Diaspora-driven development in stateless Somalia: all relationships are local relationships


In the wake of state collapse, Somali society today has become decidedly globalized, leaning heavily on capital from its widely-dispersed diaspora funneled in through the conduits of an informal economic system for both subsistence and overall economic livelihood. Despite the great distances often separating them, Somalis remain linked by common ethnic and cultural bonds. These links are both social and economic, and are heavily reliant on telecommunications technology, a key concept discussed in this study. The Somali economy, driven largely by the widespread informal Hawalaad financial transfer system, bypasses the commercial and financial channels that have been voided by the lack of a state; it instead largely emphasizes societal networks and cultural norms. This study examines how the Somali commercial diaspora has made extensive use of these informal avenues to invest in their homeland. Special attention is paid to the nature of Somali social networking; the establishment and maintenance of trust, in commercial endeavors undertaken in an unstable environment. This in turn illustrates the notion that despite unstable, often hostile conditions inhibiting most commercial endeavors in a conflict-ridden state or a state in a complex emergency situation, different segments of the Somali diaspora have come into a position to make unique contributions towards development in their homeland. While the most evident and most analyzed of these contributions are taking place in the informal finance and telecommunications sectors, this thesis also suggests a gradual expansion of diaspora endeavors into other facets of development, including transport, health, and other basic services. This thesis argues that despite the absence of a government, Somalia's commercial diaspora has been able to not only cope and devise creative solutions to replace certain critical services lost in the vacuum left by the collapse of the government, but also in facilitating a degree of development as well. This development is shaped and directed by the endogenous cultural attributes of Somali society, and contribute to improved standards of living and livelihoods for certain sectors of Somali society that would otherwise be worse-off.


Political Science Department

Degree Name

MA in Political Science

Date of Award


Online Submission Date

March 2013

First Advisor

Elnur, Ibrahim

Committee Member 1

Elnur, Ibrahim

Committee Member 2

McMahon, Sean

Document Type



149 p.


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