuses, also owned by Indian or Arab families (5,000 shillings or 50 € per day in 2008). At the rate of 10 shillings per passenger (flat fare), the drivers can hope for a 7,000 to 8,000-shilling (80 €) gross revenue, from which they have to pay for fuel and remunerate the conductor. The owners’ income remains low, considering the ware and tare as well as maintenance costs.

61 Distribution of the 25 banks (out of the total 44) entirely or partly controlled by Indian-Kenyan capital (ranked by Ochieng Oloo 2007, The Banking Survey of Kenya: 259): 4 banks are classified as Large (Tier I Banks, out of 11), 10 banks are classified as Medium (Tier II Banks, out of 14), and 11 banks are classified as Small (Tier III Banks, out of 19).

62 Vijay & Bikhu Patel (Waymade Healthcare), Bharat Shah (Sigma Pharmaceuticals), Navin Engineer (Chemidex), Naresh Shah (Jumbogate), Bharat & Ketahn Mehta (Necessity Supplies), Ravi Karia (Chemilines). See The Financial Post, Nov. 21-27th, 2005: 7-14.

63 In 1963, the figures for the three professions of doctors, teachers and lawyers were as follows: Doctors: 330 out of 594 (55.5 %); teachers: 1,005 out of 1,745 (57.5 %); lawyers: 329 out of 354 (93 %). See Salvadori (1989: 10).

64 More than thirty years ago, John Zarwan studied various capitalistic ownership formulas in Indian-African businesses. The first formula, which does not jeopardize traditional patrimonial autonomy, is sharing between father and son: from the first day of involvement in the family business, every son gains a certain percentage of the profits (generally 1 %), with his share increasing every year at the same rate. The profits thus earned are not really paid out but placed in a family holding, which is sometimes based abroad. The second formula, known as Business Group, which is now widespread, brings together several family ownerships that may not necessarily belong to the same communities (consortium of Jains and Lohanas, for example). The third formula is international holding, with several contemporary examples (Chandaria, Merali, etc.). See Zarwan (1977).

65 The Hindu Council and the Chandaria Foundation help these destitutes.

66 The chapter on socio-religious communities sheds additional light on these professional orientations.

67 For details on the community or traditional corporate records, see chapter on socio-religious communities.

68 The current spatial division of communities was introduced in 1948 through an urban planning programme developed by a South African architect (Kapur Dromson 2008: 313). Laurent Nowik gives more concrete information on Indian-Kenyan settlement in Nairobi below.

69 For historical details about African-Asians in Nairobi, read also Adam (2006: 340-343). Residential segregation is currently taking root in big coastal towns like Mombasa and Dar es Salaam where it was less visible before. The same phenomenon can be seen in Kampala.

70 However, certain parents are divided between giving the best formal education to their children and incorporating them in their family businesses. The second option prompts children to shorten their studies. In addition, children are forced to learn at least three languages (one Asian language, English and Kiswahili; Arabic is also added to this list for Muslim students registered in Koranic schools). This explains why some students have learning difficulties. Similar observations were noted among Indians living in Madagascar (Blanchy 1995: 188).

71 As mentioned further in this text, exceptions are made in favour of certain Anglo-Saxon schools that provide intensive preparation for entry in Anglo-Saxon universities.

72 This information was given by Murtaza Somjee, the community chairman. Half of the students admitted at the Ithnasheri school are non-Muslims or without a declared religious affiliation (Hindus, Japanese and Africans).

73 This complex is the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa. See the chapter on the Ismaili below. In this particular case, just like in others, the percentage of students belonging to the religious community of reference is below 50 %. However, and as shown above, the percentage of students from African families remains low.

74 Other than Braeburn School, there are also other non-religious affiliation prestigious schools (but run by a teaching staff of Indian origin) that admit all types of students, among them many Kenyan Indians. This is the case of the Nairobi Academy, the Hill Crest College, the Peponi College or the Brookhouse College. It is interesting to note that even if the social standard of these institutions is superior to that schools with religious affiliation (due to the social classes of admitted students and the luxury of sports equipment), their secondary school level results are generally lower.

