Mean Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa

2015, Ottawa: IDRC.

Mean Streets, edited by ACC partners Jonathan Crush, Abel Chikanda and Caroline Skinner, demonstrates powerfully that some of the most resourceful entrepreneurs in the South African informal economy are migrants and refugees. Yet far from being lauded, they take their life into their hands when they trade on South Africa’s “mean streets”.

Thirteen chapters draw attention to the positive economic contributions which migrants make to their adopted country. The book includes studies of: the creation of agglomeration economies in Jeppe and Ivory Park in Johannesburg; guanxi networks of Chinese entrepreneurs; competition and cooperation among Somali shop owners; cross-border informal traders; informal transport operators between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Migrant entrepreneurship is shown to involve generating employment, paying rents, providing cheaper goods to poor consumers, and supporting formal sector wholesalers and retailers. Mean Streets also highlights the xenophobic responses to migrant and refugee entrepreneurs and the challenges they face in running a successful business on the streets.

Jonathan Crush, Abel Chikanda and Caroline Skinner (eds.)