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South Africans Can Learn A Thing or Two From Foreign Nationals, Instead Of Forcing Them Back Home

Mar 14, 2017

Mohamed Ameen Dabhelia – 2017/03/14

The Institute of Race Relations says South African’s can learn from foreign nationals.

In a report published yesterday, it claims that most refugees and immigrants who come to South Africa do not only seek a better life, but manage to do so.

Sadly, unemployed, disgruntled South African citizens don’t seem quite happy about this.

Following recent violent xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in the country, reports are emerging over a proposed amendment to the Refugee Act, including setting up “camps” close to borders; however, analysts are predicting this might aggravate xenophobia towards asylum seekers rather than provide much-needed relief.

In the report labelled, ‘South Africa’s Immigrants – Building a New Economy’, it reads “At 14.6% the unemployment among foreign immigrants is roughly half to a third of the local unemployment rate. Furthermore, they make up 11% of South Africa’s working population, and they make a huge contribution to the South African economy through providing goods and services, paying rent and buying from South African wholesalers.”

Radio Islam spoke to the IRR’s Mienke Marie Steytler, who says that xenophobia is misplaced and misunderstood.

“These people come from countries where their economies are not working; governments are not functioning, so they are forced to make a change.”

South Africans who are inflicting these violent xenophobic assaults on foreign nationals, should put themselves in the shoes of an ‘immigrant’, perhaps this could open their eyes and narrow minded trains of thought.

Streytler says one of the main reasons foreign nationals flock to SA is that they are looking for a better life and also a means of supporting their families back home.

“South African policy makers can learn from this, these bubbles and pockets of prosperity that these traders live in, it’s amazing to see these mini economies happening.”

One prime examples of a bustling mini economy is ‘Little Ethiopia’ in Johannesburg’s inner city.

So, with immigrants becoming the new kings of Spaza Shops in South Africa, what are they doing differently compared to local shop owners?

According to the report: “Immigrant traders generate their own start-up capital, newcomers entering the various social networks start at the bottom, working for little or nothing in someone else’s spaza until they prove themselves, at which point they’ll be granted a share of the profits or be invited to join a partnership that typically runs several spaza stores.”
“Immigrant traders are thrifty. They sleep and eat in the back of their shops, cutting overheads to the bone, and save every cent until they’re positioned to enter a partnership.”

“Immigrant traders work hard. They rise before dawn to sweep their shops and restock their shelves, open their doors at six or seven, and stay open for at least 14 hours, seven days a week.”

“Immigrant traders offer excellent value for money. They’re on their cell phones all day, sharing information about what’s on special at the wholesalers. When they spot something interesting, they call their buddies; hire a bakkie and race off to buy a load of it.”

“Immigrant traders provide convenience. The cost of transport is a painful factor in the lives of the township poor. Supermarkets are typically three to five kilos away, while the spaza is mostly literally on your doorstep.”

“Immigrant traders are brave. They come to South Africa to make money, not friends.”

And finally, some immigrant traders bend the rules.

Rian Malan, author of the report and IRR research fellow says in the report that: “If the ANC is to turn South Africa into a ‘nation of entrepreneurs, not job seekers’, policy makers can learn from the example of immigrants to boost entrepreneurship.”

(Edited By Hesley Harmse)


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