Oderinde Peter Ayoola graduated from the University of Basel with a Master degree in African Studies in 2014. Oderinde’s MA programme in Basel was supported by atDta-Stiftung Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe. In July 2013, he participated in a research exchange at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. In South Africa, he carried out a two-month intensive field research on Nigerian immigrants in South Africa for his Master thesis titled “The rise of African immigrants: A case study of Nigerian entrepreneurs and professionals in the economy of South Africa, 1994-2013”. Oderinde’s research in South Africa was funded by Josef und Olga Tomcsik Stiftung, Fritz Sarasin Stiftung, The Center for African Studies, Basel and the Swiss-South African Joint Research Programme. Oderinde Peter Ayoola is currently a PhD-Candidate at the Center for African Studies, University of Basel. The working title of his PhD is “Transnational Migrants’ Christianity: A study of Nigerian Pentecostal churches and their mission in Switzerland”.
This thesis explores one of the major challenges facing South Africa in the post-apartheid period – immigration and describes its recent historical developments in the country. Since the demise of apartheid in 1994, there have been longstanding concerns about the impact of immigrants on the South African economy. As the nascent democracy was once again welcomed into the international community, South Africa began to witness large number of immigrants from across the African continent, but their arrival was seen as an increasing threat to the concept of space in the country. Against this backdrop, both scaremongering government officials and the media began to grossly exaggerate and perpetuate negative conjectures about these ‘aliens’ (immigrants), many of whom are small traders, businessmen and professionals. As a result, immigrants have come to be singled out for many of the economic woes that pervade the country today. The effects of such attitudes have been severe, as seen, for example, by the spate of xenophobic attacks on non-nationals by South Africans in 2008. Although, the government and other stakeholders continue to seek solutions to these tensions while attempting to promote greater social cohesion, improper policies have stalled these attempts.
With unemployment on the steady rise, the ability of the South African state to create jobs has become questionable. In 2011, South Africa issued 20,650 work permits to foreign nationals, with more than half of these issued to Zimbabwean and Chinese citizens. Despite all odds, immigrants in Johannesburg have continued to blossom in the informal economy of South Africa. These immigrants, especially Nigerians, have adopted various survival strategies to ensure that they make a living in major cities such as Johannesburg. This thesis argues that immigrants are significant contributors to the economies of their host states, such as South Africa, a country, which today classifies as one of the foremost destinations for immigrants in Africa. The thesis then goes on to show that immigration is not a negative factor for development.
More particularly, the thesis critically analyzes South Africa’s immigration policies, which allow for the flow of goods, services, and human capital, but at the same time pose a huge challenge to the government. South Africa’s inclusion in the global economy meant partnering with countries like Nigeria, but relationships that were cordial with the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid era have become more unstable since the latter became South Africa’s governing party in 1994. The thesis discusses how South African immigration policies nearly severed a longstanding relationship between sub-Saharan Africa’s two leading powers. On the social front, the thesis explores the unnoticed roles of Nigerian migrants’ associations and their contributions towards the social development of South Africa, especially at the micro-level. In order to forestall future narratives about immigrants and their contributions to South Africa, this research represents a blueprint for social cohesion and apt strategies for government policy on immigration.
Keywords: Migration, Entrepreneurship, Space, Xenophobia, Politics and Economy.