As xenophobic violence rears its head again in South Africa, a widely quoted figure of how many Nigerians live in South Africa is completely unsupported.
Xenophobic unrest has flared up in parts of South Africa once again, with incidents of looting and violence reported in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The Nigerian government is said to have asked the African Union to intervene in the violence targeted at its own nationals. News reports documenting this repeatedly quote a figure of “around 800,000 Nigerians living in South Africa”.
The figure has previously been attributed to the spokesman for the Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA).
Is it validated by current data?
Nigerian Union uses ‘approximated figure’
NUSA spokesman, Eneka Ezinteje, told Africa Check that the 800,000 figure is an “approximated figure based on projections from current data”.
The union issues each member with an ID card and collects data on the number of Nigerians from its 76 wards scattered across the country. The NUSA ID card is only issued to Nigerian passport holders.
But Ezinteje couldn’t confirm the exact number of ID cards issued by NUSA and whether every Nigerian living in South Africa (including naturalised South Africans) have the ID card.
2016 data shows just over 30,000 Nigerians in South Africa
The most recent data on how many Nigerians (and other foreign-born migrants) are living in South Africa is to be found in Statistics South Africa’s 2016 Community Survey.
It estimated that 30,314 people – or roughly 2% of foreign-born people living in South Africa – are from Nigeria. South Africa’s 2011 census found this figure to be 26,341. The United Nation’s estimate for 2015 was even lower, at 17,753. (Note: In a blog post, University of Cape Town demography professor Tom Moultrie explains how these estimates were calculated and why they differ.)
“There is absolutely no way that this claim is true,” Loren Landau, a research professor based at the African Centre for Migration and Society, told Africa Check.
“If you look at Statistics South Africa data, there are only about 1.5 to 2 million international migrants in total in the country. Although these figures are undoubtedly imperfect, they are better than any other data out there.”
Conclusion: No data supports claim that 800,000 Nigerians live in South Africa
The Nigerian Union South Africa did not provide data to back up their claim that 800,000 Nigerians are living in South Africa.
Available estimates from Statistics South Africa and the United Nations show just over 30,000 Nigerians in South Africa. Although these figures are imperfect, they come nowhere close 800,000.