Mapping London’s African Community (2016): Demographic, Dilemmas & Discourses

An informal report on the changing demographic and dilemmas of London’s Diverse African Community in 2016 (Part 1)

Over a million adults born in Africa (excluding South Africa) are living in the UK, with a more middle-aged age distribution than the other large country groups, but fewer post working-age (MigrationWatchUK, 2014). The Mayor of Brent, Michael Adeyeye  however declared a year before “nothing less than 1,000,000 Nigerians are living in the UK“. It may be a surprise for some but few within the British-Nigerian community would bet against it. Yes; one can see that sometimes the official and un-official statistics can clash. The same can be said for Media narratives and the actual true story. Last year and present; reports that the number of attacks on non-EU migrants (predominantly Black, Asian and Muslim minority groups) have increased pre-Brexit and post-Brexit.


We have a sea of African migrants calling London home. 1st generation migrants working as Photographers, Seamstresses and Fashion Designers, Caterers, Entrepreneurs, Community Activists, Nurses, Bankers, Writers, Columnists, Medical professional and sportsmen are blessing the capital indeed. Whether it’s Congolese, Nigerians, Angolans, Ghanaian, Sierra Leone, Somali, Zimbabwean and more (as highlighted in this post); I’m biased enough to point the facts out that rather than a threat; we contribute to London’ creative and diverse culture of diverse cultures. Even people from Niger Republic, Gabon and Mali are right here quietly making a living minding their own business to the ignorance of many. But with all the realities and facts, comes sensationalisation and fiction. And this is the common testimony of many of these 1st generation migrants who (after spending a few months in the UK) begin to really understand what British culture is really about – and looks, and tastes like, and sounds like – especially from the mouths of the media.

London Metro Headlines (August 2015)

Not Syrian Migrants; Not Eastern European Migrants, Not even Arab or Bangladeshi or Pakistani Migrants – But Yes – African Migrants are the perceived threat. It wouldn’t surprise many if this was a statement made decades or even a century ago – but it was made last year by David Cameron’s no. 3 . Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Phillip Hammond. The greatest influx of EU migrants to the UK in the last five years have been Romanians and Polish. The greatest influx of non-EU refugees and asylum seekers to Europe over the past two years have been Syrians, Iraqi, Afghani and Arabs. And the greatest number of non-Eu migrants in the last two years is Chinese, Indians, US and Australia (as seen by the table below).




The image shows the number of entry clearance visas granted, excluding visitor and transit visas, for the top 10 nationalities in 2015 (source: office for National Statistics, Migration Quarterly Statistics, 2016). The data are available in Home Office Quarterly Immigration Statistics within the visa topic section. The number of such non-visitor visas granted in 2015 (534,328), decreased slightly from 2014 (down 11,749 or –2%). Increases for Chinese nationals (up 7,923 or +9%) were offset by falls for Russians (down 7,281 or –37%) and Libyans (down 7,035 or –82%).

In terms of current trends of population; In 2008, the Black African-born population of the UK was nearly 0.5 million. As the chart below illustrates; Nigerians, Ghanaians, Sierra Leones, Somali, Sudanese, Ugandans and Zimbabweans lead the way.


Countries of Origin of African Migrants in UK 2008


In 2008, the Black African-born population of the UK was nearly 0.5 million. According to Owen, 2008; nearly a quarter of African migrants possess a degree or equivalent qualification and another quarter have ‘other’ qualifications. An eighth have no educational qualifications. West Africans are most likely to have a degree or higher level qualification whilst East Africans are least likely to have a degree and least likely to have no qualifications. South Africans are most likely to have higher education or A-level equivalent qualifications – probably commensurate with associate professional (inc. nursing occupations). For further information; see the Demographic section below.


Age and Gender Structure of Black African People Born in the UK 2008Around half of Black-Africans were aged 25-44 in 2008; those from West Africa tended to be older, with a smaller percentage of children and young adults and a higher percentage of older adults and pensioners. The youngest population was from East Africa; a quarter of whom were young adults. The percentage of children was highest for East Africans.



