Competition or Co-operation? South African and Migrant Entrepreneurs in Johannesburg

International migrant business owners in South Africa’s informal sector are, and have been for many years, the target of xenophobic attacks. This has led to public debates about their role in the South African economy and competition with their South African counterparts, with allegations including that they force the closure of South African businesses, harbour ‘trade secrets’ that give them the edge, and dominate the sector. As a result, there have been calls to curtail the rights of international migrants, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, to run informal enterprises.

This report explores the experiences of 928 international and South African migrant entrepreneurs operating informal sector businesses in Johannesburg. It compares their experiences, challenging some commonly held opinions in the process. The report compares each group, what kind of businesses they operate, and where they do business. It investigates their motives for migrating, their employment and entrepreneurial experience prior to and after migration, as well as their motivations for setting up their businesses. It also examine how they set up their businesses, rates of business growth, contributions to local and household economies, and challenges faced, as well as various interactions between informal sector South African and international migrant entrepreneurs.

This report is one of three being produced as part of the Growing Informal Cities (GIC) project, a partnership between the Southern African Migration Programme (SAMP), the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town, the GCRO and Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo.


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