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The Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto has declared that he would deport Chinese nationals in jobs that could be done by locals if he wins elections in August, a declaration which has sparked a mixed reaction online.
East Africa’s biggest economy has it’s presidential and parliamentary polls slated to hold on August 9, against a backdrop of economic hardship in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine which has continued to shrink the global economy.
‘That Chinese nationals are roasting maize and selling mobile phones, we will deport all of them back to their country,’ Ruto declared at an economic forum on Wednesday as campaigning takes centre stage for the high-stakes vote.
‘All those businesses are for Kenyans,’ he said.
‘Do not be worried about the foreigners engaged in those businesses. We have enough aeroplanes to deport them.’
Africa Daily News, New York reports that the 55-year-old former agriculture minister is seeking to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta who must stand down after serving the maximum of two five-year terms.
‘There is a level of business that is not allowed by law for someone to come from China to do,’ Ruto said, without elaborating.
When contacted, the Chinese embassy in Nairobi declined to respond to a request for comment.
China is Kenya’s second-largest lender after the World Bank and has funded a number of costly infrastructure projects that have raised concerns about Nairobi taking on more debt than it can afford.
Like other African nations, Kenya has been turning to China for investment, technology, equipment and personnel to develop its infrastructure.
But the planeloads of workers from China into Africa’s fragile labour markets have created unease, with some complaining that they are taking jobs from locals.
Kenya’s unemployment rate stood at 6.2 percent in 2021, according to the latest government data released in May, although the true figure is believed to be much higher.
The finance minister in April unveiled a $28 billion budget aimed at helping the economy recover after the Covid-19 pandemic threw hundreds of thousands of people out of work.