Urban Informality and Migrant Entrepreneurship in South Africa

2014, In Jonathan Crush, Abel Chikanda and Caroline Skinner (eds.) Mean Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in Urban South Africa (Ottawa: IDRC).

This book provides a wide-ranging analysis of the informal sector and migrant entrepreneurship in South Africa’s cities.

With unemployment rampant in the formal sector, the informal economy has emerged as a major source of income and livelihoods for poor urban households.

Although the numbers of international migrants are frequently exaggerated, it is clear that they play a crucial role in the informal economies of South African cities. However, their importance of that role is largely invisible to researchers and policy- makers. This 12-chapter book aims to draw attention to what it is that migrant entre- preneurs bring to their adopted country through analysis of research into previously unexamined areas and aspects of migrant entrepreneurship.

In a chapter, “Doing Business with Xenophobia,” the authors present SAMP research which shows that levels of xenophobia in South Africa are extremely high, with denial permeating the country, including government. They note that policy-makers need to address the xenophobia inherent in the frequent and regular attacks on migrants and their businesses and seek solutions that recognize the economic value migrants bring to the country.

Migrant trading activity in Johannesburg’s inner city is looked at from various perspec- tives by different authors and Somali spaza shops in Cape Town are the focal point of another chapter. The factors that make Chinese shops in Johannesburg successful are set out, as well as interesting survey results on Cameroonian migrants in Durban.

Cross-border trade, with fascinating aspects of this constant movement of people, goods and money, is covered in two chapters; and the role of networks in entrepre- neurial success is discussed in another.

Urban Informality and Migrant Entrepreneurship in South African Cities goes a consider- able way towards meeting the need for accurate data, analysis and assessment of the contribution of migrant entrepreneurs to the informal economies and other aspects of cities in South Africa.

Jonathan Crush, Abel Chikanda & Caroline Skinner