A Chinese trader is pictured at Gikomba market in Nairobi on May 31, 2019. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Chinese still run show in Gikomba
Young men carry loads on their shoulders, making their way through the crowded streets and navigating between cars and handcarts. Handcart pullers skilfully manoeuvre on what is left of the narrow road, occasionally shouting for help to pull the large loads up a steep hill. Traders line their wares on the sides of the road and loudly compete for potential customers, urging them to look their way.
It is business as usual at Gikomba Market.
The Daily Nation returned to the popular market a month after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i ordered the deportation of Chinese traders who had cheated immigration laws to hawk petty goods in the country.
A visit to the stores where wholesalers sell large bundles of second hand clothes, the same places where Chinese were found running huge businesses a few weeks ago, shows that Kenyan traders have repossessed the slots. Though their presence has been neutralised, traders say they cannot do without Chinese imports.
“Chinese imports still come to the market frequently; nothing has changed. But I have not seen any Chinese trader here for a while,” Pauline, a trader, said.
Another trader, Stephen Ng’ang’a, said that Chinese traders have gone away.
“The government deported them. They are no longer here,” Mr Nganga said.
However, things are not what they seem to be, as the Chinese, though not physically present, are still running the show from behind the scenes.
Traders at the market divulged that Chinese traders are in hiding but have employed Kenyans to run their businesses.
“You won’t find them here, since the order to have them chased away was passed. But they know everything that happens in this place. They have eyes and ears everywhere,” one wholesaler said.
Dr Matiang’i ordered Chinese operating businesses in the busy market to be sent back to their country in June, following public outcry that the few available jobs in the country were being taken over by foreigners.
Traders had been declaring losses as a result of stiff competition from the Chinese.
They sold their goods cheaply and had an easier time bringing stock into the country, compared with locals.
Despite the government’s order for foreigners to close their businesses and leave the country, their impact is still felt and business for locals is still declining.
But the traders were not ready to point out the shops that are still owned by Chinese nationals for fear of victimisation.
Ms Virginia, a trader, admitted that business has not been the same since the Chinese made their way to the market. And even after they were sent away, business is yet to pick, she said.
Since the inception of the Standard Gauge Railway in 2013, which is funded by the Chinese government and whose construction and operations are being managed by the Chinese paved way for the aggressive business people to take root in the country.
Not only are they importing second hand clothes, but they have also ventured into sale of electronics within the central business district.
Ideally, Chinese nationals looking to do legitimate business in the country should apply for and get a Class G work permit.
“Class G work permit (is) issued to investors in specific trade, business or consultancy,” says the State Department of Immigration website. It further spells out the requirements for one to be issued with the document.
A legitimate trader must have documentary proof of capital to be invested/already invested minimum of $100,000 (Sh10 million) or equivalent in any other currency, registration certificate of the company as well as copies of personal and company PIN if the business is already running.
The instruction adds that, for renewals; audited accounts for previous two years and a certificate of tax compliance from the Kenya Revenue Authority should be available. Payments for this document include a non-refundable processing fee of Sh10,000 and an annual fee of Sh100,000.
Without the above documents, the government is at liberty to remove foreigners from the country.
It seems that though the country has strict policies on how foreigners can work in the country, the Chinese still continue to do business, but in hiding for fear of being deported.
Source: Daily Nation