On Tuesday, over a thousand Kenyan traders demonstrated in Nairobi against Chinese traders.
The demonstration follows the uproar caused by the arrival of the China Square retail outlet of general merchandise, whose prices are on average 45 percent lower than those found in locally owned businesses, according to local media.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner, with an estimated 1 million Chinese residents on the continent.
Kenya’s relationship with China was highlighted during William Ruto’s presidential election victory last year. Ruto promised to publish government contracts signed with China by his predecessor and to deport Chinese nationals working illegally.
The traders marched to the deputy president’s office and parliament, dressed in the dust coats they use in their stores, to file 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.