17 August 2012

Kenya: City Hawkers Protest Chinese Infiltration

Photo: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Maasai Market, Nairobi (file photo): Local traders have petitioned the government to bar Chinese traders from running small businesses.

Hawkers in Nairobi yesterday demonstrated against Chinese businessmen whom they said are taking over their business in Nairobi. The hawkers who started their demonstration from the populous Eastleigh area to the CBD staged a sit in at the Prime Minister's office.

They sent a petition to the trade ministry, town clerk Roba Duba, the KRA and the Chinese Embassy demanding that action be taken against the Chinese hawkers who have infiltrated the city. "The Chinese must go. Let them come and build roads. We don't want them to manufacture goods, export them to Kenya, and engage in wholesale, retail and even hawking the goods," said James Thamo, one of the protestors.

The protestors said the Chinese are selling their goods, which mainly include textiles and mobile phones at throw away prices. "When we go to the Embassy to ask for a Visa to go to China, we are only given a two weeks Visa. This is a very short a time to import goods. They are unfair to us and have threatened our businesses." Thamo said.

The hawkers also said the Chinese do not have work permits and that most of them are taking three months wok permits to hawk in Kenya. "The government must protect us. We are not enemies of China, we want them to come as investors and not as hawkers," said Ben Mutahi, the chairman of the Kenya Worldwide Importers and Traders Association.

However, police are still seeking to establish the source of leaflets that were scattered around businesses owned by Chinese traders warning them to close shop early this week. The leaflets said Kenyans were tired of the Chinese traders, who have allegedly taken over hawking jobs from locals, with the unnamed authors signing off that they will stage the 'mother of all demonstrations' in the city to push them out.

Nairobi governor hopefull Evans Kidero called on the government to take stern action against Chinese hawkers who do not have working permits. "Who gave Chinese hawkers work permits to do business? They can't speak English. We welcome investors. Hawking is not an investment. We need to the law to be applied and the government needs to withdraw wrongly given licenses," Kidero said.

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