2016 will ultimately go down as the year of the referendum and ‘Brexit’ dilemma. For many Africans within London and the UK (by this term I primarily mean 1st generation African migrants) are more than familiar with keywords such as ‘Immigration’, ‘Non-EU migrants’ and ‘identities’ which dominate media discourse. Furthermore, the London #BlackLivesMatter protest (in solidarity with racist atrocities and killings surround African-Americans in the US), issues in youth un-employment and measures of tackling Institutional Racism are only some of the hot debating points facing many Black Britons and Africans in the UK.

Is there too much immigration in the UK?

“As Nigerians and other Africans in the UK, our entry visa says, “No recourse to public funds”. The majority of highly skilled Nigerians and indeed Africans who have come to this country in the last 10 years are not allowed to claim benefits- and rightly so. Yet, we are being sacrificed for predominantly unskilled EU migrant labour” (Africans in London) in response to the question: ‘Is There Too Much Immigration in the UK? (BellaNaija)

It is worth pointing out between 1980 and 2007; the largest individual source of Asylum applications (in the UK) from African countries was Somalia (43 thousand), followed by Zimbabwe (21 thousand), Congo and DR Congo (both 11.5 thousand), Nigeria (9.8 thousand) and Algeria (8.3 thousand) as the bulk of asylum applications are from countries formerly colonised by the UK (David Owen, University of Warwick, 2008). But now, times have changed


Re-introducing our Community may appear an arduous and questionable task but it is a necessary one – especially for what in many circles is known as the “hard to reach community”; the African Community. Apparently, it’s meaning was created within the contexts of social marketing (Beder 1980) and has been used heavily to identify many non-EU migrant communities and minority groups in the UK.

A SEASON IN THE CONGO by Aime Cesaire | Credit: Johan Persson/

Whilst the term is still used for African communities today; it is diminishing. The ‘hard to reach community’ isn’t so hard to reach at all. Social Media, Bars and Restaurants and community organisations are growing in the recreational playground African Londoners are calling home: London. Churches, comedy and live-music events and even African supper clubs are just some of the trends (though not new on the London scene) that are gaining platforms for growth.

“Welcome to the digital age where your sense of African pride & identity is measured by  the number of times you go to an Afrobeats rave, how often you post cultural dishes on Instagram, and the stylish African outfits you show off to the  online community.”  Ellegeedebates: “Will the legacy of British Africans be remembered only the entertainment scene and football? (2015)

After conducting a similar report on the Migreat Blog two years ago; aside from the need for an updated version; the demographic of British-Africans in the UK and London is changing.

(2016) Map of the largest Foreign born population in London by borough with people from India being the dominant nationality in Ten areas

Ghanaians in London:

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Brixton) does some amazing food inspired. They also made on my list of the 2016 Best 20 Ghanaian Restaurants and Food Pop-ups in London guide some months back

Ghanaians, Ghanaians, Ghanaians. Where do I start? Certainly up there as being one of the most popular African communities out there. My best friend from Secondary School was and is Ghanaian; we even shared the same language as our mother-tongue to people’s surprise – Hausa. Ishmael I salute you bro! Ubangiji ya ba ka nassara! (#GoodMan) Memories! OK; back to the topic. Ghanaians can be found at Seven Sisters, Dalston, Brixton and Lewisham with a growing presence in Crystal Palace, Croydon, Norwood and Tulse Hill. They also have sizeable communities in Manchester, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Swansea. Seven Sisters has been seen as cultural capital of Ghanaian Londoners in recent decades; though it’s fair to say that area is going through a big re-generation ‘mode’ at the moment and the once heavy Ghanaian/Jewish demographic is going through rapid change.


