Chinese Govt Official Steps in Over China Square Controversy
China’s Director-General of the Department of African Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, Wu Peng, called for tolerance and the creation of a non-discriminatory environment for businesses in both Kenya and China.
In a statement dated Tuesday, February 28, and seen by Kenyans.co.ke, the envoy noted that entrepreneurs needed to be accorded a warm welcome to set up their businesses in both countries as it would boost trade.
He opined that Kenya was one of their biggest trade partners adding that they would continue fostering trade relationships between the two countries.
Peng was responding to the controversy over China Square which is owned by Lei Cheng – a Chinese national.
China Square proprietor, Lei Cheng poses for a photo inside his office on February 25, 2023.
“A non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory investment environment is vital to the healthy development of bilateral practical cooperation.
“I believe that through collective efforts, China-Kenya cooperation will better benefit both people,” read the statement in part.
On the other hand, he noted that China was open to foreign investors even as he stated that a number of chain stores were run by non-residents.
The special envoy added that Kenya had also benefitted from some of the Chinese-run companies that set shop in Kenyan in recent years.
“Our commitment will translate into more favourable policies for foreign investors. International supermarkets, chain-stores can be seen everywhere in China and we welcome more to come.
“Brotherly bonds and fruitful outcomes are cornerstones of China-Kenya cooperation. The slogan of a famous Chinese ceramics factory in Kenya – Twyford tile is ‘Buy Local, Build Local’,” he added.
Peng’s response came amidst controversy over China Square which has seen its owner close the business temporarily.
The mall-based at Unicity – owned by Kenyatta University closed after Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria opined that the enterprise needed to be leased out to local traders to boost products made in the country.
“I have today given an offer to Prof. Wainaina the VC Kenyatta University to buy out the lease for China Square, Unicity Mall and hand it over to the Gikomba, Nyamakima, Muthurwa & Eastleigh Traders Association. We welcome Chinese investors to Kenya as manufacturers, not traders,” the CS stated at the time.
Following his statements, traders based in major centres such as Gikomba and Nyamakima took to the streets to demand the closure of the mall as they alleged favouritism towards businesses owned by non-residents.
A photo collage showing the front facade of the China Square Mall along Thika Road (left) and a photo of Trade CS Moses Kuria addressing a past conference.