75 It is also worth mentioning the existence of several musical groups for the youth. The most famous ones in East Africa are the Rasni Musical Group founded by the Sikh musician Amrik Singh Saund (Indian pop music interpreted in Hindi, Guajarati, Punjabi) and the Bangha Nites group that is led by an Ismaili musician, Shaheed Ali Khan. See the chapter below on families and marriages.

76 This feeling is well expressed by Rasna Warah, a Kenyan journalist from a Sikh family that originally came from Lahore, a main town of Punjab currently included in Pakistan borders (Warah 1998: 11-12). See also Neera Kapur’s book (2008: 408-419 and passim).

77 See Michel Adam, “Family, family life and marriage… .” below.

78 See the chapter on socio-religious communities.

79 Reduced to the Kenya Indian Congress, the East African Indian National Congress ceased to exist in 1967. Other associations and sports and youth organisations were also abolished: These include the Railway Asian Union, Indian Trade Union, Indian Merchants Chamber, Asian Sports Association, and the Indian Youth League.

80 In 1963, Jomo Kenyatta proposed to nominate a Minister of Indian origin, but according to a Member of Parliament, Chanan Singh, the representatives of the diaspora failed to agree on the name of the beneficiary (Warah 1998: 31). Up to 1971, Kenya had two legislators of Asian origin named Chanan Singh and Fitz de Souza, the latter being of Goan origin. Before the recent 2007 elections, the only elected Members of Parliament were Krishan Gautama (from 1979 to 1983) and Amin Walji (from 1992 to 1996).

81 Constituencies of Igunga (Rostam Aziz), Kilwa-Kisiwani (Gulamabbas Dewji), Morogoro-Kusini (Sameer Ismail Lotto), Mvomero (Suleiman Ahmed Saddiq), Singida Mjini (Mohamed Gulam Dewji), Zanzibar-Kikwajuni (Parmuth Singh Hoogan).

82 Kampala (Sanjay Tanna), Buganda Kingdom (Rajni Tailor); a councillor in Kampala Municipal Council (Pradip Karia) and a high ranking Ambassador (Nimisha Madhvani, Ambassador in India).

83 In Westlands constituency situated in Nairobi, communities of Indian origin unsuccessfully presented four candidates for this parliamentary seat (1 Ismaili, 2 Hindus, 1 Goan). The same constituency has a councillor of Indian origin: Jaffar Kassam.

84 Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission.

85 17,000 out of 27,000 voting stations (information communicated by Rashmin Chitnis, honorary chairman of the Hindu Council). Other Indian organisations like the Ismaili and the Bohra also participated in the work of this Forum.

86 In 1996, India was Kenya’s fifth exporting country. It was in fact client number one in Africa, far ahead of Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. On the other hand, Kenya exports little to India. The two countries are competitors in tea, coffee, cotton, sugar and horticultural production. India also has different raw materials and industries at the same time (P.E.I.K. 1997: 13-17).

87 A person is considered of “Indian origin” when s/he has had an Indian passport or if one of the parents or grandparents is or was of Indian nationality, or if the spouse satisfies one of these conditions (P.E.I.K. 1997: 20). Given the high number of ethno-religious marriages among Indian families, one can actually think that the existence of only one ascendant of Indian origin actually means exclusive Indian ascendancy. 18 million N.R.I. enjoy certain banking and financial facilities in the former metropolis (rights of having foreign accounts, good interest rates, tax exemptions on investments in India). It is estimated that the Indian diaspora (East Africa, Middle East, South East Asia, Australia, Great Britain, West Indies, United States, and Canada) is the largest in the world.

