The Westgate Shopping Mall, situated in Westlands division of Nairobi, Kenya, opened its doors in 2007.
Boasting over 90 stores and 350,000 square feet of retail space, the mall quickly became a popular destination for Kenya’s emerging consumer class and foreign visitors.
With anchor tenants like Nakumatt and Planet Media Cinemas, as well as globally recognized brands such as Adidas, Bata Shoes, and Samsung Mobile, Westgate became synonymous with upscale shopping experiences.
The mall also housed a Barclays Bank branch, Artcaffe, and Millionaires Casino, offering a diverse range of services and entertainment options.
However, the year 2013 marked a tragic turning point in Westgate’s history.
In September of that year, a group of four assailants affiliated with the al-Shabaab militant group stormed the mall, armed with guns and grenades.
They launched a ruthless and indiscriminate attack on unsuspecting shoppers and workers, taking hostages and causing significant damage to the mall’s infrastructure.
The relentless assault spanned four days and resulted in the loss of 68 lives, including men, women, and children from diverse backgrounds, while more than 200 others were injured.
The devastating terrorist attack cast a long shadow over the once-thriving shopping destination. However, the story of Westgate didn’t end with tragedy; it was a testament to resilience and the unwavering spirit of Nairobi’s people.
In the aftermath of the attack, the Westgate Mall remained closed for almost two years.
Meticulous efforts were undertaken to repair the damage and reinforce security measures. The reopening of the mall in July 2015 represented a poignant moment for the community.
It evoked mixed reactions, with some hailing it as a symbol of Nairobi’s unyielding spirit and recovery, while others criticized it as insensitive to the victims. Suggestions were made to convert the mall into a memorial or place of worship to honor those who had lost their lives.
Despite differing opinions, the return of previous tenants and the implementation of enhanced security measures demonstrated a collective commitment to moving forward and restoring normalcy.
The Westgate Mall’s ownership played a role in shaping its recovery.
The mall is owned by Sony Holdings, an Israeli-based company founded by Alex Trachtenberg and Vishiali Madan.
In 2013, the company faced a trade name dispute against Sony Corporation, a Japanese electronics giant, regarding the exclusive trademark registration of ‘Sony’ in Kenya.
Despite Sony Holdings’ attempt to register the trademark being unsuccessful, the company continued its involvement in the mall’s operations.
In 2014, the mall’s management company enlisted the services of IRG, an Israeli security company, to enhance security protocols and train personnel within the mall.