Chinese Companies Flood The Kenyan Construction Sector
While the government is receiving the windfall from China, many local companies are questioning the `easy’ way in which Chinese firms seem to access major capital projects in key sectors of the Kenyan economy.
Cheap and often sub-standard Chinese goods have also found their way onto the shelves of Kenyan supermarkets and kiosks.
Chinese companies are already involved in various sectors in Kenya, including >>>
telecommunications, infrastructure and energy.
The projects in different parts of the country run into billions of shillings. The construction sector – housing and roads – has attracted the highest number of Chinese companies with key roads in the country under rehabilitation or construction being done by them.
Among the major projects undertaken by the Chinese firms are the expansions of the Kisumu airport, rehabilitation of the Moi International Sports Centre, expansion of Thika-Nairobi highway, the Sondu Miriu power plant and oil exploration in northern Kenya.
The former acting permanent secretary in the ministry of Roads, Hyslop Ipu, has in the past defended the award of tenders to Chinese firms saying most of the tenders had been floated internationally while others had restricted conditions for the bidders.
But local traders and firms involved in construction are questioning the rationale of shifting towards China when the balance of trade is tilted towards the Chinese.
While none of the local companies is questioning the quality of the Chinese projects, they are concerned that many of them may be forced to close down or lay off staff due to unfair competition.
Roads minister Franklin Bett has also praised the Chinese firms for their quality and timely completion of projects.
Fears have been raised about threat to engineering talent and skills and the collapse of local construction companies due to invasion by Chinese construction firms.
It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of construction activities in Nairobi, both private and state-sponsored, have been captured by Chinese construction firms usually preferred for projects ranging from roads, water systems, power generation and hospitals.
While the Chinese make their money, Kenyan firms claim to be barely surviving on small projects awarded by local authorities and the Constituency Development Funds (CDF).