Small-scale traders in Gikomba, Nyamakima and Kamukunji markets in Nairobi have new competitors, the Chinese.

Tens of Chinese traders have opened shops in the crowded, informal markets that have for decades served as the entry points for secondhand clothes and cheap Chinese imports.

Backed by strong financial muscle, the traders who have taken strategic control of the supply chain from import to wholesale and down to the retail level, are giving local traders a run for their money.

The teeming Gikomba market has for decades been a magnet for traders from neighboring countries, including Tanzanians, Rwandese and Congolese, but local traders say the Chinese businessmen have posed a new threat to their survival given their deep pockets.

“It is not just here, we used to distribute to other towns like Kisii and Eldoret but the Chinese have also opened shops there, where they now distribute as well. It is getting worse, stocks are moving slower and traders are getting really frustrated,” said Lydia Njeri, whose shop is adjacent to a Chinese second-hand clothes dealer in Gikomba’s Mumbai Building.

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