The Chinese ambassador to Uganda, Zheng ZhuQiang has defended his citizens’ dealing in retail trade in the country citing lack of a legislation that bars foreigners from trading in a particular business.
His response comes at the heels of an outcry from Ugandan traders asking government to stop foreign nationals from dealing in petty trade like running kiosks as opposed to setting up big factories.
In an email exchange with a local newspaer last week, Mr ZhuQiang said the complaints were as a result of commercial competition, which should be corrected by the market forces of demand and supply in a liberalized economy.
“First of all, there is no law in Uganda that prohibits foreigners from retailing. The complaints result from commercial competition. Thus, it should be solved by the market itself. More importantly, I hope relevant parties could handle the issue according to the rule of law,” said Mr ZhuQiang. Last month, traders dealing in building materials in Nakasero, Kampala City, closed their shops to protest against Chinese traders, who they claim are selling similar products at the lowest prices.
The traders want the government to take the Chinese traders to industrial parks since they came to the country as industrialists not merchants.
However, Mr ZhuQiang explained that the core principle of China’s policy on Africa is to connect assistance to African countries, including Uganda, for their independent and sustainable development with China’s own development, achieve win-win cooperation and common development.
In a telephone interview on Friday, Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde told Step FM that the matter of foreigners dealing in petty trade is still being discussed by Cabinet.
“It is our fault as Ugandans and it is not right to ask such questions to the Ambassador but I will let you know of the amendments we are making when I am back into the country,” Ms Kyambadde said.
Despite her earlier stand that government wants to ring-fence petty trade for nationals, Ms Kyambadde has since said there is no provision in the law excluding foreigners from carrying out trade in the country.
At the end of last year, statistics from Bank of Uganda (BoU) valued trade between Uganda and China at $737m (Shs2.6 trillion).
A rapid growth is being projected with the bulk of imports standing at – $710m (Shs2.5trillion). On why all contracts under China-funded projects are given to Chinese firms, Mr ZhuQiang defended the move saying their firms buy local content.
“While doing infrastructure projects in Uganda, Chinese companies pay high attention to using local contents,” he said.