Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Richard J. Grant

Second Committee Member

Thomas D. Boswell

Third Committee Member

Alejandro Portes


In the absence of coherent and evenly implemented spatial planning in post-apartheid Johannesburg, foreign nationals are perceived to have contributed to the spatial fragmentation of the city and exacerbated social distance through enclave formation and discourses of separation from locals. Yet in other ways, immigrant economies and community governance structures connect disparate parts of Johannesburg and work to bridge a city that has become increasingly divided along economic lines. This thesis examines how the social and built environments of Johannesburg have shaped economic strategies and efforts to secure business space by foreign communities and how these strategies are perceived ethically. A study of Somali firms is analyzed geographically to show how xenophobia has shaped the Somali ethnic economy in Gauteng, and the territorial organization of the Somali ethnic enclave in Johannesburg is compared to that of other immigrant business areas in the central city through case studies and semi-structured interviews. The experiences of immigrants doing business in Johannesburg and the ways in which immigrant groups have used and secure the built environment in Johannesburg have shaped not only the economic relationships between immigrants and the host community, but also ethical perceptions of inclusion, exclusion, and the role of foreign nationals in South Africa.


Ethnic economy; immigrant entrepreneurs; immigration ethics; ethnic enclave; Johannesburg; Somali refugees