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Asians in East Africa: Problems and Prospects

  • Dharam P. Ghai and Yash P. Ghai


The attainment of independence by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania has posed new and perplexing problems for the 360,000 Asians settled in these countries.1 They have to adapt themselves to new political régimes, which are determined to carry out far-reaching changes in the traditional roles of the different races in East Africa. In order to understand fully the complexity and magnitude of the problems faced by the Asian community in East Africa, it is essential to contrast the colonial pattern of race relations with that envisaged by the new African leaders.



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Page 35 note 1 Practically all of them are of Indian and Pakistani origin. The term ‘Asian’ came into use after the partition of India, as the more accurate ‘Indian’ was no longer acceptable to the Muslims. ‘Asian’ is used here in order to conform with the current practice in East Africa. But it does not, for example, include Arabs.

Page 38 note 1 Cf. Desai, R. H., ‘The Family and Business Enterprise among the Asians in East Africa’, paper presented to the Conference of the East African Institute of Social Research, Makerere University College, 1964.

Page 38 note 2 Hunter, Guy, Education for a Developing Region: a study of East Africa (London, 1963).

Page 41 note 1 The Nationalist (Dar es Salaam), 17 08 1964.

Page 43 note 1 Tanganyika Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development (Dar es Salaam, 1964), vol. I, p. 42.

Page 44 note 1 In Tanzania, ‘The big increase in the number of African shops … has taken place in the last ten to fifteen years'. In 1961 there were 36,157 African retailers licensed. ‘Very few of these African shops are in towns or trading centres; almost all are situated in the interior.’ In 1961 there were 10,090 non-African retail businesses, and 3,921 wholesalers, of whom the great majority were Asians, with a small number of Europeans; ‘though the Asian traders are less numerous than the African, they handle, even at the retail level, much the greater part of the business’. A Survey of Wholesale and Retail Trade in Tanganyika (Economist Intelligence Unit, London, 1962), pp. 19 and 36–7.

Page 48 note 1 On this question, see a U.N.E.S.C.O. study edited by Borne, W. D., The Cultural Integration of Immigrants (Paris, 1959), especially ch. IV.

Page 51 note 1 In January 1964 President Nyerere ordered the end of discrimination. He said, ‘We cannot allow the growth of first and second class citizenship … Both as a matter of principle and as a matter of common sense, discrimination against certain Tanganyika citizens on grounds of origin must go. There can be no more prevarication’. The Tanganyika Standard (Dar es Salaam), 8 01 1964.

* The authors were born in Kenya and are now both on the staff of the University of East Africa—Dharam Ghai is Lecturer in Economics at Makerere University College, Kampala, and his brother Yash is Lecturer in Law at the University College, Dar es Salaam. This article is based on two studies they have prepared for a forthcoming symposium on ‘Portrait of a Minority: Asians in East Africa’, edited by Dharam P. Ghai.

Asians in East Africa: Problems and Prospects

  • Dharam P. Ghai and Yash P. Ghai


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