Kenya Could Learn Something from China Square Unicity Mall Success. Instead, Tribal Politicians want to Burn It Down.

8 mins read

A young man Lei Cheng opened China Square Unicity Mall less than one month ago and it is already a roaring success now making sales of Shs. 10 million a day. How the heck did they pull that off?

It is an astonishing success and they have endless lines of customers waiting to get in. So what does the Kenya government do? They get jealous and do their usual tribal calculations. Now the agenda of the Kurias and the Gachaguas of the Ruto regime is to try killing China Square Unicity mall and turn it into the new Gikomba.

“We opened this store on January 29 this year. We are barely a month old. In the first two weeks in business, our sales turnover was Sh20 million. Nowadays, on a bad day we sell goods worth Sh10 million,” Mr Cheng offers confidently. That is the crime this young man has committed according to Ruto political leaders.

How can you be so smart and make good money doing good business? They are shocked about that and they are yelling and screaming about how to kill that business.

The first thing Kenyan business owners and leaders should be asking is how does this business manage to get their merchandise into the Kenyan market and what kind of supply chain do they have that helps them so well. But no, that is not what the Ruto boys want. Their idea is how do they destroy this business and turn it into another failed market. Before Mr. Cheng took over the Unicity Mall it was a deserted empty place. How did he manage to turn that around?

If you want to know how that worked ask Mr. Cheng and here is what he says about that.

But then something happened. He said a routine visit to a supermarket surprised him after he found out that most cheap items he knew very well were imported from his home country –china—had been priced as premium.

He smelled a business opportunity. He flew back home to China and roped in some suppliers into the idea of setting up a base in Kenya. That gave birth to the now controversial China Square located at the Unicity Mall near Kenyatta University, which has annoyed not just Kenyan traders but also Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria”

This is not rocket science. This man saw that Kenyan business owners were buying cheap products from China and selling them at exorbitant prices to make huge profits and he thought he can bring the same goods and more and not rip people off and sell them at fair prices and still make money and ran a business.

That is exactly what he is doing and the politicians are telling us that is a criminal thing to do in Kenya. Well to Kenyans who need affordable products for their families and homes they just fell in love with what China Square Unicity mall was offering.

Those people lining up outside China Square Unicity Mall are not stupid. They do not care who owns the mall and the stores. It could be a Chinese guy, a Kikuyu, a Somali or whoever but they like what they can buy there and the prices they have to pay. The fact that these business owners could do this in less than a month is just amazing.

The Ruto regime has been in office longer than the China Square Unicity Mall and now they want to grab the half-month-old mall. What else have they done to help Kenyan businesses grow? Zero plus Zero which doesn’t add to anything.

So here are the Ruto plans on this very successful business.

“I have today given an offer to Wainaina the VC Kenyatta University to buy out the lease for China Square, Unicity Mall and hand it over to the Gikomba, Nyamakima, Muthurwa l and Eastleigh Traders Association,” Kuria said on Friday.

 “We welcome Chinese investors to Kenya but as manufacturers, not traders.”

Small-scale traders from Kamukunji, Eastleigh, Luthuli Avenue and Gikomba are said to be planning to hold a ‘peaceful’ demonstration in the city centre to protest against China Square’s looming business dominance.

So we have a government that can’t help Gikomba Market traders do better business in that huge facility in the middle of Nairobi City. All they do is to let it be burnt down every few months. May be for them the best way to solve this China Square Unicity Mall problem is to have it burnt down a couple of times every year and scare the hell out of that Chinese guy and they can have the whole place burn down even more. Wonderful, isn’t it?

The idea that foreigners like Chinese are only allowed to do manufacturing in Kenya and can do merchandise trade is nonsense.

I have been to the Two Rivers mall owned by a French Company.

The place is just off the way to the mighty Githurai urban centre in Nairobi towards Thika. The entire neighborhood is beautiful. You go to Two Rivers mall and then come to the Githurai market and you are loaded with great food for weeks.

So if the Chinese cannot own or run malls, how about the French and the British, Mr. Kuria? The British own Kericho Tea Farms with all the sex abuse cases there now. That is not manufacturing. It is farming which is one thing Kenyans are very good at. Can you throw out Unilever International and Finlays from Kericho like right now? Of course, you can’t.

Here is our problem. We have huge markets in our big cities and they are a mess. But they can be brilliant sources of business and industry in Kenya. Look at Gikomba. Everything is there.

This market could be a classic Kenya development project. Kenyans everyday go there to buy what they need. Why not make it a huge and classic market place for Kenyans. Kenyan government can develop this place into a huge super store for Kenyans and for tourists. What is stopping us from doing that? Our stupidity in the government and is all we have to overcome as a country.

How about Kibuye Market in Kisumu. Kenya can do a whole world of things with it

Adongo Ogony is a Kenyan Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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