Despite ongoing conflicts, Somalia’s economy has evolved considerably since the disintegration of the central state in 1991. However, our knowledge and understanding of how transnational Somali economic life is organised and how it influences political dynamics remains limited. As part of the research programme “Governing Economic Hubs and Flows in Somali East Africa” (GOVSEA) this working paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the subject. This paper presents a summary analysis of key features of the Somali economy and proposes a periodisation of the evolution of Somali business between 1991 and today: from the heavily informalised economy of the 1980s, the violent markets of the early 1990s and the subsequent ‘duty-free shop’ period, to the emergence of a more regulated economy with a significant development of multi-clan shareholder companies since the mid-2000s. In doing so, this paper offers numerous empirical and analytical insights into the relationship between trade, violence and regulation. With ongoing and future research on this topic in mind, we suggest a series of research questions and conceptualise the nexus between everyday economic activities and state formation dynamics. Finally, we propose a ‘corridor approach’, focussing on transnational corridors of trade and transport that traverse Somali East Africa, as a way of grasping the complex and dynamic interactions between state formation and everyday economic activity.