Research Article

Kiswahili as an Intercultural Communication Tool for Kenya-Uganda Cross-border Trade


  • Edwin Chris Odhiambo Pan African University Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Communication Programs (PAUTRAIN), Buea, Cameroon
  • Thomas Losenje Lecturer of Translation Studies, Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters (ASTI), University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon
  • Florence Indede Professor of Kiswahili and Other African Languages, Department of Kiswahili and Other African Languages (KOAL), Maseno University, Kenya


Increased contacts with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds during initial encounters are likely to create high levels of uncertainty. High levels of uncertainty have been shown to increase the chances of misunderstandings and miscommunication. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of Kiswahili as an intercultural communication tool that bridges linguistic differences in polyglosified diverse settings in Busia town. It aims at investigating the status of Kiswahili as a medium of communication in enhancing intercultural interactions and cross-border trade, establishing the limitations Kiswahili faces, and finally, evaluating the communication strategies traders and customers employ to overcome linguistic differences, thereby enhancing intercultural interactions and cross-border trade in the region. Quantitative data were collected through questionnaires and analyzed using the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS). Qualitative data were collected through observations, a survey of linguistic landscaping and sound recordings, and analyzed through a narrative analytic approach. Through theory triangulation, the study was underpinned by the Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) as the flexible and applicable theory in trader-customer trade interactions. The study revealed that Kiswahili has a significant status in enhancing intercultural interactions among traders and customers in terms of initial encounters, discussions, bargaining, taking instructions, and in advertisements. The study also established that Kiswahili faces limitations, including dialectical differences, colonial influence and mentality, the lack of a uniform status of Kiswahili, negative ethnic attitude, the lack of good political will, religion, age differences, and the lack of exposure. Finally, the study revealed that traders and customers employ different communication accommodation strategies. An approximation strategy was established as the most commonly used strategy. In view of these results, the study recommends Kiswahili use in Busia town for communication accommodation purposes.

Article information


Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences Studies

Volume (Issue)

4 (3)





How to Cite

Odhiambo, E. C., Losenje, T., & Indede, F. (2022). Kiswahili as an Intercultural Communication Tool for Kenya-Uganda Cross-border Trade. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences Studies, 4(3), 67–112.



Intercultural communication, Intercultural interactions, Kiswahili, Communication Accommodation, Cross-border Trade