Topic: Being Global and Being Regional: African female refugees setting up and running an enterprise in non-metropolitan Australia
Key words: African refugees; female entrepreneurship; regional
Refugees are the most disadvantaged cohort of immigrant arrivals and face the greatest settlement difficulties in regional and rural Australia. Refugees face severe difficulties in entering the Australian labour market as regional and rural labour markets are even more constrained. One strategy adopted by refugees over many decades in Australia and other countries to overcome this blocked labour market mobility (Collins, 2003) and engage with the economy is to create their own jobs through refugee entrepreneurship. Refugee entrepreneurship in Australia is shaped by the intersection of a number of factors: ethnic resources and networks, class resources, regimes of regulation, inclusion/exclusion, opportunity, family relations, gender and racialisation.
This paper presents the data gathered from interviews with 15 African female refugee entrepreneurs currently living in regional and rural Australia. It investigates the reasons why female refugees started-up their own business, their strategies for overcoming the massive obstacles they faced setting up the business and the extent to which their businesses are embedded in their family and community. African female entrepreneurs located in non-metropolitan Australia are also involved in diasporic entrepreneurship, with the critical role that international social networks of immigrant communities play in the dynamics and success of those enterprises. The field work identified strong relation between resources obtained from personal network ties of the African female refugees and start-up success of their enterprises, as well through the process of internationalisation. African female refugees benefited from social networks and commitment among the family but even more from the trust and relationship established and maintained through personal contacts with overseas based buyers and suppliers.
The paper also reflects on the experience of formal and informal discrimination, the extent to which the racialization of female refugees in Australia has shaped their lives, blocked their access to the labour market, and influenced moving into specific ethnic niche industries, as well as some contradictions embedded in the refugee entrepreneurship paradox in Australia.