Refugee Entrepreneurial Economics in Urban South Africa

Journal of African Human Mobility Review

Jonathan Crush, Godfrey Tawodzera, Cameron McCordic, Sujata Ramachandran and Robertson Tengeh

The case-study literature on refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa is dominated by an overwhelming focus on the problems they face and their marginalised existence, reinforcing an image of victimhood, exploitation and vulnerability. In this paper, we seek to broaden the image of refugees and their economic impacts beyond a narrow focus on their marginal status and vulnerable position. They are viewed here as dynamic agents with skills and capabilities who can play an integral role in transforming local settings and contributing to economic development. This paper presents and discusses the results of a survey of over 1,000 refugee informal business-owners in Cape Town and small-town Limpopo. As well as providing new insights into the nature, achievements and challenges of refugee entrepreneurship, the paper addresses the question of whether geographical location makes a difference to the nature of refugee entrepreneurial economies by contrasting the two groups of entrepreneurs. Refugee entrepreneurs are more vulnerable to xenophobic violence in Cape Town and to police misconduct in Limpopo. Otherwise, there are remarkable similarities in the manner in which refugee entrepreneurs establish and grow their businesses in large cities and small provincial towns.


Featured City: Cape Town, South Africa

Featured Country: South Africa

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