A section of members of the business community in the country are up in arms over a major trading centre project planned for construction at Kurasini area in Dar es Salaam, saying the complex is not intended to benefit local traders.
They have therefore urged the government to stop the construction of the project, claiming that it does not specifically focus on benefiting natives but Chinese traders.
The center is expected to create up to about 25.000 jobs directly and 100.000 jobs indirectly, the problem that some people may see is that it is focused on distributing Chinese products easily.
The first phase will involve construction of the hub to be used in distributing high quality Chinese products in the East and Central Africa markets while construction of industries that will help add value to agricultural and raw materials is expected in the second phase of development.
Billed to be the largest in East and Central Africa and to serve as a common entry point for China imports, the centre will be run under a public private partnership arrangement with the government of China represented by Yiwu Pan-Africa International Investment Corporation and that of Tanzania by the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA).
Speaking at a meeting between the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) and the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) on Saturday, Amos Mchapakazi, who is a trader based at the Kariakoo business centre said the agreement between Tanzania and China violates the former country’s investment policy and laws that give priority to locals.
He said they are protesting against the government’s decision to sign the contract with China to allow Chinese small traders to invest in merchandise business because such a situation would deny them of their basic rights as the citizens of this country.
He said that this project would provide opportunities to foreigners to carry out small businesses which Tanzanians can also do like what is now happening in Kariakoo area.
The inner-city Kariakoo, he said, has became Chinatown with an increasingly large number of Chinese small traders involved in merchandise business as the locals are gradually being pushed out.
Mchapakazi said that the increase in the number of shopkeepers and petty traders of Chinese origin at several business points in Dar es Salaam is adversely affecting the locals’ undertaking.
“Local traders are concerned that many of the Chinese traders entered the country under the guise of mainstream investment, but have ended up doing petty trade instead – in direct competition with local traders,” he observed.
According to him, most Chinese traders were found selling shoes, sandals and cheap clothes which local traders claim are in fact produced locally from backyard factories, as a result, locals fails to expand the market and generate income.
Chairman of Tanzania Business Council, Johnson Minja reminded the government to give priority to locals in offering business opportunities instead of considering foreigners.
Some Asian countries, for instance, their investment policies and regulations doesn’t allow any person from outside the country to invest even in selling food, barber shops and other small businesses.
“Why do we allow foreigners to take our economy, while we know that there are many countries that do not allow foreigners to open even a small pub in their towns or cities,” he queried.
He said Tanzania will be developed from the hands of the hard working people taking into consideration the business community which is now competing with the Chinese, Nigerians and Kenyans.
Responding to comments from the traders, TPSF chairperson Dr Reginald Mengi said that nobody from outside the country can come in and invest for the benefit of the local people.The national economic vision and Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) manifesto had publicly declared that Tanzanians will be given more priority and not foreigners who largely come to invest for their benefits and their countries’.
“If these two policies are followed, business opportunities and projects would be offered to companies owned by natives. This as a result would help in increasing government revenue through the collection of taxes,” he said. He said the time has come for Tanzanians to believe that they can do like what other countries do and they should recognise that they only have Tanzania as their home and not elsewhere.
He said investing in the country’s natural resources does not necessarily need money, but the government should grant licences to local people so they can enter into venture capital with foreign investors and the projects established would benefit the country significantly.