Somalis in South Africa
|Regions with significant populations|
|Johannesburg · Durban · Cape Town · Pretoria|
|Somali · Arabic · English|
Following the civil war in Somalia that broke out in 1991, a number of Somalis emigrated to South Africa. They soon established themselves in the commercial sector, creating employment opportunities for themselves and opening their own stores.
Somali businesses have offered goods to customers at lower prices than their local competitors, cornering the market in many areas. By 2010, Somali entrepreneurs provided most of the retail trade in informal settlements around the Western Cape province, among other places. Somali-owned convenience shops selling products like snacks, soft drinks and clothing have been especially successful.
In 2008, xenophobic riots against immigrants broke out in the Western Cape province, displacing some 20,000 foreign nationals. The Somali community's insular nature reportedly helped protect it from the worst of the violence. However, many Somali-owned stores and supermarkets were destroyed and looted.
Concurrently, Somali traders and establishments have become increasingly targeted for violence and robbery. The willingness of many Somali merchants to work anywhere, including run-down townships, has facilitated the attacks. Although South African business people envious of the Somalis' entrepreneurial success have been blamed for fomenting the hostilities, most of the incidents have been linked to criminals and "tsotsis" (gangsters) working on behalf of local community leaders.
Somalis in South Africa have formed a unified ethnic network, largely keeping to themselves. A Muslim population, they marry within their own community and seek to preserve their culture. Their customs, physical appearance and religious background distinguish them from other residents.
The Somali community in South Africa is represented by the Somali Association of South Africa (SASA), chaired by Hanad Mohamed. According to the organization, following a greatly ameliorated political situation in Somalia in 2012, some Somali immigrants have started again repatriating back to their native country for the first time in ten years.
Somalis in South Africa are diplomatically represented by the embassy of Somalia in Pretoria. The office is intended to protect the interests and rights of Somali expatriates in the country, to tap into new commercial opportunities for Somali businesspeople, and to strengthen diplomatic representation in the region.
- Jinnah, Zaheera. "Making Home in a Hostile Land: Understanding Somali Identity, Integration, Livelihood and Risks in Johannesburg" (PDF). J Sociology Soc Anth, 1 (1-2): 91-99 (2010). KRE Publishers. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
- "SOMALIA-SOUTH AFRICA: Foreign competitors not welcome". IRIN. 17 October 2008. Archived from the original on March 22, 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Ivor Powell, Lavern de Vries (14 July 2010). "Local xenophobes still plague foreigners". IOL. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Simao, Paul (13 February 2007). "27 held after anti-Somali riot". Reuters. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- Honorine, Solenn (28 November 2012). "Somali Refugees Struggle in South Africa". VOA. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
- "Foreign Representatives in South Africa". Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- "Somalia Sends First-Ever Ambassador to South Africa". VOA. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2015.