Refugee Entrepreneurial Economies in Urban South Africa

The primary aim of this report is to examine what we call “refugee entrepreneurial economies” in urban South Africa. Within the informal sector, refugee enclaves have often been viewed as stagnant pools of desperation, providing narrow opportunities and limited scope for advancement. But this is a misleading characterization. It is important to recognize the dynamism and growing complexity of South African refugee economies and to reshape our ideas about their positive economic impacts. In this report, we seek to broaden the image of refugees and their economic impacts beyond a narrow focus on their marginal status and vulnerability. They are viewed as dynamic agents with skills and capabilities who can play an integral role in transforming local settings and contributing to economic development. The report also addresses the question of whether geographical location makes a
difference to the nature of refugee entrepreneurial economies by contrasting refugee enterprise in a major South African city (Cape Town) with that in several smaller towns in a different part of the country (Limpopo province).