Durban — The SA Local Government Association (Salga) in KwaZulu-Natal hosted a summit on migration, at which it appealed to local municipalities to explore how immigrants can be assisted to positively contribute to the economic development of towns and cities.
The summit led discussions on the impact of immigrants on local economies and was held on Friday, April 21, at the Capital Pearls Hotel, in Durban.
Salga KZN chairperson Thami Ntuli said KZN enjoys economic and cultural ties not only with other provinces but many of its districts and local municipalities that host immigrants not only from Africa but from around the world.
Ntuli said, unfortunately, the prevalent dialogue about human migration is not always positive because of negative reporting that exists around this human phenomenon.
“However, it is undeniable that immigrants contribute significantly to the economy of KZN. It is crucial, therefore, to harness what is positive and form partnerships with immigrants to improve community safety, as well as that of the immigrants,” Ntuli added.
“One of the key concerns is the impact of foreigners on local businesses. Some argue that foreign informal traders compete unfairly with local traders, often selling their goods at lower prices due to different cost structures or importing goods at a lower cost from their home countries.
“This can create an imbalance in the market, leading to challenges for local traders who may struggle to compete on an equal level with the foreign nationals,” Ntuli said.
There have been reports of informal traders -- both local and foreign, having been found to engage in illegal activities such as tax evasion, smuggling, and trading in counterfeit goods -- which have negative implications for the economy and society, he said.
Ntuli added that Salga hosted this summit mindful of the economic challenges faced by South Africans, and it was easy to resort to blame games in such times.
Immigrants are often, unfortunately, easy targets for internal frustrations, he said. However, migrants in South Africa make up such a small number in percentage terms, that it is challenging to blame them for social ills that have long been existing in South Africa.
To deal with the impasse, the summit took the following resolutions:
- Promote cultural integration and social cohesion initiatives.
- Develop protocols that allow refugees to get trading permits and business licences.
- Assist refugees to get documented and to report illegal permit syndicates.
- Partner with civil society and faith-based organisations to create a climate of solidarity.
- Immigrants can partner with cities to promote economic growth and public safety. Consequently, the mayors from affected cities or municipalities can immediately respond to national policy, but can and should create and develop their own local approaches.
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