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Mean Streets

Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa

edited by Jonathan Crush, Abel Chikanda, Caroline Skinner

This book powerfully demonstrates that some of the most resourceful entrepreneurs in the South African informal economy are migrants and refugees. Yet far from being lauded, they take their life into their hands when they trade on South Africa's "mean streets". The book draws attention to what they bring to their adopted country through research into previously unexamined areas of migrant entrepreneurship. Ranging from studies of how migrants have created agglomeration economies in Jeppe and Ivory Park in Johannesburg, to guanxi networks of Chinese entrepreneurs, to competition and cooperation among Somali shop owners, to cross-border informal traders, to the informal transport operators between South Africa and Zimbabwe, the chapters in this book reveal the positive economic contributions of migrants. these include generating employment, paying rents, providing cheaper goods to poor consumers, and supporting formal sector wholesalers and retailers. As well, Mean Streets highlights the xenophobic responses to migrant and refugee entrepreneurs and the challenges they face in running a successful business on the streets.

ISBN 9781920596118 | 300 pages | 244 x 170 mm | 2015 | Southern African Migration Programme, South Africa | Paperback



"While migrants subjected to violent attacks generally appear as statistics or pathetic victims, the studies in this book show how many navigate a hostile terrain with considerable ingenuity, and are both victims and active agents in their own lives. The work is both empirically rich and analytically rigorous, making it an important addition to existing literature."

Raymond Suttner, former political prisoner and author of Recovering Democracy in South Africa

"This hard-hitting volume exposes the shameful, indeed scandalous, harassment of ‘foreign’ informal entrepreneurs by South African elites and some of the citizens they claim to lead."

Keith Hart, London School of Economics and originator of the term “the informal sector”

"Means Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa draws attention to the fact that some of the most resourceful entrepreneurs in the South African informal economy are migrants and refugees, despite the dangers they face in trading on the streets. Kate Dawson describes this as a landmark volume in the growing literature on African cities which brings into sharp focus the conceptual cornerstones of the subject."

Kate Dawson, Africa at LSE



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