Cellphones are a key tool which help refugees in South Africa navigate through their new lives, a study conducted by a UCT PHD student, has found.
The study was conducted byKasky Bisimwa Bacishoga himself a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I had no choice but to leave my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, as my life was threatened,” explained the University of Cape Town’s postgraduate commerce student in a statement.
“Being a well-educated person with an Honours degree, upon my arrival in South Africa, my assumptions were that greater democracy and development would imply greater freedom for urban refugees.”
Yet, he said, he soon discovered his assumptions were wrong: “I was confused by the failures that I was experiencing in locating better opportunities.
“I felt revolted by experiencing the way discriminatory practices such as social exclusion and xenophobia, and marginalisation were hindering the abilities of urban refugees to act on their ascribed rights and opportunities in South Africa.”
So, Bacishoga set out to explore whether the communicative technology of cellphones was beneficial to refugees in finding a way to participate in society.
He found that indeed they allowed people to engage with wider networks, as well as to make and maintain connections to cultural and social groups.
The multi-tasking capabilities of phones enabled refugees to feel a sense of independence in problem solving. Ownership of a phone also created a sense of security for those displaced from home.
“The findings of his thesis have the potential to contribute to the government policy development process and organisations seeking to assist urban refugees, by facilitating the formulation of their intervention strategies,” said the University of Cape Town in a statement.