A Tale of Two Continents: Comparing Migration Experiences in South Africa and Germany

South Africa and Germany are continents apart and are also very different economically, yet they both dominate their respective regions. As a result, they are attractive destinations for all kinds of migrants, including refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants. Both countries have a long history of migration, but they have adopted significantly different approaches to managing migrants and have experienced different challenges and levels of success. One of the hallmarks of Germany’s migration policy is that migrants who meet the necessary eligibility criteria should be integrated into society as quickly as possible, with systems and support mechanisms in place to facilitate a comfortable transition. Against the backdrop of an ageing population, migrants (especially young migrants) have the potential to shore up Germany’s economy well into the future. South Africa, in contrast, is grappling with its migration phenomenon, juggling the need to attract migrants with much-needed skills and the need to tackle the very high levels of unemployment and poverty among South African citizens. Favouring foreigners (particularly from other African countries) over locals will only stoke the flames of xenophobia; yet leaving foreign migrants to their own devices and hoping they will integrate naturally is a short-sighted strategy. This paper traces Germany and South Africa’s respective migration regimes and experiences, highlighting similarities and differences. It also reveals some of the lessons that South Africa can learn from Germany, particularly in how the latter has managed its migration phenomenon over the years, including some of the mistakes it has made and how it has resolved to correct them.