Migrant Entrepreneurship, Collective Violence and Xenophobia in South Africa

"South Africa provides an important case study of how citizen attitudes and behaviours materially affect the business climate for migrant entrepreneurs. Trying to run a business in the informal economy is an especially hazardous undertaking in South Africa. First, the state (both central and municipal) has adopted a protectionist position, which leads to various regulatory and policing responses that seek to disadvantage, if not eliminate, migrant entrepreneurship. Second, the police run their own protection (or non-harassment) rackets to benefit financially from those able to pay. Third, South African competitors, particularly in the spaza sector, have increasingly adopted a strategy of using violence to intimidate and drive migrant entrepreneurs out of an area. And fourth, a minority of citizens have turned hostile attitudes towards migrants and refugees into violent actions by forcibly shutting down migrant-owned businesses and attacking their owners and employees. Underlying all of these responses is a strong xenophobic undertow."