Dissertation Abstracts

Towards an Understanding of Informal Nigerian Immigrants’ Business Activities (entrepreneurship) in Ghana

Author: ANTWI BOSIAKOH, Thomas , bosiakoh@gmail.com
Department: Sociology Department
University: Macquarie University, Australia
Supervisor: Associate Professor Ellie Vasta
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Immigrant Entrepreneurship , Informal/SMEs , Mixed Embeddedness Theory , Nigerians in Ghana
Areas of Research: Migration , Economy and Society


Studies in international migration in Ghana have focused almost exclusively on emigration to the more economically advanced western countries in North America and Europe with fewer spotlights on immigration. Even less is a focus on entrepreneurial research (business activities) of the immigrants. Using multiple ethnographic data collection techniques (in-depth interviews, direct observations and key informant interviews), my study seeks to accentuate this gap by concentrating on informal Nigerian immigrant entrepreneurs (business people) in Ghana, interrogating the extent to which the immigrant entrepreneurship literature reflects the nature of migrant entrepreneurship activities in developing economies with arguments grounded in the mixed embeddedness theory.

First I recognize the exclusivity of migration literature in Ghana on emigration to the more economically advanced western countries and point out that, interest in south-south/intra-regional/intra African has been somewhat sidelined. Reflecting the general African scenario much like the case of Western Europe and Asia and elsewhere around the world, I opine that intra-regional or intra-continental migration predominates in Ghanaian international migration, and that research attention is far from recognizing this. More so, I tender that, our knowledge level of the entrepreneurial discourse on immigrants in Ghana is low and thus focus on the informal entrepreneurial activities of Nigerian immigrants in Ghana. My study therefore seeks to understand the nature of informal Nigerian migrants’ economic activities in Accra – Ghana’s capital city, Kumasi – the second largest city, and Ashaiman - a sprawling suburban settlement. The sociological and theoretical questions relate to the relationship between informal immigrant entrepreneurship and mixed embeddedness, namely, what is the relationship between informal immigrant entrepreneurship and mixed embeddedness in a developing economy with weak state regulation?

Forty-eight (48) Nigerian migrant informal entrepreneurs in Ghana (20 each in Accra and Kumasi, and 8 in Ashaiman form the empirical basis of my study. I draw on multiple entry points/contact cases to generate diverse entrepreneurial activities that typify the needs of the study, relying mainly on personal contacts, trusted intermediaries as well as referrals from these personal contacts and trusted intermediaries. Diverse informal entrepreneurial activities including mobile phones and mobile phones accessories vending, auto spare parts shop operation, auto-mechanical repairers, Nigerian restaurant operators, Nigerian foodstuff shop operators and other food joints, scrap dealers among others form the entry points of my interviewee recruitment process, and as snowball poles, were relied upon for further identification of others engaged in (dis)similar activities. Four (4) Nigerian immigrant community leaders in Accra and Kumasi, a representative from the Nigerian High Commission in Accra, one official from the Ghanaian ministry of trades and industry, one of Ghana’s foremost professors in migration studies etc, have also been interviewed.

The findings of my work have the potential to make significant contributions to south-south migration generally and more particularly to immigrant entrepreneurship discourse with a non-western empirical frame. I hope to extend the arguments on immigrant entrepreneurship beyond ‘the morphology of Western bourgeois capitalism’ and make a nuanced case for informality so characteristic of immigrant entrepreneurial activities/enterprises in developing economies.