economic development entrepreneurship Fanon small business violence

Business Day column: Empty economic nationalism does spaza shops no favour

In this column, I turn to Fanon as I reflect on the toxic competition that has fermented between locally-owned and foreign-owned informal retailers:

YOU might have seen those voluminous, woven plastic bags with plaid patterns that many South Africans use to carry their luggage across the country, particularly during the Easter and Christmas breaks. They teeter on minibus taxi roofs or peep out from overloaded trailers. In West Africa, they are called “Ghana must go”, in ironic remembrance of Nigeria’s expulsion of immigrants in the 1980s. In SA, they go by names such as Khumbul’ekhaya bag or Mashangaanbag.

“These alienating names reveal something of the anxiety expressed towards the carriers of these bags in the communities they relocate to. These bags have become global symbols of migration,” writes Nobukho Nqaba about her photographic work, Umaskhenkethe Likhaya Lam.

In a country so marked by migrancy and movement, perhaps the economic ambition of the newcomer is all too familiar. A couple of days ago, I had a tense exchange on Twitter with someone who was unimpressed with my take on the grievances against foreign-owned businesses in our townships. My debater took particular offence to my argument that suppressing such businesses will not improve the economic lot of South Africans.

In his view, I was beholden to what he called “textbook” economics. His characterisation of fellow Africans was quite harsh, despite the red beret featured on his profile picture. And so I appealed not to “textbook economics” but to Frantz Fanon.

The rest of the column is here:

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