China in Kenya: Addressing Counterfeit Goods and Construction Sector Imbalances

Image: Flickr, Christian Riis Kistrup
Image: Flickr, Christian Riis Kistrup

China has become a key player in trade, investment and development co-operation in Kenya.

Although mainly in the construction and manufacturing sectors, Chinese investments in Kenya have attracted praise and condemnation in equal proportion from various quarters. In particular, their efficiency in completing projects contrasts with the low quality of Chinese products sold in Kenya and unfair market practices adopted by Chinese firms. This paper seeks to assess the collateral effects of Chinese goods and construction firms on Kenyan consumers and businesses.

Although China has a unique model for engaging Africa, China–Kenya trade is heavily balanced in China’s favour: Kenya exports unfinished products to China and imports value-added products from China, which include significant counterfeit products. There is also a discriminatory tendency to award construction tenders to Chinese firms. Similar effects are reported across other East African Community (EAC) member states. The Kenyan government enacted an Anti-Counterfeit Act in 2008 and National Construction Authority Act in 2010 to address counterfeiting and construction sector market failures respectively. However, these new regulations need to be perfected in Kenya and better co-ordination is needed among EAC countries, as they work towards enacting similar laws in order to address effectively these issues.

13 Mar 2012