Concordia Winter 2023

Asians were to leave Uganda with a maximum of £55 and two suitcases, a stipulation enforced

at gunpoint by troops at army checkpoints

he and my mother had settled in north-west London and the 6th Northwood Scouts group was short of volunteers, he donned the khakis once more. Many opened corner shops – as my aunt and uncle did in Southend-on-Sea – which have since grown into large, successful enterprises. But while the business success of the East African Asians has long been evident, it has been their growing prominence in British public life in the past few years that has been most striking. Nowhere is this more evident than in politics: Shailesh Vara (Uganda), Priti Patel (Uganda), Suella Braverman (Kenya) and, of course, Rishi Sunak (Kenya / Tanzania) are examples of the group’s political success. They are joined in the Lords by the likes of Baroness Vadera, and Lords Verjee, Gadhia and Popat. The latter, who is now the PM’s trade envoy to Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, has pointed out that had the Asians become more involved in Ugandan politics the expulsion might never have been allowed to happen. Since moving to the UK, he and others have made up for lost time. As Lord Popat said in a debate in the Lords last week to mark the 50th anniversary: “In the 1970s, there was a common joke – “What is an Indian without a shop?” The answer is a doctor. Now, we might say the answer is the Prime Minister.” It’s been quite the journey. This article was published in The Spectator , 2nd November 2022

Today, 2 November, is the 50th anniversary of the expiry of Amin’s 90-day deadline. His Majesty the King will mark the occasion with a reception for British Ugandan Asians at the Palace. Uganda has put the past firmly behind it: the Ugandan High Commissioner to the UK is also a Ugandan Asian – Her Excellency Nimisha Madhvani – and President Yoweri Museveni has gone out of his way to welcome back the Asian community. But it is a good moment to pause to consider the remarkable success that this group of immigrants has made of itself. The expulsion from Uganda is the most vivid example, but Asians from all over East Africa have made the UK home, largely since the “Africanisation” policies of the 1950s and 1960s when Asians’ businesses were expropriated. Significant numbers came to the UK from Kenya and Tanzania. My mother’s family came to the UK from Malawi. Most emigrated from British India to East Africa in the late 19th century. In the 1890s, some 30,000 from British India were brought to East Africa under indentured labour contracts to build the Uganda Railway. Others came of their own volition, to open shops and start businesses. The largest number came from the Indian state of Gujarat. The success and wealth they achieved in their former African homes may have often been confiscated, but they have managed to replicate it here in the UK. As the journalist David Goodhart has said, the East African Asians have proved to be perhaps the ‘most successful non-European minority group in post-war Britain; a result he attributes to a flair for entrepreneurialism and a willingness to engage in the civic institutions of modern Britain. As a boy, my father was a member of the 5th Busoga Scouts Troop in Jinja, Uganda. Years later, when


Ameer’s father (left) in his Scouts uniform

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