Africans have lived in London for centuries and date back to at least the 16th century when African rulers and merchants sent their children and others to be educated in Britain or to serve as translators to facilitate trade. Later, Africans arrived in Britain as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which began in the 17th century. In 1700, the black population of London was an estimated 15,000 growing to 20,000 by 1787. During the 1800s, following the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, many who came to London were sailors and students. The early- to mid-twentieth century saw Africans who had served in the World Wars settling in the UK. The 1950s and ‘60s saw many African students, mainly from Ghana and Nigerians made London their home. It wasn’t until the 1970s and ‘80s that a more specific focus on Africa came from particular migrations to London from Uganda – mainly Asians. Later in the 20th century many more came to the UK following unrest in their home countries and others have continued to come as students from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda, Malawi, Chad Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Almost 80% of Africans living in England and Wales live in London. By 1991, there were 163,635 African Londoners – 2.4% of the population. The 2001 Census reported a number of 378, 933 Black Africans in London. According to the Office for National Statistics, based on 2006 estimates African communities are one of the fastest growing minority communities in London, with around 5.5% being Black African, 4.3% as Black Caribbean and as 'Other Black'. 3.5% of Londoners are of mixed race .
Presently London’s African population is now far bigger than its Caribbean one, which isn’t surprising if you factor in North Africa with communities of people originating from east, west and southern Africa. Indeed, when we talk about Africa, we’re talking about a continent that is home to an almost infinite variety of cultural influences, many of which have made their mark on London.
London’s African population is representative of the continents fifty three countries with an infinite variety of cultural influences, many of which have made their mark on all levels of London life.
African Londoners can today be seen predominantly in the street life (markets, shops, restaurants, music venues, nightclubs) of neighbourhoods like Peckham, Southwark, Hackney, the Elephant & Castle, Tottenham and Leytonstone. Africans can be found living in all areas of London and contributing positively to the development of the city.
In addition to this African Londoners can be found throughout the city in a wide variety of sectors and professions. African Londoners are also employed in many of the city’s essential institutions for example the Metropolitan Police, National Health Service, Transport for London and Educational establishments.