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Hurdles to trade? South Africa’s immigration policy and informal sector cross-border traders in the SADC

9. Conclusions and recommendations

Informal cross-border trade should be included in conceptions of regional patterns of trade and in policies concerned with developing a regional economy and poverty reduction through the promotion of regional trade and economic linkages. Including South Africa’s immigration policy. These entrepreneurs travel with the goods being traded. Obstacles that are placed in the way of their movement are also obstacles to trade.

Failure to facilitate this sector of regional trade means that it will not be able to develop the potential of the sector to: contribute to poverty alleviation, the empowerment of women, the development of new regional markets and entrepreneurs or to bring together informal and formal sector activities.

The goods carried by informal cross-border traders mirror those of formal sector trade. In the case of South Africa, goods bought for export by these traders lie in areas which the South African government is promoting in its manufacturing export strategy (Davies 1997; Creamer 1998).

The growing trade between South Africa and the region, the SADC Free Trade Protocol, the new language of borderlands among southern African policy makers, as well as attempts by certain regional governments to develop cross-border development projects suggest that southern African and South African officials are moving towards a transnational conception of development and trade relationships (Rogerson 1998). Literature on borderlands, globalisation , transnationalism and the globalisation of capital often imply that national borders are diminishing in importance. So, it is often argued migrants and capital are less constrained by national boundaries, capital and entrepreneurs straddle and may even be constituted by (in identity and practice) borders. While these arguments resonate with the activities of these traders, the studies referred to in this paper suggest that, notwithstanding their movements, the activities of these entrepreneurs are constrained and slowed by regulatory frameworks, particularly the immigration regime, and a lack of attention to their activities by policy makers which do not acknowledge the transnational nature of their business and movements.

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