African immigration to Finland

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Afro Finns
Rosa Lemberg (Clay) 1899.jpg
Rosa Lemberg
Eddie Boyd (1968).jpg
Lola Wallinkoski.jpg
Jani Toivola 2015.jpg
Musta Barbaari.JPG
AUT U-21 vs. FIN U-21 2015-11-13 (205).jpg
Total population
51,645 (0.94% of the total Finnish population in 2018)
Regions with significant populations
Mostly in Uusimaa (Helsinki (Kallahti), Espoo, Vantaa), Turku, Vaasa
Finnish, Afroasiatic languages, Niger–Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages
Christianity, Islam

Afro Finns are residents of Finland of African descent, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa. They have lived in Finland since the 1800s.


The first known African who received a Finnish citizenship was Rosa Lemberg from Ovamboland.

Finns reacted to the first Africans in Finland with curiosity and amazement.[1]

During the 19th century, there were some Africans from the United States, working as servants for wealthy Russians. During 1900s–1970s, the few Africans in Finland were either students (mostly from Nigeria and Ethiopia), political exiles from South Africa or people that married to Finns.[2]

Nowadays most Africans come from Africa, but many have also come from the United States, Latin America and other European countries. Especially American and British Africans have moved to Finland, mostly through marriage. [3]


Historical population
Source: Statistics Finland

The total number of people in Finland with an African background is 51,645, which is 0.94% of the Finnish population. 44,122 of them are from Sub-Saharan Africa. 29,492 (57.1%) of them are men, while 22,153 (42.9%) are women.[4]

Countries of origin[edit]

Origins of African immigrants
Country Population (1990) Population (2018)
Total 1,720 51,645
 Somalia 49 20,723
 Nigeria 89 3,705
 Morocco 395 3,465
 DR Congo 6 3,329
 Ethiopia 108 2,684
 Ghana 67 2,281
 Sudan 11 1,912
 Kenya 71 1,675
 Egypt 195 1,477
 Cameroon 4 1,429
 Algeria 210 1,307
 Tunisia 145 1,079
 The Gambia 23 1,024
 South Africa 54 1,000
 Eritrea 1 924
 Angola 3 670
 Tanzania 56 598


Africans by Municipality in 2018[5]
No. Municipality Africans %
1. Helsinki 20,301 3.13%
2. Espoo 6,953 2.45%
3. Vantaa 6,205 2.72%
4. Turku 2,963 1.55%
5. Tampere 2,116 0.90%
6. Oulu 1,487 0.73%
7. Vaasa 1,474 2.14%

In Kallahti 9.8% of the population consists of Africans.[6]

The region with the most Africans is Uusimaa with over 35,500, or 2.1% of the population.


There are many African prostitutes in Helsinki, especially Nigerians. These prostitutes divide the Helsinki city centre into three areas for different African prostitutes. Working in the different area is taken seriously and has even lead to violence.[7]


Racism started to grow after the first Somali refugees arrived in Finland in the 1990s. Finnish skinheads perpetrated attacks against Africans, and especially Joensuu grew to be an infamous center of racism. In Nastola the police had to protect the local immigration detention from the violence of the locals, as they committed shootings, group assault and played racist music.[8] According to a study by Fundamental Rights Agency published in 2018, 63% of Africans in Finland had experienced racist harassment, which had appeared as offensive gestures, comments, threats or violence. This was the highest percentage of any EU member state, much higher than for example in Malta which was only 20%. 14% stated they experienced violence due to their skin colour, which again was the highest in the EU, much higher than in Portugal where only 2% experienced violence.[9]


According to an estimate in 2009, there are 20,000 Afro-Finns. They compose a much higher minority than the Sami or Romani, and if considered a one group, they are Finland's second largest minority group, only behind Swedish-speaking Finns. The identity of Africans Finns varies; some consider themselves Finns, while others have their own separate identity.[10]

Notable Finnish people of African descent[edit]