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This book analyzes the phenomenon of xenophobia across African countries. With its roots in colonialism, which coercively created modern states through border delineation and the artificial merging and dividing of communities, xenophobia continues to be a barrier to post-colonial sustainable peace and security and socio-economic and political development in Africa. This volume critically assesses how xenophobia has impacted the three elements of political economy: state, economy and society. Beginning with historical and theoretical analysis to put xenophobia in context, the book moves on to country-specific case studies discussing the nature of xenophobia in Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana and Zimbabwe. The chapters furthermore explore both violent and non-violent manifestations of xenophobia, and analyze how state responses to xenophobia affects African states, economies, and societies, especially in those cases where xenophobia has widespread institutional support. Providing a theoretical understanding of xenophobia and proffering sustainable solutions to the proliferation of xenophobia in the continent, this book is of use to researchers and students interested in political science, African politics, peace studies, security, and development economics, as well as policy-makers working to eradicate xenophobia in Africa.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction: Understanding Xenophobia in Africa

Colonialism militarised African societies and imposed a violent character upon the state and societies, which explains the spate of political instability, insurgency, terrorism and civil war experienced in many African countries. This chapter provides an understanding of xenophobia and presents xenophobia as all forms of discrimination against those considered to be ‘different’, ‘the other’, and non-national. It engages the politicization of xenophobia, explores its motivations and traces its roots to Africa’s colonial heritage. Although, xenophobic violence which has become part of the African story, is not a new phenomenon, but its destructive nature has become a cause for concern among stakeholders in African peace, security and development projects. From Ghana to Nigeria and Zambia to South Africa, hostility has been directed against ‘the others’ and non-nationals of African descent. While there is a rich literature on the violent manifestation of xenophobia in Africa, few studies have explored the non-violent expression of xenophobia. Thus, this section conceptualizes the diverse manifestations of xenophobia and its effects on the state, economy and society.
Adeoye O. Akinola

Chapter 2. Crisis of Identity and Xenophobia in Africa: The Imperative of a Pan-African Thought Liberation

Far too often, Africans have been up in arms against one another. Cases of the local population attacking those that are considered ‘the others’ have occurred in many African countries. Several factors have been advanced for such incidences, the most prominent been, contestations over economic opportunities. The force of globalisation and the peripheral position of African countries in the global capitalist economic order have limited opportunities for improved livelihood for the masses. The locals unwittingly scapegoat immigrants as the culprit and the causes of their limited socio-economic prospects. In many instances, political elites also prop up discourses which reinforce the notion that foreigners are responsible for government inability to meet its obligation to provide public good for their citizens. While this line of argument holds some merit, this paper departs from this intellectual tradition by locating the problem of xenophobia in the realm of identity crisis. Identity crisis is here contextualised to mean ignorance or deliberate denial of the salience of ethnic, national or racial categorisation both in its essence and determinant of being in the global hierarchy of power. Crisis of identity also denotes a falsification or obfuscation of historical realities both in terms of the previous pan-Africanist movements in which African countries collectively confront political colonialism and contend with Africa’s economic regression. The latter point is particularly salient because of the continuity of neo-imperial designs that led to the bifurcation of African countries into enclaves of exploitation, which calls for multilateral approach to resisting the underdevelopment of Africa. Using historical materialism and political economy theoretical approach, I argue that a proper understanding of the shared identity of Africans and their subordinate position in the international division of labour will reduce if not totally remove incidences of xenophobia. Therefore, the reconstruction of African identity must flow from an ideological and intellectual project of Pan African thought liberation.
Samuel Oloruntoba

Chapter 3. The Scourge of Xenophobia: From Botswana to Zambia

Xenophobia has been a consistent feature of Botswana’s policymaking and social reality for decades, Zambia only awoke to this scourge as a result of the looting of about 60 Rwandan-owned shops during the 2016 xenophobic violence that resulted in the loss of lives and property. While locals accused foreigners, especially Rwandans of ritual killings; this appears to have been an excuse to attack foreigners and loot their tuck-shops. Although there have been few incidents of xenophobia in Zambia, the country’s image as a haven for refugees and other immigrants has been dented. In contrast, dislike of foreigners continues to rise in Botswana. The study found similar patterns of xenophobia with Zambians singling out Rwandans for attacks, while in Botswana, Zimbabweans were targeted. Foreigners have been blamed for spiralling crime and other social ills in the two countries, dwindling economic opportunities and challenging economic realities, political discontent, and poor service delivery continue to aggravate social tension and reinforce xenophobia in the Southern African region. It is thus concluded that governance failure explains xenophobic attacks in these countries. To stem the tides of xenophobia, it is imperative for the government to exploit the opportunities presented by foreigners in terms of skills acquisition and transfer, and also implement pragmatic policies for effective governance and improvement in the lives of the masses.
Adeoye O. Akinola

