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Worried investors want State to up war on terrorists

NEWS
By Mark Kapchanga | May 8th 2014

By Mark Kapchanga

Kenya: Investors are calling on the Government to amplify the ongoing operation to weed out suspected terrorists across the country. They say the shaky security situation is staining Kenya’s business profile, and could have long-term ramifications.

Eastleigh Business Community Chairman Hassan Guleid says while they support the State’s effort in creating stability in the country, authorities must not use it as an opportunity to extort from residents.

“Businesses are down by about 70 per cent. We call on the Government to not just target the Somali community, but all criminals across the country,” Mr Guleid told The Standard.

According to Guleid, the community would keep agitating for a stable business environment, for Eastleigh business is Nairobi County’s growth engine.

“In the last financial year, we paid the Kenya Revenue Authority more than Sh1 billion in taxes. Eastleigh businesses also employ thousands of people across East Africa,” he said.

In the past 20 years, a diaspora-fuelled economic boom has transformed Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate into a major East African commercial district. New shopping zones, hotels and restaurants have mushroomed, which have primarily been associated with Somalis. Despite its poor infrastructure, Eastleigh has lured shoppers as far as Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 “Majority of them make wholesale purchases, with electronics, clothing and food being the main commodities,” said Mr Guleid.

Indeed, Cedric Barnes, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director estimates that the Somali-owned businesses in Eastleigh bring in an estimated $780 million per year in foreign currency to Kenya’s exchequer. 

According to Senior Vice President, Financial Risk Management at Saudi Arabia-based Riyad Bank, Mohamed Wehliye, the security operation in Eastleigh is likely to have far-reaching ramifications on the economy in general.

“Many Somali-owned businesses in Eastleigh, fearing further State reprisals, may now be sending their money to safer havens,” he said in an opinion published in The Standard.

Yesterday, Kenya Private Sector Alliance said terror attacks and general insecurity is putting the country in an awkward position as investors and tourists look for relative safe places to put their funds.

“There is need to protect businesses. Further risk management is crucial for continuous investment inflows,” said Tom Mulwa of Kepsa. 

—Additional reporting by Nicholas Waitathu

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