Over a thousand Kenyan traders protested in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday against Chinese traders.
The demo comes in the wake of controversy elicited by the coming of China Square retail outlet of general merchandise whose prices are on average 45 percent lower than those prevailing in locally owned enterprises, local media reports.
China is Africa’s top trading partner and more than 1 million Chinese are estimated to reside on the continent.
Kenya’s relationship with China was in focus during last year’s presidential election, won by William Ruto. Ruto promised to publish government contracts with China agreed upon under his predecessor and to deport Chinese nationals working illegally.
Dressed in dust coats used in their retail outlets, the traders marched to the office of the deputy president and to parliament to submit a petition against the Chinese retailers.
“The Chinese cannot be importers, retailers, wholesalers, and hawkers,” read one placard held aloft during the protest. Some chanted “Chinese must go!”
Trade Minister Moses Kuria has offered to take over China Square’s lease from its Chinese owner and hand it to local traders, but Korir Sing’oei, the principal secretary at Kenya’s ministry of foreign affairs, stressed on Twitter that all investors are welcome, irrespective of their nationality.
Wu Peng, the top African official at China’s ministry of foreign affairs welcomed Sing’oei’s assurance on Twitter.
China Square’s owner Lei Cheng has reportedly told a local newspaper that he was inspired to open the shop after finding the prices at a Nairobi supermarket to be exorbitant, Reuters reported.
Ruto followed through in November on his campaign promise to publish documents related to $3 billion in loans for a controversial Chinese railway built under his predecessor.