Xenophobia is described as an irrational unreasoned fear of what is different, strange or foreign. The term is derived from the Greek words xenos meaning stranger and phobos meaning fear. In its least virile form Xenophobia leads to discrimination. The sentiment is often fanned by vested interests for economic or political gain. Thus exploited xenophobia leads to war, violence and hatred.
Human history is replete with examples of the horrors of hatred of aliens. Some of the more prominent examples in the unending list are:
- The near annihilation of the Native Americans,
- The caste system in India,
- The ethnic cleansing of the Jews during the Holocaust
- The unbridled violence perpetrated on the African Americans by the Ku Klux Klan
- The genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda
- The merciless wars between the Croats, Serbs, Bosnians and Slovenes ( 1991 to 1995)
- The inhuman treatment of the native people of Africa by the colonizing powers.
On a smaller scale hate crimes against foreigners are perpetrated in almost every country of the world.
Xenophobic violence is normally perpetrated by a small group of criminals who miss the larger picture. They hold that foreigners have taken possession of their nation, culture, or economy. This may be the case. In Africa the thriving hospitality industry is owned by American, European or African businessmen. The trickle-down effect is negligible as profits are mostly repatriated. Resources in most parts of the world are controlled and owned by an elite super minority. The rest of the population has nothing else but the ability to work. Workers often feel exploited especially in times of an economic slow-down. The anger and frustration builds up and when a suitable object presents itself, the violence is unleashed. Unfortunately it is not released on the haves but on their fellow worker who, though from a different cultural background are also have-nots like them.
Patriotic citizens maintain that aliens have come into their territory to take over their jobs their country and their resources. Menial work in many countries is undertaken by the perceived aliens as the residents do not wish to soil their hands. Thus masons, carpenters, brick layers, street cleaners, drainage workers and plumbers are often the target of xenophobic violence.
Xenophobia is a global phenomenon. However as in the globalised climate no economy can survive in isolation, governments are hard pressed control both the causes and effects of xenophobia. A country like China with billions of people and immense natural resources cannot grow economically with off shore investment. Money, sustainability and profit have zero tolerance for xenophobia.
Otto Stehlik, founder of the Protea Group immigrated to South Africa from Australia in 1970. His business skills in the hospitality industry have significantly benefitted South African economy. He says that he focuses on respect for human dignity and giving the best service. The recent xenophobic violence will only harm the South Africa’s economy. There are only negatives and no positives to this senseless violence. Once a nation is perceived as being unsafe, its image is damaged and international relations are impeded. This destroys the nation’s economic structure.
The worst hit sector of the economy is tourism. Once tourists are scared off it is difficult to bring them back. In the current global environment tourism plays a pivotal role in a nation’s economy, be it a developed, developing or less developed country. Tourism earns foreign exchange and generates employment. It is a major contributor to the nation’s Balance of Payments. Safety is a prerequisite for tourism to flourish.
In addition to the damage done to the tourism industry other sectors are also affected as investors are even more skittish than tourists. Further the repair and reconstruction of the damage cause by the destructive forces of violence, war and hatred is a drain on the economy as is the loss of man-hours due to riots and closures.
In conclusion we can say that if a nation is to flourish economically xenophobia must be extinguished completely.