Chapter 4. The Context of Xenophobia in Africa: Nigeria and South Africa in Comparison

Xenophobia has become a recurrent phenomenon in Africa. It often occurs with attendant consequences for lives and properties, and inter-state diplomatic relations. Though globalization has purportedly conscripted the world into a concise village where everyone is recognized as a global citizen, ethnic and identity consciousness still define the basis for cross-border interactions. The search for greener pasture defined in terms of economic prosperity through gainful employment, conducive environment for skill acquisition and self-actualization, access to modern infrastructure and academic pursuit usually exacerbates immigration. However, the citizens of host countries tend to display hostilities and hatred towards non-nationals as competition for resources become tense. This chapter examines the context of xenophobia in Nigeria and that of South Africa and assesses the attendant implications for pan-Africanism. The chapter revealed that while xenophobic experiences in Nigeria during the 1980s was fuelled by the economic crisis that plagued the oil-rich country due to the collapse in oil prices in the international market, the South African experiences have been linked to apartheid. In conclusion, xenophobia can unscrupulously impact the political and economic development aspirations of the African people and governments and erode the basis of pan-African relations that have defined Africa’s struggle against colonialism, apartheid and slavery.
Ebenezer O. Oni, Samuel K. Okunade

Chapter 5. Nigeria’s Attitude Towards South Africa’s Perceived Xenophobia: Exploring a Shared Hegemonic Power for Africa’s Development

From Nigeria’s perspective, South Africa is considered as an ‘ungrateful’ state (due to the non-recognition of Nigeria’s efforts at abolishing Apartheid regime) from 1994 when electoral democracy was introduced, as if the country was not a legally, politically and internationally sovereign state. The nadir of perceived diplomatic row was experienced in 2015 due to the xenophobic/Afrophobic attacks on non-South Africans attributed to undiplomatic utterances of the king of the Zulu nation in South Africa. Before this time, incessant attacks were directed against African citizens from the Horn and Southern African states. Claims and counter-claims of foreigners being the agents of criminality and sources of unemployment for South Africans have triggered anti-immigration attitudes and acts in the country. The chapter introduces the politics of xenophobia into the hegemonic discourse. We attempt to demonstrate how Nigeria has used recurring incidences of xenophobia as a driving force to assert its power position in Africa as against a shared hegemonic power between the two African major powers.
Olusola Ogunnubi, Lere Amusan

Chapter 6. Democratization and Legitimization of Xenophobia in Ghana

Xenophobia has become a consistent feature of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. In recent times, countries that are often described as an oasis of peace and tranquillity and the epitome of democratic virtues like Ghana have been cited by intellectuals in the discourse on xenophobia. This chapter argues that xenophobic attitudes in Ghana are not only driven by politico-economic factors but have also been institutionalized and legitimized by politicians seeking self-aggrandisement through political empowerment. Versed in the ‘do or die’ modus operandi for winning political power, these elites have given impetus to widespread xenophobic political attitudes, either eliminating opponents, and/or resorting to ‘divide and rule’ tactics which may involve brutal killing of citizens, expelling foreigners and/or causing ‘fear and panic’ in society. Using data gathered by means of unstructured interviews and by historicising xenophobia in the country, this chapter explores the implications of the resurgence of xenophobia in Ghana’s democratic project. The findings reveal that, xenophobia, orchestrated by political sycophancies, is often driven by politico-economic factors to score political gains. This gives rise to violent reciprocal political antagonism, which is a threat to peace, democratic consolidation and the socio-economic development of the country. The chapter concludes by reiterating the need to replace personal political aggrandizement and patronage politics with active civic political participation. It recommends a pragmatic national agenda to combat the spate of xenophobia in Ghana.
Collins Adu-Bempah Brobbey

