Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria on Friday, February 24, sparked mixed reactions after he made public his intentions to lock out Chinese traders from the newly launched China Square Mall situated at Kenyatta University's UniCity Mall.
In a statement shared with the public, the CS demanded, in an offer directed toward Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Paul Wainaina, that the university buys out all spaces from the mall traders and reserves them for local traders.
The move, he noted, will inhibit the entry of Chinese traders to take up opportunities that would have otherwise been left for Kenyans.
Whilst maintaining that the government was ready to partner with foreign powers in spurring trade in Kenya, the CS insisted that the doors were open for Chinese manufacturers and not traders.
"I have today given an offer to Prof. Wainaina the VC Kenyatta University to buy out the lease for China Square, Unicity Mall and hand it over to the Gikomba, Nyamakima, Muthurwa & Eastleigh Traders Association. We welcome Chinese investors to Kenya as manufacturers, not traders," he noted in a statement.
Kuria's announcement came days after a publicised online discussion with a section of Kenyans airing their reservations against what they termed as the take-over of local jobs by Chinese traders.
The Thika Road-based mall was a hive of activities as Kenyans flocked to its premises after the online buzz sparked across social media platforms.
Long queues characterised the experience for the customers as Kenyans from different parts visited the mall following an online hype that described the mall as a one-stop shop for a wide range of products.
Products available in the mall, according to the experiences shared, include stationery, furniture, home decoration items, cleaning supplies, hardware store and electrical appliances.
However, concerns about the possibility of affecting businesses in Nairobi's Kamukunji and Eastleigh shopping centres where hundreds of Kenyans are employed overshadowed the discussion of a new entrant into Kenya's market.
China Square's entry into the UniCity Mall came after a prolonged period of waiting for the mall to have substantive tenants in its space.
Despite being launched in 2016, the amenity struggled to thrive as an established shopping hub - a move that was attributed to the high number of shopping malls along Thika Road.