Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria recently deleted a tweet where he promised to help China Square owners set up a manufacturing plant in Kenya.
The tweet came hours after the owner of China Square, Lei Cheng, announced that he was indefinitely closing the store due to public safety challenges. Cheng had cited the inability to provide sufficient payment processing facilities and long queues that negatively impacted customer experience.
“As a supermarket, we are unable to handle the high volume of traffic, which has become a severe concern for the public safety of all our customers, we are arranging more security guards onsite,” China Square said in a statement.
China Square, a supermarket that sells inexpensive imported items, has faced criticism from local traders who claim that it has driven them out of business.
However, in an interview with Nation, Cheng maintained that his business was legal and centered on healthy competition. He added that his company strategy was approachable and appealing to many Kenyans who are struggling with the high cost of living.
“We have cooperated with all government directives for opening a business in Kenya and we are here to break the monopoly. The people who are fighting us feel threatened because Kenyans now know we exist and we are not exploiting them in pricing,” Cheng told Nation.
Earlier, the CS had said that President William Ruto’s government was keen to welcome Chinese nationals in the country as manufacturers rather than traders. However, the CS has since deleted his tweet.
“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,” a tweet that the CS has since deleted.
Kuria had earlier announced that he had made an offer to Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Wainaina to buy out China Square’s lease at Unicity Mall on Thika Road, which is owned by the institution. He had also blamed former Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, questioning why he issued work permits to Chinese traders.
The mega supermarket, which opened in January, has attracted a lot of clients, but some Kenyan traders have complained about how it is undercutting them. The retail shop sells household items, clothes, electronics, and other commodities available on the streets of Nairobi.