88 Figures gathered by the author varied according to the number of people interviewed (Hindu Council, Indian High Commission in Kenya). In 2002, there were about 5,000 to 10,000 Indian-Kenyan students registered in Indian universities, the highest university registration figure in all universities (according to the same sources, Great Britain, the United States and Canada admit around 3,000 students in total). The high numbers in India can be explained by the fact that fees and living costs are low and yet the quality of education is excellent (about 3,200 € per year in India as opposed to an average of 23,000 € per year in the United States). The same reason explains why many Indian Africans of the middle class choose to seek medical treatment in India and in fact visit India regularly for this purpose.

89 See the chapter on family and marriages.

90 News of massacres rapidly reached the African colonies and stirred up passions: after separating from Hindus and Sikhs, Indian Muslims asked for a specific representation in the legislative council (LegCo) from the British in 1947. For more details, see Seidenberg (1983: 50-74). It is worth noting that Apa Pant and Nawab Sadiq Ali, new Indian and Pakistan ambassadors in Nairobi, made significant efforts to stop inter-community resentments (Kapur Dromson 2008: 312).

91 Particularly from the town of Baroda (Gujarat), a famous artistic centre.

92 Another sign of attachment to cultural productions from India. In 1988, according to a study carried out on Sikh women, 56.3 % of them watched an Indian film at home between one and three times per week (Gurwitz 1988: 120). The presence of “rockets” is a factor of additional rapprochement with the daily life of the former metropolis. In the area of Diamond Plaza in Nairobi (associated with rockets), one can buy Indian dailies, call and send faxes to India late in the day, etc.

93 See Singaravelou (2003: 24). The expression “masala culture” comes from an assortment of spices that are used in making certain curries. It was known during the release of Mississippi masala, a film by Mira Nair, an Indian film director from Kerala.

94 In other cases (the old Oshwal temple on Oshwal Road in Pangani and other Hindu temples in Kampala), stones were imported (ochre sandstone from Rajasthan) and sculptures made on site by Muslim artists who specifically came from India for this purpose. In northern India, most stone sculptors are Muslim.

95 Other than religious circles, the Ismaili built several prestigious buildings in Kenya like the Rahamtullah Trust in Upper Hill area of Nairobi or the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, described in this book by Colette Le Cour Grandmaison. Even among the Oshwal Jain community of Nairobi, there are many criticisms regarding cultural and religious buildings along Ring Road, whose cost is said to have exceeded 500 million shillings in 2003 (7.6 million euros).

96 See the chapter on relations between Africans and the representatives of communities of Indian origin. Mitumba is a Swahili word that originally meant “bundles” (or “belongings”). Though very restricted in Tanzania, its importation led to widespread protests from manufacturers and businessmen from the formal sector.

97 In 2006, Kenya received about 1.8 million tourists, most of them residing in coastal seaside complexes. The contribution of tourism to the national economy represented in the same year was 56.2 billion shillings (about 620 millions euros), or about 12.7 % of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Tourism is also the source of salaried employment (Tourism Industry in Kenya 2007: 1). Tanzania received 800,000 tourists, out of which 100,000 to Zanzibar. It is worth recalling that several families of Indian origin are major players in this business sector.

98 This opinion is mainly expressed by Rasna Warah (1998: 52).

99 However, migratory mobility is sometimes limited to trips within the three East African countries, an option that does not involve much financial, cultural and emotional constraint. That is why in Kenya, where there were political disturbances in 2007-2008, certain members of the diaspora expressed worries and some of them opted to settle in Tanzania, a peaceful and politically stable country. Regions near the Kenyan border like Arusha or Mwanza (not far from Rwanda and Burundi also) are among the most preferred by the immigrants.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1.1 Indian population distribution in Kenya by community of origin
Légende *While the ratio of Hindus gradually increased, the ratio of Muslims decreased up to 1962before rising once again.** Author’s estimates
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/922/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Titre Table 1.2 Ratio of breakaway and schismatic religious groups in Kenya compared to the Indian Hindu population (2001)
Crédits Source: Author’s study
URL http://books.openedition.org/africae/docannexe/image/922/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k

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