International Migrants and Refugees in Cape Town’s Informal Economy

Waterloo, ON, Canada: Southern African Migration Programme (2015)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Attacks on migrant and refugee entrepreneurs and their properties by South African rivals and ordinary citizens have become a common phenomenon throughout the country, including the city of Cape Town. Business robberies often result in deaths or serious injuries. The Somali Community Board has noted that over 400 Somali refugees, many of them informal traders, were murdered in South Africa between early 2002 and mid-2010. The police are frequently accused by migrants of fomenting or turning a blind eye to xenophobic attacks on their businesses. Meanwhile, the government refuses to acknowledge the existence of xenophobia or the xenophobic rhetoric in many of these attacks, claiming instead that they are simply the actions of criminal elements. Photographs published in the media of the looting of migrant stores do not tend to feature hardened criminals, but ordinary citizens including children in school uniform. Migrant businesses are portrayed by officials, citizens and the media as having a negative impact on the South African economy and undermining the livelihoods of South Africans. The prevalence of such perceptions helps to explain growing xenophobic sentiment against migrants and refugees. Contrary to these popular perceptions, an emerging literature on migrant entrepreneurship is beginning to demonstrate the positive economic contributions of migrants and refugees to the country. This report examines the nature of informal migrant and refugee entrepreneurship in Cape Town and whether or not the negative stereotypes have any validity. It also seeks to examine what economic contributions migrants and refugees make to the local economy. The report is based on the research conducted by the Growing Informal Cities project, a partnership between SAMP/IMRC, the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) and Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. A questionnaire was administered to a sample of 518 migrant owners of microenterprises, which had to meet three basic criteria for inclusion: (a) owned by a non-South African; (b) in operation for at least two years; and (c) unregistered with the South African Revenue Services (SARS). Although migrant entrepreneurs are located in most areas of the city, certain areas have particular concentrations of migrant-owned businesses. "e questionnaires were administered in four such areas: Imizamo Yethu, Philippi, Bellville, and Cape Town CBD. Thirty in-depth interviews were also conducted with selected owners of informal micro-enterprises. Two focus group discussions were held in the Cape Town CBD and Philippi respectively. Fifteen key informant interviews were held with various stakeholders in Cape Town to understand the operation and constraints faced by migrants operating in the city’s informal economy. The major findings of the personal profile of the migrant and refugee entrepreneurs were as follows: • The entrepreneurs came from over 20 different countries of which Zimbabwe, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Malawi, Ethiopia and Cameroon were the most prominent. Just over a third were from other countries in the SADC. The prominence of Zimbabwean entrepreneurs in the Cape Town informal economy is not surprising, given the events in that country over the past decade and a half and resultant mass migration to South Africa. A total of 57% of the entrepreneurs were from other African countries, especially the DRC, Somalia, Nigeria and Ethiopia. "e majority of migrants from these countries (except Nigeria) came to South Africa as refugees. • A third of the entrepreneurs had refugee permits. Of these, nearly 60% came from only three countries: the DRC, Ethiopia and Somalia. A further 31% held asylum-seeker permits. Of these, 32% were Zimbabwean while another 30% came from DRC, Ethiopia and Somalia. Nearly 12% had permanent residence permits while 8% were holders of work permits. Only 7% of the respondents indicated that they did not have official documentation to stay in South Africa. Thus, the majority of migrant entrepreneurs have forced migrants who are entitled to human rights protection under international and South African refugee law. • Very few of the entrepreneurs entered South Africa before 1994. Only 8% arrived in the immediate post-apartheid years. While another 20% came in the period 2000to 2004, the vast majority (70%) came during the last decade. As many as 44% arrived between 2005 and 2009 and a further 27% thereafter. Migration from Zimbabwe, in particular, escalated between 2005 and 2009 as the country plunged deeper into crisis. • Despite the perception that unemployment at home is a driver of migration to South Africa, only 14% of the entrepreneurs were unemployed immediately before leaving for South Africa. Another 19% were students. Twenty-six percent were working in the informal economy in their home countries. .......INCOMPLETE.....
No keywords specified (fix it)
(categorize this paper)
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
Archival date: 2022-06-21
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
86 ( #54,295 of 70,145 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
86 ( #8,730 of 70,145 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.