Information behaviour of African immigrants living in Cape Town, South Africa
Muhambe, Baganda Herman
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The study investigated the information seeking behaviour of African immigrants who live in the City of Cape Town, South Africa. The key objectives of the study were to identify information needs and information seeking patterns of African immigrants in the City of Cape Town; to identify barriers between information and these immigrants; and to form strategies or suggestions for overcoming these barriers so that the organisations that serve immigrant communities may better address these information needs. The study applied a mixed methods approach, which included both quantitative and qualitative methods. The two methods were used as a combination in this research so as to take advantage of the strengths of the two approaches. The data collection tools were an administered questionnaire for quantitative data and semi-structured interviews for qualitative data. Pre-testing of research tools, evaluation of research methods, and consideration of ethical issues were discussed to ensure validity and reliability of research findings. The quantitative data were analysed using SPSS and Microsoft Excel, while the qualitative data were analysed using thematic content analysis. The overall response rate was 95% (228 out of 240 sample size). The study was informed by Gary Burnett and Paul T. Jaeger’s (2011) Theory of Information Worlds. The study revealed that, upon African immigrants’ arrival in South Africa, they search for basic information to survive, such as information about jobs, accommodation and a means of self-improvement, including training and learning English. These needs continuously persist as human beings always seek for improvement in life. Over time the need for other types of information, such as information about driving and recreation, including gymnasium training, and services, including health services, also becomes prominent. Therefore, time is one of the factors that influences African immigrants’ information needs. As they become established over time, some of their information needs change.The majority of participants who lived in the City of Cape Town for a long period of time indicated that overall, they found information they needed from different formal sources, including government offices, Non - Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the internet, while those who were relatively new in the Cape Town area mainly consulted friends and relatives for information. The findings of the study highlighted certain issues that African immigrants experience when searching for information. These issues hampered them to not fully access information in order to satisfy their needs. It included the inability to speak English, lack of connections, policies and procedures, discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and a sense of social exclusion, to name a few. The study further revealed that interpersonal information seeking behaviour played a critical role in the lives of African immigrants, not only because of the language barrier, which does not enable them to connect with the outside world, but also because of credibility and trustworthy networking. It was discovered that most African immigrants do not come to South Africa with the whole family straight away without knowing someone already living here in South Africa. Men first come alone, as it is easier for men to survive all kinds of surprises of the journey, to live anywhere with friends while trying to save money, and to make sure they become comfortable with the new surroundings before bringing the family. In this regard, they build information connections with other fellow African immigrants at work, at church and in the area where they live. These new friends become their primary sources of information. Having friends who look like them, share similar backgrounds or speak the same language builds trustworthiness and credibility in African immigrants’ information seeking behaviour. This network kept on growing as African immigrants meet new people throughout their lives in Cape Town. Based on the findings of the study, it is recommended that government; public libraries in the City of Cape Town and NGOs that serve African immigrants take the English language barrier into consideration and create as many facilities as possible where African immigrants can easily learn English at minimum cost. It is also recommended that government institutions, banks and other institutions that might interact with African immigrants create an environment that will be free of all kinds of discrimination when providing information in order for African immigrants to feel welcome and socially included.