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SOCIAL NETWORKS, DREAMS AND RISKS: ETHIOPIAN IRREGULAR MIGRANTS INTO SOUTH AFRICA [Abstract ID: 1002-03]
The meaning of personal relationships for Ethiopian migrants to South Africa is shaped by individual connections, by imported social networks, and by the particular conditions of livelihood creation in the informal economy of South Africa. This study looks into how the narratives of pioneer Ethiopian migrants, manifested in sent-back-home materials and social media applications, induce further migration. An Ethnographic research method is employed in Southern Ethiopia and South Africa to look into the nexus among social networks, dreams and risks. The financial and material success representation of Ethiopian migrants in South Africa is in sharp contrast to the low living standard in rural southern Ethiopia. The effect of this on the sending communities is to paint a rosy picture about South Africa intensifying youth migration to South Africa as well as blinding potential migrants to the multitude of risks they encounter in the migration and settlement processes. The male-dominated migration of Ethiopians into South Africa has also induced the migration of "would-be-wives" females, who share the same dream and encounter risks of diverse kind. Once they arrive in South Africa, they experience both separation and reconnection - with families and relatives back home. The social world of Ethiopian migrants in South Africa becomes even more complex once they arrive in South Africa. Many social connections and dislocations are affected by the life choices in which income generation and economic relations are the primary aim and social relations are necessarily a secondary aim. Others are influenced by the strength of informal social networks that serve the needs of Ethiopian migrants. And, far from ‘here’ and ‘there’ being connected through the use of technology and advanced connectivity, ‘home’ and South Africa are experienced as quite separate and different places.