So, the Ashantis have been the most dominant tribe in Ghana for hundreds of years; in London – things are no different. They are often compared and contrasted with the Yorubas of Nigeria (though that is not much appreciated). You also have the Ga and Fante speaking communities in small pockets across London. The Ewe people, Nicknamed ‘Number 9’, they and the northern tribes are “the most stereotyped and misunderstood bunch in the country” (Gattitude, WordPress, 2015).

Congolese in London:


Without a shadow of doubt London’s fastest growing Francophone African community and a late starter as many Congolese only arrived to the UK from the late 1980s. The Congolese are the fastest growing Francophone African community in London – and have been for the past twenty years across Britain. There are over 25 000 Congolese (both from Republic of Congo and Congo DRC) living in London alone. Outside of London, many Congolese can be found in Derby, Manchester, Edinburgh, Merseyside Yorkshire and Cardiff. Find out more about the good work of Naivasha, Young Congolese and Professional and other Congolese organisation here in ‘Les Congolais de Londres: Re-introducing London’s Congolese Community (2016)

Somali in London:

Elmimag meeting with the US Embassy
Check out the #GoodWork of ElimiMag and Ladan Takow‘s ESomaliWomen network in London

Over 125,000 Somalis reside in the UK with strong London bases in BromleyEalingWoolwichBow and Stepney GreenEdgware Road and Camden. Current sources suggest that Cardiff has the highest number of people of Somali heritage anywhere in the UK outside the UK. Somali are un-officially the largest East African community (it’s disputed because of the North-East/East Africa compartmentalisation question). The community is spread across the capital with the London boroughs of Tower HamletsCamdenEalingNewham and Lambeth known to have large groups.

Nigerians in London:

Nigerians are in principal the largest African community in London – both officially and un-officially. We all know that. 1,000,000+ human beings of Nigerian heritage call London home. Almost a sort of ‘default’ name that is mentioned everywhere and everyday. Peckham, Thamesmead, Woolwich, Abbeywood and Deptford areas on weekday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings are quite simply a remarkable sight (as highlighted in the map above). Added to this, Camberwell, Brixton (well sort-of), Bexleyheath, Barking and Dagenham, Erith and Newham will also test your Yoruba and Igbo listening skills.


It’s also good to point out the exclusive group of Super Rich Nigerians buying up central London property. You’ll see some job ads (appear twice a year) for fluent Yoruba and Hausa speaking Sales gurus at Heathrow, Harrods and other department stores – especially during the summer. They come in droves and pretty much buy everything; houses too. But i’ll leave you to read some of the comments on Battabox’s Excellent Video on Rich Nigerians Spend Millions on Central London Property as to what some Nigerians at home think about that! Come to think of it, Battabox deserve a mention! Their videos are an excellent resource and window into the lives and mindsets of many 1st generation Nigerian and African migrants that call London home.

With over 20,000,000 views. BattaBox is Nigeria’s most exciting News & Entertainment video channel! Checkout their London videos – fresh, informative and distinctively Nigerian

Culturally, one will observe that many non-nigerian Londoners (if there is such a term) have a rather Yoruba-centric view of Nigerians. It’s not only true (that in some black majority neighbourhoods) the feeling that  4 out every 5 black people are Nigerian; but rather 4 out of 5 Nigerians are Yoruba. The rather colourful, demonstrative and at times well animated and even noisy Yoruba clutch (many non-Yoruba lament) contrast from fellow countrymen. This is especially true in Woolwich, Abbeywood and Deptford. If you go to some parts of Germany and Turkey and ask some of the locals to describe the Nigerian Community; it’s more than common to be responded with “reserved, conservative, gentle and keep-to-themselves”. This will raise eyebrows to many of us here; but that’s because their remarks of the Nigerian community they are family are rather Hausa-centric.

