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date: 15 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

Connections between India and Africa have existed for thousands of years, with the intensity of linkages varying over time. The earliest known relations involve the anonymous exchange of food crops and domestic livestock, which date to the second millennium bce. Commercial contacts are recorded from the beginning of the Current Era, while from the rise of Islam and the creation of Islamic states in India from the 14th century on enslaved and war captive Africans begin to appear in India. Trade relations continued throughout the early modern period (c. 1500–1750) and intensified in the 19th century, focusing on Gujarat and Zanzibar. Indian textiles were the most important Indian commodity during these centuries, while ivory and other primary products dominated exchanges from Africa.

The consolidation of a British Empire in the Indian Ocean intensified these relations, giving rise to the movement of migrant labor to both South Africa and the East African Protectorate (eventually Kenya Colony). During the high colonial period an Indian merchant class developed from Ethiopia to South Africa. Indian nationalism played out in various ways in South Africa, Tanganyika, and Kenya. In turn, African nationalism and independence had its own reciprocal, sometimes violent, impact on Indians residing in East Africa, while Afrikaner nationalism and the creation of formal apartheid differentially affected Indians and Africans in South Africa. In the post-colonial era, state relations between India and the independent states of Africa focused on questions of both national and human development. Finally, Indian residents continue to seek their place in independent Africa, while African students in India face prejudice there.

Keywords: Gujarat, Kachchh, Kenya, Natal, race, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, trade, labor

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