Government pledges support for Nairobi traders amid market challenges

Traders at Gikomba market in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The government has pledged support for traders in Nairobi to address market challenges.

 Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and Investment, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano engaged with representatives from various markets in Nairobi at a meeting held at the Deputy President’s residence in Karen on Thursday, March 28.

The discussions focused on critical areas of concern, including taxation, counterfeits, import and export rebates and the effectiveness of trade facilitation by regulatory bodies.

 A series of actionable recommendations were proposed in the meeting.

These included implementing a fixed benchmarking fee of Sh2.5 million, down from the current Sh3 million, for all containers at the port to standardise costs and increase transparency.

Conveners also agreed on ensuring no tax increases or policy reviews are made without thorough consultation with the trading community and prioritising the finalisation of the Trade Development Bill.

“KRA will negotiate with the Kenya Ports Authority and shipping lines on the release of the withheld goods. On the withheld containers, the importers will pay the initial agreed duty and KRA will expedite clearance of the containers for release to the traders by next week,” said Gachagua.

He also announced that the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) will harmonise their work in clearing import goods to expedite the certification process and issuance of a certificate of compliance and conformity.

 “Today marks a significant milestone in our journey towards creating a more conducive trading environment in Kenya. The recommendations laid out, born from candid and constructive dialogue with our trading community, pave the way for a robust framework of cooperation, aiming to address and resolve the longstanding challenges faced by our traders. Our commitment to implementing these measures, in collaboration with all stakeholders, is unwavering,” said Miano.

The meeting comes a day after members of the Nairobi Business Community (NBC) threatened to protest over what they termed as “choking punitive taxes” from the government.

Apart from the tax rise, they are also opposed to the introduction of a multi-agency team camping in Mombasa, waiting to impose taxes on their cargo, a move they term as the biggest betrayal by their government.

John Karanja, a trader at Gikomba, said the taxman ought to be considerate to the traders, who have also been hard hit by the high cost of living and an ailing economy.

“This administration needs to care for the small-scale traders because they too have been affected by the inflation and when they announce things are getting better, they impose taxes that will otherwise send us home,” he said.

Some of the taxes that traders have been slapped with include Kecobo’s blank tape levy, which they have cited as a thorn in the flesh, anchored on the copyright law that was effected in 2022, months after the Kenya Kwanza administration came into power.

In the levy, audio cassettes, audio cassette mini discs, audio-CDR and video cassettes attract Sh5 per item, while DVD-R, DVD+, Blu-ray discs and Trayan discs are levied Sh10 per item.

Photocopy/printing Paper per ream is charged Sh20, while personal laptops, computers, mobile phones, and smartwatches are charged 1.5 per cent of the purchase price net of taxes.

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