Networks Matter – Urban Migration or The Alternative Liveable Cities Index

After posting the previous report on Global Cities: Quality of Life, Liveability and Cost of Living Surveys 2012 – What are they worth? it occurred to me that there might be a variety of alternative rankings of where the best places to live are and this would obviously depend on who you are,  your financial situation and  the quality of life  you currently experience in the place you wish to leave. So I did a little research and although  I could not directly find what I was looking for here are some musings and links that might be of interest in countering the impression that we all have to move to Helsinki or Melbourne.The majority of the worlds population live where they  are – that is where they were born . I am one of them and have happily lived and worked my whole life here in Cape Town unlike many of my school friends, relatives  and business associates who emigrated to Australia , Europe or the USA in the Apartheid era.  However, for those unable or unwilling to stay in the untenable or desperate situation they find where they were born, they decide or are forced to move – usually to the nearest town or closest city they can get to – where they hope they will be able to find work and a place to stay,  in deciding which city to “trek” to they definitely don’t have access to any of the aforementioned elite media  or a high speed internet connection to check out  what city to live in.My own parents, poor(-ish), but educated, white South Africans  made the transition from a rural  farming background  in the pre- 2nd World War depression era to leave their   rural life which was plagued by drought and uncertain farming commodity markets  to seek a better future in the city and to find jobs then said to be available in government as a teacher and a Posts and Telegraph technician in Cape Town.  Their parents were in turn descendants of European migrants who, several generations earlier, had fled from religious persecution in rural France and from famine and wars  in Ireland and staking everything on flimsy evidence and penniless had immigrated to South Africa, landed n Cape Town and eventually found a place to settle in the somewhat desolate North West of the country in Namaqualand. My parents in their move to the city soon after they married, took advantage of kin-ship networks of family who had already moved or had strong ties with trade and professional work in the Mother City. With much less opportunity but probably from similar conditions, currently waves of rural and small town inhabitants are migrating to the cities nearest to them or to more distant cities which offer the promise of a better life or at least hope of survival where their current conditions seem to be hopeless.

Interestingly though, the amount of information passed through the refugee and  rural urban migration  networks must include a vast and largely  undocumented information resource on the opportunities, dangers and “how to get by” in the foreign and unknown urban environment.  There is a growing body of work on these migrant networks and the implied social capital of their ethnic and kinship networks e.g the work of Abdou Maliq Simone “Moving Towards Uncertainty: Migration and the Turbulence of African Urban Life”  who along with many other researchers on the urbanism of the global South such as the paper Networks matter : the value of kinship ties in the Zimbabwean migration landscape” presented by Khangelani MOYO  at a the African Migrations Workshop in Dakar Sengal  in 2010, are increasingly drawing different conclusions about African migration and what makes a city liveable and that these metrics are very different to those  that are cites by the World Bank, UNEP and simialar organisations who participate in African Aid and in cause what some authors  term “African Dependance”

The cultural and social capital that is exhibited here in Cape Town by migrant Malawians that obviously informs them on how to use photocopied/printed  slips of paper detailing their availability, skills as gardeners, domestic help or similar jobs they are willing to do,  which they deposit in suburban houses letter boxes or hand out  at traffic lights, is a unique attribute of a specific nations social capital.  The conditions that drive these quite well educated job-seekers to leave their homeland, and take on menial work in order to be able to sustain themselves and send income to supplement their  families livelihood in the home country, is in all respects the same as that drove my ancestors and parents to migrate and seeks a better life for themselves and their children..

UN Refugee agency 2012

Similarly refugee Somalians must have an extensive social network  that allows them tobecome street traders or “spaza” shop owners in the local townships, at transport interchanges and on the streets around major shopping areas, often displacing less organised or networked locals and  even to opening small cafes and shops in the periphery of  central Cape Town. This has been postulated a the source of xenophobia and a smouldering resentment can be palpably  felt amongst the traders on the Grand parade for example and at places like Bellville Transit interchange where the dominance of foreign nationals as traders is visible in the religious dress of the women and the presence of mosques in and prayer time  observances on the pavement, more suggestive of a North African city that post-apartheid Cape Town e.g.  Zaheera Jinnah’s paper  Making Home in a Hostile Land: Understanding Somali Identity, Integration, Livelihood and Risks in Johannesburg”

More recently the  Gauteng City-Region Observatory released is Quality of Life Survey which included a range of reports, for example on  ‘Xenophobic attitudes” which reported: “A shocking 69% of respondents in a recent survey agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “foreigners are taking benefits meant for South Africans”.

While this might seem like a unique South African problem in the context of  the history of Apartheid, forced migration and urban segregation, it is not  and in Simone Abram’s   discussion of the concept(s) of culture  and national identity in his recent book, “Culture and Planning”,  he quotes a study by Marianne Gullestad which compares attitudes of two authors to race and xenophobia in Norway from both the perspective of Norwegians and that of ethnic and religious minorities and situates these problematic differences of points of view in a what, to non- Norwegians, appears to be a fairly racially homogenous country which is yet culturally diverse.  She states ” It is not the white Norwegian’s encounter with persons of colour which is significant, but the meaning of this encounter in a much broader and enduring history that extends the geographical reach into colonialism, and the anti-Semitic and eugenics movements between the two World Wars” This is of course particularly relevant in the light of Anders Behring Breivik’s recent trial guilty verdict, 21 year jail sentence of and his defiant attitude and belief that his killing of  77 people  last summer was an act of “National Defence”

What this might mean in terms a “liveability” is debatable – is a liberal and sustainable but cold and rarely xenophobic Norwegian city more liveable that a hot  North African or Middle Eastern city where there are no jobs and incessant warfare but you are in  a close-knit web of family and religious  networks – which is more liveable?

The Alternative Liveable Cities Index – or “how to get by wherever you are “. Enough for now more to come soon………

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One thought on “Networks Matter – Urban Migration or The Alternative Liveable Cities Index”

  1. I think aobut this issue, specially in my home town Rio where we hava a “break city” and the slum being as a touristic place. Lower middle class growing but human being values keeping apart and the city for Olympic games 2016 is getting renewing for “English people see”….How to make tha city liveable for their people ?

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