Since the collapse of the Somali state, Nairobi's Eastleigh estate has played host to thousands of Somali refugees and developed from a quiet residential suburb to a major East African commercial hub. This article examines this transformation, arguing that it builds on pre-existing cross border trade networks, as well as diaspora and Kenyan sources of capital, and regional and global processes that intensified in the early 1990s. The Eastleigh story provides a lens through which we trace economic changes associated with Somalia's extended statelessness, in particular how connective fabric has been generated and sustained in this stateless period. However, the Eastleigh story is not just one of Somali statelessness, but also of interaction with other states. In particular, this article focuses on the ambiguous relationship of Eastleigh to the Kenyan state, suggesting that Somali business in Eastleigh, although born of a collapsed state and informality, is integrated in various ways into the formal state-regulated sector. Furthermore, Eastleigh businesspeople hope for more Kenyan state involvement in the estate to provide better security and infrastructure, while Somali businesspeople in general long for a viable Somali state that will allow them to invest their capital at home.
- transnational trade
- urban transformation