Skip to main content

Promoting ethnic entrepreneurship in European cities

Publication Papers

Blackberry smartphones, McDonald’s hamburgers, Dolce & Gabbana belts and Levi’s jeans, but also Chinese bubble tea, Turkish döner kebab, Bollywood movies and Moroccan henna. 

The appearance of this ever-broadening range of ‘exotic’ products in shops in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Istanbul or Lisbon reveals some of the deepening links between less-developed and advanced economies.

The ethnic and sociocultural make-up of many advanced economies has significantly changed as flows of long-distance migration from ever more locations increased in the second half of the twentieth century. Immigrants from both developed and less-developed countries moved to advanced economies, embodying the complex process of globalisation in a very palpable sense. These two highly visible aspects of globalisation – the international mobility of capital and labour – are often directly related as immigrants themselves introduce their products and services to far-off places. They start businesses in their countries of settlement and become ‘self-employed’, ‘new entrepreneurs’, ‘immigrant entrepreneurs’ or ‘ethnic entrepreneurs’.

Notwithstanding the increasing numbers of ethnic entrepreneurs from less-developed countries who set up shop, they have long remained out of sight and out of mind in the public and political discourse of Europe. In socioeconomic terms, for a long time these immigrants were largely viewed as workers. Immigrants were predominantly depicted as suppliers of cheap, low-skilled labour in advanced economies. Only more recently has attention shifted towards immigrants who start their own businesses.