Chapter 7. South African Higher Education: The Paradox of Soft Power and Xenophobia

There is a robust literature on xenophobia in South Africa. Furthermore, there has been recent, although still minimal academic interest in South Africa’s soft power credentials. However, no attention has been paid to the actual or potential role of higher education in the projection of the country’s soft power in the hearts and minds of the remarkable number of international students enroled at the country’s tertiary institutions. By extension, the effects of anti-immigrant sentiments on such power have been ignored. Against this backdrop, this chapter addresses two critical questions: First, does South African higher education elevate the South African soft power? If yes, to what degree? If not, in what ways can this sector enhance Pretoria’s soft power? Second, does xenophobia have an impact on South African higher education’s soft power potential? The study found that the South African higher education sector has enormous potential to portray the country in a positive light and enhance the state’s soft power in Africa. However, recurrent anti-immigrant sentiments circumscribe such potential.
Oluwaseun Tella

Chapter 8. Frustration-Aggression, Afrophobia and the Psycho-Social Consequences of Corruption in South Africa

This chapter examines the causes of Afrophobia in South Africa. It argues that the occurrences of Afrophobia in South Africa can be understood as a direct consequence of corruption. South Africa is characterized by economic inequality, which represents a direct consequence of capitalist model of economic development (the poor get poorer and the rich get richer). The chapter identifies corruption as a factor that exacerbates inequality in the country and argues that a psycho-social effect of corruption – when scarce resources are abused and appropriated for the benefit of a few at the expense of the majority – engenders frustration amongst the masses. The frustration is then translated into aggression and the ‘foreigners’, becomes the subject of a misplaced hostility. Central to the frustration-aggression theory is the supposition that all acts of aggression are a result of previous and growing frustration; and all frustration leads to some form of aggression. Bureaucratic malfeasance, the increasing gap between the poor and the rich as a result of corruption is emphasized as a primal cause of frustration and this leads to animosity towards foreign nationals, especially those from other African countries. It concludes that Afrophobia is s direct consequence of economic inequalities in South Africa.
Regis Wilson, Lulu Magam

Chapter 9. From Hate to Love: Black South Africans and the Xenophobia Project

After the 2015 attack on foreign nationals in South Africa, the 2017 outbreak of xenophobic violence attracted wide condemnation across the globe. The image of the South Africa government was put in the global limelight as African migrants and foreigners were attacked in their various locations in the country. A sizeable number of South Africans, especially in the academic community, rose against the attack of African migrants. Anti-xenophobic protests were organized in South African cities with government officials in attendance in a bid to dissociate the state from the attacks. Despite this, South Africa’s foreign relations with some African countries was strained as anti-South African sentiments dominated discourse in the international media and fora. This chapter engages with the spate of xenophobic attacks and contends with the reasons adduced to have sparked the violence. While people have attributed the attacks to series of developments, it is discovered that prejudices against black foreigners have degenerated into deep-hatred. The chapter argued that this has blurred the comparative advantages and benefits of a cooperative and collaborative neighbourliness. The chapter reveals that black South Africans would benefit more from their follow foreigners through collaboration towards the development of a robust informal sector of the economy. Black foreigners, equipped with artisan skills could train and share their knowledge with their South African counterparts with a view to boosting participation in the informal sector of the economy. This will therefore transform the prejudiced hatred to love and cooperation for mutual benefits rather than the incessant violent attacks that deepens the scars of resentment between the immigrants and locals.
Omololu Fagbadebo, Fayth Ruffin

Chapter 10. Xenophobia, Racism and the Travails of ‘Black’ Immigrants in South Africa

Xenophobia has become endemic and central to policy discourse in post-apartheid South Africa. Attacks on foreign nationals of African descent and efforts to violently ‘expunge them’ from South Africa are of great concern to other African countries as well as the global community. Aside from the governance crisis and mass impoverishment that characterises African states, the global economic meltdown has heightened the influx of immigrants into the country. Political instability, insurgency, terrorism and ethnic wars in many African countries also resulted in a mass exodus to South Africa. South Africa is the largest economy in Africa. However, it has recently suffered an economic slowdown and has recorded high unemployment rates and poor service delivery. South Africans (both white and black) directed their frustration at black immigrants that are considered as threats to the economy. Foreigners have also often been accused of defiling the society by peddling drugs, and engaging in sex slavery and other societal ills. This chapter critically explores the agony of black immigrants, especially the reality of experiencing ‘double jeopardy’: racial hostility from white settlers and violent attacks by black South Africans. It calls for concerted efforts by state and non-state actors to stem the tide of xenophobia in the country.
Tolulope Adeogun, Olumuyiwa Faluyi

