East African neighbours have taken over hawker jobs in Nairobi's urban areas

Jobs that can easily be done by Kenyans are now being taken up by foreigners, especially from Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania.

It is not strange to walk into a barber shop where a Burundian national is waiting to give you a haircut and once done with the shave, a Ugandan barmaid is at your disposal at the local pub frequented by Tanzanian hawkers displaying their wares.

Gone are the days when such services and jobs were a preserve of Kenyans. In Nairobi, most barber shops are being operated by Burundian nationals who have also ventured into the carwash business as well as offering transport services in the chaotic boda boda sub-sector.

Hospitable, warm, and welcoming Ugandan women serve in bars in urban areas where they are also hired as house helps.

Our enterprising neighbours from Tanzania have curved a niche in small-scale trade where they either run kiosks or hawk wares. They also dabble in security by offering guarding services in homes, institutions, and commercial premises while the naughty ones have gone a notch higher and operate begging cartels.

Welcome to Kenya, where many foreigners are taking advantage of the country's economy to set up businesses and offer services at lower fees. Barbershops, transport, wholesale, retailing, wholesale, craftsmanship, salons, and spas are some of the ventures preferred by foreigners.

Others include hawking tea, coffee, groundnuts, phone covers, groundnuts, and dealing in second-hand clothes.

Healthy competition

Johana Bachitoye who owns a salon and spa in Donholm says competition is healthy as it enables consumers to access quality goods and services at affordable charges.

''Traders must strive to be more creative and compete with others fairly. I offer quality service to my customers at affordable rates,'' says the man from Rwanda, summing up growing outcry against foreigners with open protests directed at Chinese traders.

A few days ago, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria kicked off a storm when he fingered out a Chinese trader for allegedly engaging in unfair business practices. According to Kuria, Lei Cheng, the owner of China Square Mall along Thika Superhighway, should be engaged in manufacturing and not a retail business.

''I have today offered Kenyatta University to buy out the lease for China Square, Unicity Mall, and hand it over to the Gikomba, Nyamakima, Muthurwa, and Eastleigh Traders Association traders. We welcomed Chinese investors to Kenya and manufacturers, not traders,'' tweeted Kuria.

Hawkers going about with their business in Nyeri Town. Kibata Kihu/Standard.

Geofrey Amboka, a welder in Umoja is against the influx saying locals are being denied opportunities. He wants the government to have clear guidelines on the nature of businesses foreigners can engage in.

According to the man, some countries have reserved sectors to bar foreign nationals from operating businesses in economic hub reserved for citizens.

''In certain circumstances, foreigners partner with locals to empower the hosts and the foreign entities in the reserved sector are only allowed where firms would fund local production,'' adds Amboka.

The trader says the Trade Ministry should establish robust policing systems to curb the flooding of aliens taking over the local market at the expense of small traders.

"The government should protect the local traders by enhancing or providing sufficient funding and capacity building for its citizens to increase their business participation. These funds will scale up the number of entrepreneurship in our communities," states Amboka.