Chinese dominance over Kenya’s construction industry

Chinese dominance over Kenya's construction industry
Chinese dominance over Kenya's construction industry

The recent rising numbers of Chinese multi-nationals inside Kenya’s Construction industries has caused jitters among the local builders who are now pointing fingers at the government accusing it of favoritism towards foreigners.

The country’s Roads and Civil Engineering Contractors Association (raceca) expressed its displeasure over what it termed as sidelining of local contractors by the Kenyan government when it comes to tendering of public infrastructure deals, a concern that has been rested by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Effects on Economy

Raceca chairman Gehlot Kishan noted with concerns that Chinese dominance in all government projects is a “glaring bias” that could affect negatively on Kenya’s economic growth since a larger percentage of funds invested in these projects are not spent locally in the country.

On the other hand, AfDB regional director Gabriel Negatu termed the move to import more skilled personnel as unfortunate since majority of the funds used in these projects will end up in the accounts of foreign construction companies.

“We are worried that Kenyan contractors are not getting enough of these tenders. We havo no objection if the government comes to us and says a percentage is given to the local contractors” larmented Negatu.

The country’s statistics show that in 2018 alone, the World Bank and AfDB financed Kenya’s projects to a whopping tune of US $13bn with a larger portion of the funds being spent on roads.

Kenya-China relations and importation of skilled personnels traces back to 2013 when the then President Mwai Kibaki strenghthened trade relations between the two countries. This led to a host of Chinese companies setting up their bases in the country’s capital Nairobi from where they undertake big construction projects on behalf of the Kenyan government.

As a result, most local contractors have now been restricted to undertaking small projects in the villages. Others have been left with no choice other than collaborating with Indian and European Multinations when bidding for big-ticket government tenders.

Skilled workmanship

Despite these discontentment, many experts still hold to the opinion that chinese firms holds a technical and financial edge over the local contractors. Transport and infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has been on the front line defending the government’s decisions to award foreign contractors saying poor workmanship by local builders is to be blamed for such moves.

Ordinary Kenyans have too over the years praised Chinese companies for the quality of work and the speed at which they deliver on their projects. However local contractors insist that this is not about Chinese firms’ competitive edge but rather due to China’s well-lined connections with the government and arm-twisting stipulations that have favored them. This comes at a time when the Kenyan government is keen on implementing its Big Four Agendas, with Roads and Housing largely forming part of it.

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