City on edge: Immigrant businesses and the right to urban space in inner-city Johannesburg

Richard Grant, Daniel Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Paradoxically, Johannesburg is a quintessentially migrant city and also ranks among the least immigrant-friendly cities in the world. Over the past 20 years, inner-city Johannesburg has been vacated and then reconstituted as a hive of informal trade networks and migration circuits that extends well beyond national borders. Research on immigrants in Johannesburg has contributed significantly to understandings of xenophobic sentiments and immigrant identities, but there remains a large gap in knowledge about immigrant entrepreneurship, economic enclaves and economic mobility. Our research is based on extensive fieldwork, discussions with immigrant organizations and in-depth interviews with immigrants and South Africans engaged in business in three prominent inner-city immigrant business enclaves: Jeppe/Delvers, Eighth Avenue and Raleigh Street. Our research shows that these immigrant business zones each operate differently and vary in the degree to which they connect to urban and national economic grids; some retain stronger ties to transnational networks that link dispersed spaces to Johannesburg, creating specific local milieus. We advocate for a more geographically sensitive and nuanced understanding of immigrant entrepreneurs and a reconsideration of their rights to the city.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-200
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015


  • ethnic enclaves
  • immigrant entrepreneurs
  • right to the city

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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