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An exploratory study of Congolese refugees’ experiences in developing small, medium and micro entreprises in Durban city centre.

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Internationally, South Africa receives the highest annual number of asylum applications with about 106,904 of applications received in 2011 (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2013) of which 16,970 were from the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) (UNHCR, 2012). Durban is a city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal with a considerable number of Congolese refugees, which makes it a good site for research about Congolese refugees, their place in the business arena and in small medium and micro enterprises (SMMES) in Durban. After taking the decision to open small businesses, DRC refugees in Durban encounter many difficulties (UNHCR, 2012). An exploratory qualitative research design was used to understand the experiences faced by Congolese refugees in developing SMMES using the structural opportunity theory on immigrant entrepreneurship. A qualitative research methodology allowed for exploration of the difficulties refugee entrepreneurs are facing in Durban city Centre. Non-probability sampling was used in particular purposive sampling technique. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis. The study found that opening of any kind of business requires a lot of effort and resource mobilization is a crucial step for all who wanted to start business. The majority of participants in this study said that their business was not created to have a brilliant future but for family survival. Most refugees lack sufficient and true information about the process to get any legal documents for their businesses. Refugees who have no information about the process of obtaining business documents are afraid to invest more in their businesses and apply any element of novelty or creativity. However, they are aware that knowledge is an important element in their business activities in order to be successful in addition to being positive minded, having capital or belonging to a group of immigrants who are predisposed to be engaged in entrepreneurship.


Master of Commerce in Entrepreneurship. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2016.