Did you know there’s a large Hausa community of Nigerians and Nigeriens in Germany, Belgium, Turkey and France

Similar to these countries; there are sizeable Hausa communities in London and the UK. Mellow, reserved and often preferring outside London; don’t believe the hype that there are no Hausas in London – that’s quite simply not true. Hausa Nigerians are based in small pockets in Central London and North London and in larger pockets in Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester, Surrey and other cities in the country. Before being accused; it is also important to mention that Idoma, Tiv and Edo Nigerian communities (particularly in South London and Newham) also make up the demographic fabric of this popular and populous group here in London.

Sierra Leoneons in London:


NimsDin may just be the only Sierra Leoneon inspired Supper Club in the London; find out more about this amazing Food Joint here

The Sierra Leonean diaspora was active in responding to the Ebola outbreak that hit Sierra Leone in March 2014, both by providing financial and material support, and through direct communication with relatives, friends and colleagues back home. Sierra Leoneans are mostly based in South and North London. Bermondsey, New Cross and Lewisham have pockets of Sierra Leonean communities based in the borough of Southwark. The population number isn’t known, over 17,000 recorded in 2001. It’s almost an absolute surety the numbers have at least doubled since then. Find out more about our Krio speaking West African brothers here: Aw Yu Du? Re-introducing London’s Sierra Leoneon Community 2016.

Angolans in London:

Paralympians at London 2012_wrapped

There are believed to be over 18,000 Angolans residing in the UK. Whilst it is estimated that approximately 30,000-35,000 Portuguese Speakers reside in the borough of Lambeth alone (Nogueira, Porteous & Guerreiro 2015); those of Angolan heritage migrating from Portugal are increasing. Southwark, Stratford, Woolwich and North London are some of areas pockets of Angolans can be found. To find out more see ‘Angolanos em Londres: Re-Introducing London’s Angolan Community 2016‘. Also, do check out the ‘Angolan Civic Community Alliance‘. The Angolan Civic Communities Alliance (ACCA) is mainly a pan-Portuguese speaking communities support and advisory service that serves as the main point of contact for the Portuguese speaking communities of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Goa.



Life within the M25 is home to more than 800,000 British Jamaicans, those who were born in Jamaica or who are of Jamaican descent. Brixton, a multiethnic community in south London, has become the ‘Republic’ for many Jamaicans. This is known throughout the country and worldwide. This aside, Nottingham, Derby and Northampton, Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Preston, Gloucester and Bristol are some of the national regions in which Jamaicans can be found across the UK (in accordance with the IOM Jamaican Mapping Excercise,2007).

In London, Jamaicans can be located at London boroughs such as Brent, Croydon, Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth. One of the largest and most famous Jamaican expatriate communities is in Brixton, South London. The Jamaican High Commission estimates that there are around 800,000 British people of Jamaican origin in the UK – that was way back in 2007. It’s grown since since then for sure.

South Africans in London:


Afrikaans, isiZulu, Xhosa are not the only languages of this interesting community. Apart from accent; it must be pretty difficult for African Londoners to distinguish South Africans. Most Black South Africans live outside London and the majoritarian White South African community have a pretty large base in Wandsworth, Twickenham and other areas in London. South Africans (currently), with permission, are allowed to hold more than one passport. Zimbabwe does not permit dual citizenship, probably lowering naturalisation rates among Zimbabweans.


The 2001 census showed that 90% of South Africans in the UK are White; much hasn’t changed since then. According to the Office of National Statistics, as of December 2013, there are roughly 221 000 South Africans living in the UK. The late 90s and early noughties saw long term migration reduce to the UK from South Africa. Although the number of South African students at UK and London universities is increasing; wikipedia estimates there could be more than 496,000 (of British and Afrikaans origin), 16,500 (Black), 16,500 (Indian), 11,000 (Mixed) and 11,000 (other) for each South African ethnic group currently residing in the UK respectively.

