Shoppers protest against the closure of China Square Mall

Shoppers being turned away at China Square Mall. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Kenyans have protested the move by Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria to close down China Square Mall.

Shoppers who were hoping to buy cheap products from the shopping complex at Kenyatta University's Unicity Mall said the government was discriminating against foreign investors and killing the spirit of competition.

A spot check at the mall which was closed on Sunday, established that shoppers were being turned away.

At the weekend, Kuria criticized the investor for trading at Unicity Mall instead of manufacturing goods. According to the CS, the investor was engaging in activities that should be left to Kenyans.

On Saturday, the CS said on a Twitter post: "I will assist China Square Owner Mr Cheng to set up a manufacturing plant in Kenya and work on a distribution partnership with Gikomba, Nyamakima, Eastleigh, Kamukunji, Muthurwa and River Road Traders."

Kuria later announced that he had given an offer to Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Paul Wainaina to buy out the lease for China Square Mall and hand it over to the Gikomba, Nyamakima, Muthurwa and Eastleigh traders.

"We welcome Chinese investors to Kenya as manufacturers, not traders," said the CS. Following Kuria's statement the owner of the mall announced a temporary closure of the place.

"We regret to inform you that China Square Limited will be temporarily closed on Sunday, February 26. This decision has been made to allow us to re-evaluate and re-plan our company strategy, in order to better serve our customers and meet their needs," read the statement.

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria. At the weekend, Kuria criticized China Square Mall investor for trading instead of manufacturing goods. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Further, the supermarket management announced; "We are also considering the possibility of cooperating with local traders to enhance our offerings and better integrate with the community."

On Monday, Kenyans called on the government to allow the investor to resume operations citing unfair treatment of foreign investors.

"Before the supermarket was set up, there must have been a process they followed. I believe there were checks and balances. Investors can't just wake up and set up such an investment without following the due process," said one shopper.

The mall was opened on January 29, and has attracted many customers owing to the variety of cheap products, including household items, car parts, clothes and electronics.

"If they have cheaper products as claimed, why is the government locking out Kenyans? What message are they sending to other investors? I hope they'll come back soon," said another shopper identified as Joachim.

According to Newton Maina, a businessman within Unicity Mall, the opening of China Square Mall had attracted many customers in the past month.

"Some people did not know we existed until the mall was opened but the place is now empty like it was a few months ago," said Maina. "The economy is not good and availability of cheap products is a blessing to Kenyans."

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