Obama warned S.Africa to address underlining causes of xenophobia last year


The United States President Barack Obama warned South Africa of underlining causes of xenophobia saying it needed to help regional peers democratise or risk influx of immigrants.

Obama in direct reference to Zimbabwe warned that the ballooning number of immigrants getting into South Africa was going to stretch the country’s social system with possibilities of raising tensions in communities. 

(READ MORE: Xenophobia shatters the South African dream: The human story)


Speaking to the Economist last year, Obama warned that South Africa needed to address legitimacy crisis and other challenges in countries producing a huge number of immigrants like Zimbabwe to help alleviate pressure on its economy.

“…If [South Africa] fails to invest in the kind of international order or regional order that helps ordinary Zimbabweans thrive, then they’re going to have an immigration problem—which they already do,” said Obama.

“That, in turn, is going to put more pressure on them and their economies. And ultimately, those chickens will come home to roost.”

The recent spate of xenophobic attacks have seen locals accusing foreign nationals of stealing jobs from South Africans, an allegation dismissed by a number of organisations including The World Bank. 

Obama warned South Africa that it needed to stop President Robert Mugabe from rigging elections in Zimbabwe as that contributed to the endless influx of immigrants into South Africa, with the potential for xenophobic violence.

According to New World Wealth figures, Zimbabwe is the worst performing country in Africa, in terms of wealth per capita performance since 2000.

Contributing factors to Zimbabwe’s poor performance since 2000 include the erosion of ownership rights in the country, the banning of the independent media in the early 2000’s.

(READ MORE: Xenophobia grips S.Africa’s cultural melting pot)

“This has created a situation where it is impossible for investors to tell what is happening there. Foreign journalists are also not allowed inside Zimbabwe. The only TV footage that comes out of Zimbabwe comes from state-owned TV stations,” said New World Wealth.

Back in 2000, Zimbabwe was one of the wealthiest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on a wealth per capita basis, ranked ahead of the likes of Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Zambia and Ghana.

However, now it is ranked well behind these countries.