The Italians have been on the Kenyan coast since the 1800s. The East African coast was then split among the British, Germans and Italians who took over Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia respectively.
After Kenya’s independence in 1963, the Italians were to be found at the Kenyan coast yet again from 1978. From then on, the Italians have taken over Watamu and Malindi, the two main towns known by many as “Little Italy”. Depending on who you speak to, Little Italy could refer to Watamu or Malindi.
The two towns resemble Rome in that there are more Italians than Africans and the Africans found in the area, speak more Italian than any other language. The Italians living there have heavily invested in these towns both financially and socially as some are married to the locals.
Although the locals would want the Italians to return to their home country, the truth is that the local economy and even the locals themselves have become too dependent on the Italians and their departure might injure the area more than it helps.
A new challenge for the locals now is that most of the Italians are no longer as rich as they used to be but they still linger in Watamu. Some of the locals wish that the poor Italians would return to Italy. The poor Italians in Watamu don’t want to go back and most blame their plight on local women and alcohol.