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China Square sparks trade controversy in Kenya

China Square, a Chinese-owned supermarket in Nairobi has been trending in the last few days after Kenyan traders complained that it was was driving them out of business with low-priced goods.

The Chinese mall which opened on January 29 is offering a range of household items, from kitchenware to furniture and hardware and is very popular with Kenyan consumers.

However Kenyan traders from various competing trading centres took their complaints to Kenyan deputy president Rigathi Gachagua last week, appealing for action and threatening to stage protests.

“I have hosted representatives of small traders from Nyamakima, Kamukunji, Gikomba, and River Road for discussions on addressing challenges in their businesses in the capital city,” Gachagua said after the meeting on Thursday.

Then the Kenyan Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria said he discussed with Kenyatta University, which owns Unicity Mall, about leasing the site to the competing small traders. “I have today given an offer to … Kenyatta University to buy out the lease for China Square, Unicity Mall and hand it over to the Gikomba, Nyamakima, Muthurwa and Eastleigh Traders Association [Kenyan small scale traders],” Kuria said.

The Cabinet Secretary said he would help China Square’s owner to set up a manufacturing plant in Kenya to produce goods that could be traded rather than competing with local small-scale traders. “We welcome Chinese investors to Kenya as manufacturers not traders.”

Kuria said he will assist China Square owner Mr Cheng to set up a manufacturing plant in Kenya and work on a distribution partnership with Gikomba, Nyamakima, Eastleigh, Kamukunji, Muthurwa and River Road Traders.

China Square owner Lei Cheng said on Sunday that it would stop operations temporarily “to allow us to re-evaluate and replan our company strategy”. He said the company would also be “considering the possibility of cooperating with local traders to enhance our offerings and better integrate with the community”.

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