Politics and policy
Ministry under the spotlight over Chinese traders
Posted Sunday, August 19 2012 at 15:57
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) has asked the government to arrest Chinese immigrants who are doing business in Kenya while on tourist visas.
Chairman Patrick Obath said the Immigration ministry should explain how Chinese traders were engaging in trade illegally.
“We want the police to arrest such people doing business on tourist visas so that we don’t bring problems to those who are legally in the country,” said Mr Obath.
Immigration ministry’s communication officer Njaya Rosella said that most of the Chinese visitors come to the country on tourist visas but she could not immediately tell how many had been issued.
A section the business community, led by the Kenya Worldwide Importers and Traders Association, last week protested the rising number of unskilled Chinese workers.
“The aim of this demonstration is to bring to attention the increase in the number of unskilled labourers who have infiltrated markets, stalls and taken to hawking,” said Ben Mutahi, the association’s chairman.
Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’ last month issued a notice in the Kenya Gazette, shutting the door on foreigners seeking permits for jobs that pay less than Sh168,000 a month and are aged under 35.
Mr Mutahi said that the Chinese immigrants sell goods, especially electronics and food on the city streets, at lower prices while not paying tax resulting in unfair competition.
But commenting on the protests, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Wu Shifany said locals take up 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the total employment in the Chinese companies in Kenya.
“Those are isolated events meant to inspire hatred against the people of the Republic of China,” said Mr Shifany in Nairobi last week.
However, analysts blame a hidden hand in the protests saying the proportion of Chinese traders and small business owners in Kenya is too small.
“I think this is being organised by some NGOs who are misled by their financiers. Western nations are not happy with the Chinese,” said Gerishon Ikiara, a senior Economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
The demonstrators said the large investments by the Chinese companies in Kenya have been followed by unskilled employees who enter the country on tourist visas and trade in goods such as electronics and food.
Mr Obath, said it did not matter who is dealing in Kenya, “what is in question is whether the Immigration officials are allowing people in illegally, some Chinese are in the country legally”.
The protesters went to the Office of the Prime Minister and Parliament where they spoke to various MPs who promised to address the issue.