Why uproar over formation of Chinese property association

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja (centre) presides over the establishment of the Chinese Property Developers Association. [File, Standard]

The recent establishment of the Chinese Property Developers Association has stirred significant controversy, sparking outrage not only among local environmental professionals but also prominent Kenyans.

According to its president Zhang Jiaping, the association aims to bolster property development in the country, presenting itself as a platform to serve society and advance humanity.

The inauguration ceremony, held on January 19, garnered attention, with Nairobi County Governor Johnson Sakaja presiding over the event.

“Congratulations to the Chinese Developers Association on a successful inauguration ceremony following our meeting last week. We welcome investments that create opportunities for the people of Nairobi. You can count on our support and partnership,” Sakaja posted on his X (formerly Twitter) account, accompanying a photo with the association’s members in Nairobi.

However, Sakaja’s endorsement triggered sharp reactions from various quarters, including X users, built environment professionals, activists, and even former Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga.

“Hey @SakajaJohnson, what is this? We the taxpayers have not seen you meet Kenyan developers, engineers, architects, and environmentalists to discuss Nairobi construction and the urgent environmental issues we have. Why are we paying you with our taxes if not to serve us?” questioned Njeri Waridi on X.

Dr Mutunga expressed concerns about the association’s implications, stating, “Xi Jinping tells the world that China is different from the West. Like the West, China does not respect our Constitution. Until we realize how enslaved our corrupt political leadership and the leadership of our institutions are, we will lose our country.”

He emphasized the infiltration of external forces into Kenya’s economic landscape, highlighting the dominance of national and international cartels.

Nashon Okowa, a Nairobi-based real estate expert, criticized the association, labeling it a mockery and affront to local professionals.

“The recently launched Chinese Developers Association is shuddering. Yes, freedom of association is well anchored in our Constitution, but I don’t think that the framers of our Constitution meant for it to bring confusion to the fabric of our society. Where is the boundary if we allow foreigners to start forming their associations?” questioned Okowa.

Jerotich Seii, a human rights activist, condemned the perceived disregard for Nairobi’s future, alleging that the Chinese Association’s activities threaten the city’s environmental integrity.

“Nairobi has been auctioned off to the highest bidder under the ‘solicitous’ gaze of Governor Johnson Sakaja,” she remarked, warning against the transformation of the “Green City in the Sun” into an unrecognisable landscape dominated by concrete structures.

Expressing similar sentiments, Kenya Property Developers Association CEO Mary Mburu voiced concerns about compromised urban management and development, emphasising the need for sustainability and environmental consciousness in development projects. “One of our values has always been structural integrity when putting up a project. So when it comes to urban management and development, it’s in our hearts, and we don’t want to lose our city or our towns,” Ms. Mburu asserted.

She criticised the lack of consideration for green spaces and infrastructure in Chinese-led developments, urging adherence to established standards and collaboration with local industry players.