Refugees in the Southern Africa Route come from many countries including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. These mixed migrants leave for a variety of reasons such as conflict, food insecurity, religious persecution, or economic failure. The route is circuitous, with migrants crossing multiple borders in roundabout paths, with many moving circularly between countries of origin and host countries as conflicts ebb and flow, or as economic opportunities change over time.
Our RIT cases in the region offer a local-level view of this transnational movement, sharing refugees’ experiences in host cities ranging from their integration to educational systems (Cape Town & Makhanda, South Africa) to economic integration through small business entrepreneurship (Bloemfontein, South Africa). Our cases demonstrate how regional migration is creating interdependencies between cities in different countries, like the newly intertwined economies and trade between Mangochi and Johannesburg created by growing numbers of Malawian migrants in South Africa. While we show the advantages that African cities might offer refugees, we also demonstrate the risks of urban integration, particularly in cities hostile to migrants like Dar es Salaam. Finally, we examine the complicated experiences of refugee returnees with our case in Harare, where returnees at once feel at home and like foreigners in their own country.