Bamboo shoots : Asian migration, trade and business networks in South Africa
CITATION: Kerby, E. 2018. Bamboo shoots : Asian migration, trade and business networks in South Africa. Journal for Studies in Economics and Econometrics, 42(2):103-137.
The original publication is available at https://journals.co.za
Interconnected business and trade routes, or “bamboo networks” have long been recognised as engines of growth in Asia. However, as Asian migration expands to Africa, what are their impact? This paper examines the links between trade flows and Taiwanese migration in South Africa from 1975 to 1995. Constructing a bilateral trade series from novel declassified migration and trade data, two aspects of the change in trade are quantified: Firstly, how did international trade change during sanctions, vis-à-vis South Africa and its largest OECD trading partners? Secondly, using migration data, I examine the extent to which the 1975 immigration of Taiwanese investors to South Africa could have increased and diversified trade between the two countries through their investment. Three years after the lifting of sanctions, the share of South African exports to Taiwan was both greater, but importantly more diversified in the sectors in which migrants invested. Using archival accounts, I discuss the possible processes through which these changes to trade could have occurred. Known as the migrant-trade effect, the results suggest that Taiwanese entrepreneurs increased trade by forming business networks and supply chains linking them to Asian markets.