Chapter 11. The Xenophobia-Coloniality Nexus: Zimbabwe’s Experience

Xenophobia is one of the major forms of recurrent violence that has bedevilled Africa in general and Southern Africa in particular. As presented in this chapter, it is the mega form of violence in which all other forms of violence such as racism, sexism and tribalism metamorphosise and are reproduced. I argue that xenophobia is a consequence of colonial heritage. Colonialism either created or reinforced clashes of identity (race, tribal cleavages and ethnicity) upon which xenophobia thrives. Theoretically, I adopt the three categories of violence postulated by Slavoj Zizek, namely, subjective violence, symbolic violence and systemic violence to argue that xenophobia has a logic which perpetuates coloniality through various forms of reproduced ‘violences’. Therefore, it should not be analysed as a standalone form of violence, but rather as the main ‘reservoir’ of ‘violences’. Drawing from the Southern African experience, particularly that of Zimbabwe, the chapter identifies three preconditions necessary for the perpetration of xenophobia. They are the construction and reinforcement of certain identities, contestation over land and land ownership and by extension, exclusion from land ownership, and human movement wherein states’ borders are crossed by outsiders thereby encroaching on the territory of the insiders. The chapter reinterprets the occurrence of violence in Zimbabwe and concludes that colonialism explains xenophobic violence.
Everisto Benyera

Chapter 12. Zimbabwe and the Quest for Development: Rethinking the Xeno-Ethnophobia Tint and the Land Reform Question

The imperative to emancipate the black majority citizenry from the imbalances and injustices of unequal access to land inherited from the colonial regime in post-1980, saw Zimbabwe attempting different phases of land reforms. Major amongst Zimbabwe’s land reform strategies was the radical Fast Track Land Reform Programme of 2000, which allowed the unlawful seizure and redistributing of the country’s white commercial owned farms to new black citizenry occupants of African descent. Not only was the reform process effected with arrant disregard for the rule of law, but it was also clouded with antagonisms, severe human rights violations, and xenophobic repercussions, particularly against the white Zimbabwe citizens of European ancestry. This chapter investigates Zimbabwe’s post-2000 land reform programme with a particular focus on identifying the prejudices that tinted the implementation process and its implications on the country’s development prospects. The chapter characterises the prejudices as “xeno-ethnophobic” towards white commercial farm owners, while noting that this analytical dimension of the management of post-2000 land reform strategy in Zimbabwe’s has not been detailed by most researchers and scholarships.
Lukong Stella Shulika, Stella Chewe Sabi

Chapter 13. Xenophobia and the Paradox of Regionalism in Africa: The West African Experience

Xenophobia often manifests as creeping resentment of those who are seen as not belonging, such as immigrants, or as hostilities between groups within a state, fear or phobia toward others, and as the product of fanaticism, extra-nationalism or prejudice against non-natives. For some, it is a thinly veiled mechanism to protect the indigenous economy from domination by non-locals. In Africa, cross-cultural hostilities and violence against foreign nationals have contributed to the difficulties associated with building prosperous economic blocs such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Incidents of xenophobia have weakened efforts to implement the ECOWAS Protocol, which allows for the integration of the West African citizenry, thereby impeding sustainable development in the region. There is a rich literature on the security-development nexus. Xenophobia has become a potent threat to regional peace and stability in West Africa, and Africa at large. This chapter historicizes xenophobic attitudes in West Africa, examines the convergence between xenophobia and economic development, and explores how xenophobic attitudes impede serious attempts at integration in the region. It concludes that intolerance and a crisis of identity, in the form of xenophobia are an impediment to ECOWAS integration and Pan-Africanism. Also, the chapter decries institutional support for xenophobia and the indifference of Africa’s supra-national institutions and calls for a multilateral approach to combat xenophobia on the continent.
Adeoye O. Akinola
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