People who make products by hand in Kenya, known as artisans, are concerned about competition from similar goods coming from China.
Thousands of people are known for making items they sell at a large market in Nairobi.
Njoroge Macharia makes stoves, known as jikos in the local language, Swahili.
He said similar stoves coming from China are hurting his business because they are less costly.
“Those from China are not better than ours. Ours are really good,” said Macharia, who has made stoves for 40 years.
Data show Kenya imported nearly $4 billion of goods from China in 2021, but sent out only $1.5 billion to Asia.
Magdalen Vivi sells kitchen items. She said non-stick pots that come from outside of Kenya are more popular than the steel or aluminum pots and pans made in Kenya.
She said she has not seen non-stick items made in Kenya.
A study by the African Union shows that Africa is one of China’s largest markets. Mary Wambui is one shopper who said she prefers the less costly items from China.
“Every time you come here, there is something new that has come up,” she said.
Wohoro Ndhoho is an economics expert in Kenya. He said a lack of automation technology means most products made by Kenyans are handmade. That means for a product like a bread pan, it takes a Kenyan one hour to make the pan. In the same hour, a Chinese factory can make 1,000, he said.
The national organization that represents artisans who sell their goods at Kenya’s markets says the imports from China are hurting the country’s economy. Charles Kalomba is secretary-general of the organization. He said the people he represents make high-quality stoves that save energy. The stoves coming from China may look the same, but they are a little different.
Kenyan leaders are hoping to negotiate a trade agreement that will permit more sales to China. Wilfred Marube is the leader of Kenya’s export promotion and branding agency. He said China and Kenya made an agreement in January to work together. Now the two nations are working to find a way to open China’s market to Kenyan agricultural products.
One person who is looking forward to more sales to China is Tiku Shah, who sells high-quality frozen avocados. Shah said the challenge for Kenya is to increase the number of avocados it can grow and send to China and its 1.4 billion people.
“A lot of us are not ready for that scale of business,” Shah said. “It's a big business on a big scale. It requires a lot of investment, and it requires a very dedicated market focus."
In 2020, China ranked 11th on the list of Kenya’s export destinations, says national data. With the new agreements, Kenya hopes to see China rise on that list.
I’m Dan Friedell.
VOA’s Victoria Amunga wrote this story. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English.
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Words in This Story
kitchen – n. the place in the home where food is prepared
automation – n. the act of running something like a factory or a machine using machines or robots instead of people
promote – v. to make people aware of something, such as a new product
brand– n. a category of products made by a certain company or producers
avocado – n. a fruit with rough dark green or purple skin, smooth light green flesh, and a large seed in the middle — often used before another noun
scale – n. the size of something in relation to something else
dedicated – adj. having very strong support or loyalty to a cause or plan
focus – n. the act of paying attention to something