Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i has ordered the Immigration Department to deport foreigners engaged in small-scale trading, two days after an exclusive Business Daily story revealed the presence of Chinese merchants in Kenya’s biggest second-hand clothes market.
The directive is set to affect tens of the Chinese traders running shops in Gikomba, Kamukunji and Nyamakima markets, which are key entry points for second-hand clothes and cheap Chinese electronic and kitchenware imports.
The Chinese sellers who are involved in import, wholesale and retail trading have been edging out local traders who can hardly match the new, deep pocketed competitors.
"We do not have a classification of foreign investors coming into the country to conduct trade or to hawk. I have already directed that those in Gikomba be escorted to the airport tomorrow to ensure they take supper in their homes,” Dr Matiangí said yesterday in Nakuru.
Kenya’s lax immigration laws, including the relatively low Sh10 million threshold set for foreigners coming into the country, offers easy access to investment certificates that non-nationals use to set up businesses locally.
The Investment Promotion Act 2004 requires that foreign investment must be beneficial to the country in promoting acquisition of new skills and promoting use of local resources.
“An applicant shall be entitled to an investment certificate if— the amount to be invested by a foreign investor is at least one hundred thousand United States of America dollars or the equivalent in any currency; creates employment for Kenyans, leads to acquisition of new skills or technology for Kenyans or a transfer of technology to Kenya and any other factors that the Authority considers beneficial to Kenya,” says Section 4 of the Act.
The Chinese in Gikomba who hardly speak English employ Chinese staff to carry out tasks like recording sales while hiring Kenyans to ferry goods using carts.
In an interview Wednesday, Kenya Investment Authority chief executive Moses Ikiara said a review of the minimum amount that foreign investors must have to get an investment certificate is already under way.
“We are implementing the Kenya Investment Policy that was recently approved by the Cabinet and part of the plan is to set different minimums in each sector that a foreign investor must have to be allowed to set up shop in the country because the current blanket requirement of Sh10 million may be too little especially in heavy capital sectors like real estate. We will also ensure that certain sectors are just reserved for locals so that we protect them,” said Dr Ikiara.
The Chinese in Gikomba largely sell second-hand clothes, carpets and shoes sourced from China and stored in godowns located in Industrial Area and along Mombasa Road.
In Nyamakima and Kamukunji, they supply and retail electric cables, utensils and toys among other products that they import in bulk.
Director of Immigration Services Alexander Muteshi yesterday said the directive will also affect other nationalities who are operating illegally in the country, including those with fake work permits.
“Any foreigner engaging in petty business is not an investor. Those involved in petty jobs may not be holding genuine work permits because no permit can be issued for those kind of jobs unless they are fake permits,” said Mr Muteshi.
When contacted by the Business Daily the Chinese Embassy in Nairobi said: “We haven’t received the official communication from the Kenyan government until now. We’re requesting the Kenyan side to provide concerning information to the Chinese Embassy according to international law.”