“According to the Office of National Statistics, as of December 2013, there are roughly 221 000 South Africans living in the UK. The late 90s and early noughties saw a bumper crop of short and long term migration to the UK from South Africa.” (The South African, Jan 2015)


There are a large number of Jewish South Africans in the UK. It is estimated that 9% of the South African population in London is Jewish, as compared to 2% of Londoners as a whole who would claim to be of the Jewish faith.

The group of migrants in the UK from Western Europe, India, South Africa and the ‘Anglosphere’ exhibit strong economic characteristics – they have high rates of employment at good wages and low rates of benefit claim. (Economic Characteristics of Migrants in the UK 2014, Migration Watch)


Do Black and White South Africans who live in London hang out together?

This was a question taken from a popular poll. It’s an interesting question and one I’ve asked the handful of black South Africans I’ve met in London; the answer is usually sometimes – but mostly no. The interesting historical and socio-cultural mix is best described my Nico Laubser below.

“I think you have two types of South Africans. Those who think they are fleeing ‘danger’ when they leave SA, and those who like new cultures and travelling. The latter will hang out with each and everyone. The former will probably just look for a safe hole to bury themselves in and bad mouth SA. I am an Afrikaner who met my South African non white wife in the UK. So yes, it does happen.” (Nico Laubser, Quora)

Eritreans in London:


Many Eritreans reside in the UK and London. The borough Lambeth leads the way in South East London with visible sightings of Eritreans in Neasden and Shepherd’s Bush. There are believed to be more than 15000 Eritreans in the UK. This is increasing.  Eritrea’s neighbours Ethiopia also a strong restaurant businesses in the UK with many Ethiopian and Eritrean churches across London. The majority of adult Eritreans in Lambeth and Southwark were born in Eritrea (87%) and a further 10% were born in Eritrea’s immediate neighbours Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia or Sudan. Only 2% were born in the UK.

Changing Demographic of London’s African Community:


Okay. It’s important to note things are changing both statistically and culturally in London’s African community. Only a handful are cited within this rather informal blog report.

We now a small but growing number of Belgian, Netherlands and German migrants (of African origin) moving to the UK. The fact that they are EEA citizens and from an English speaking African country coupled with London’s offer for better job prospects means London is a convenient ‘go-to’ city. The same can be said for 2nd and 3rd generation Ivorians, Congolese and Senegalese who are moving to the UK from France, Belgium and even Italy (to name a few) who are more competent in English than their migrant parents (from Africa to Europe) in the late 1980s and before. Added to this ‘citizenship diversity’; i’ve met EU citizens migrants of Senegalese, Nigerian, Cameroonian, Somali and Nigerien origin calling London and the UK home from Sweden, Poland, Romania, Hungary and more.


French speaking Africans migrating to the UK have also been on the increase. Many African migrants that have ended up in London from North African, Eastern and Southern European states will confidently recall of their experiences in these countries compared to Britain. Malians can be found in South East London, Senegalese, Ivorians, Cameroon and even Gabonese in small pockets across the city.

To be continued.

*** This is part I of the Africans in London Demographic Report; if you don’t see your community mentioned here; it’s not because I’ve forgotten it’s what my people say in Tanzania “Taratibu ndiyo mwendo” (One step at a time; slow and steady, bit by bit will get you there eventually).

{ Sources Used: Migration Watch UK (2015) Paper 367Office of National Statistics, UK Migration Report (Feb 2016)Full Fact EU Immigration Report and Parilament Briefing Papers, Migration Report 2015 }



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Twitter: @AfricanCB or Facebook: /AfricanCultureBlog


2 thoughts on “Mapping London’s African Community (2016): Demographic, Dilemmas & Discourses

  1. There are other African communities living in London and other parts of the UK that are not mentioned in this article. Although some are small in numbers but it worth mentioning them for monitoring purposes as well as to demonstrate a sense of inclusion among ourselves. Others of the African communities Living here include nationals from the West African states of Guinea, Senegal, Liberia, Mali, Gambia, Tanzania and Burkina Faso. Thanks for your well written article.


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