Sunday May 17, 2009 China town comes to innercity Kariakoo ICHIKAELI MARO, 16th May 2009 @ 23:35, Innercity Kariakoo is on its way to becoming Chinatown faster than Tanzanian authorities can keep pace within the City of Dar es Salaam, the 'Sunday News' can report. Typical of Chinatowns worldwide, the ‘newborn' in our midst is pushing local traders by the wayside with lucrative deals to stall owners – paying them rents for two years upfront and at ten times the current rates, according to local accounts during our random survey of the area. The increase of shop keepers and petty traders of Chinese origin at several business centres in Dar es Salaam, is reported to adversely affect local businesses. The Chinese traders have also taken up choice shopping niches not only Kariakoo, but in suburban Sinza and Manzese business centres within Dar es Salaam. Local traders are concerned that many of the Chinese traders entered the country under the guise of mainstream investment, but ended up doing petty trade instead – in direct competition with local traders. They claim that the Chinese are renting business stalls at inflated prices beyond the reach of many local traders. According to local traders, the Chinese traders are snapping up business stalls for between 1.2m/- and 2.0m/- per month, which they then pay for two years in advance. On average, one stall is now worth between 30m/- and 35m/-, all paid for upfront – against the going rates (for local traders) of between 150,000/- and 800,000/- per month at the Kariakoo mini-central business area. The Chinese are also said to have since gone into food vending, off-shelf businesses in reject products from China for which no taxes are paid. However, this isn't unique to the Chinese traders – because an official from Ilala District did confirm to the 'Sunday News' that over 90 per cent of about one million traders at Kariakoo do not pay taxes as well. The local traders blame authorities for giving the Chinese permits and licences to engage in petty businesses. One petty trader at the famous Congo Street expressed bitterness at how she had to close her business, following stiff competition from the Chinese who opened a shop next to hers. "These people have come to rip off this country … they are making all of us poorer because all that we can do to make a living is being done by these Chinese," complained another trader who spoke on condition of anonymity. Local traders also complain that it is now difficult for Tanzanians to rent business stalls at Kariakoo, where most land lords have inflated the rents in anticipation of the Chinese clients. A cross-section of city residents have also questioned the influx of Chinese nationals and their involvement in petty businesses, some allegedly involved in prostitution at choice spots within the city. Increased numbers of Chinese entering Tanzania was first noticed in 1986, mainly attributed to emerging trade liberalization and have since been at the centre of accusations linked to increased wildlife slaughter, illegal export of timber and minerals, among other natural resources. The Chinese are also linked to a flourishing trade in substandard products and goods to Tanzania – which steadily grew between 1986 and 2007. There are no records of Chinese traders at Kariakoo, but local traders there put their numbers at close to 1,000 -- usually hurdled in groups of three to five people within a stall – a claim the 'Sunday News' confirmed during last week's random survey. Most Chinese traders were found selling shoes, sandals and cheap clothes – which local traders claim are in fact produced locally from backyard factories. Ms Anna Mushi, a boutique owner at Kariakoo says her business isn't doing well and blames it largely to what she calls Chinese infiltration with ‘reject' clothes which they bring in from China. "When we go to China we buy quality clothes which are more expensive than what they bring here … so they sell them off faster because they almost halve their prices – and most of our people go for the cheap ones," she said. On Tanzanians doing business in China, Ms Mushi said foreigners are not allowed to own property in China, unless one has lived there for many years and proved their worth with real contribution to the economy of that country. "Foreigners are restricted from taking or selling products in China … but here, they get work permits, bring products from China including foodstuff … this is a one-sided affair … and it's hurting Tanzanians," she laments. The Chinese are also blamed for killing the textile factories in Tanzania as well as those of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was once home to the famous for the production of African wax wrappers known as ‘khitenge.' Traders at Kariakoo also claim that the Chinese buy off local people to conduct market research for them on fast moving products – notably the wrappers and khanga, whose samples they later take back to China for mass production – then flood local markets in Tanzania and other gullible African countries. As a result, the Congolese who once did roaring business in khitenge between the DRC, Kigoma and Dar es Salaam, have since resorted to buying the Chinese replicas at Kariakoo for resale back home. Mr Abdulbari Abubakar Majabir, the Councillor for Kariakoo Ward, said the Chinese had enjoyed good with Tanzania for a long time. "So the government is aware of their presence in the country and hopefully it is aware that they are doing legal businesses." However, he declined comment on business permits, saying relevant authorities – such as the City Council, Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), the Fair Competition Commission as well as the Immigration Department – were best placed to talk about the situation at Kariakoo. He further told the 'Sunday News' that his office had not received any official complaints about rising tensions between the Chinese and local traders at Kariakoo. He advised aggrieved parties to submit their complaints to their respective councillors at Kariakoo, Manzese and Sinza and jointly forward them to responsible authorities for necessary action. The authorities have been blamed for turning a blind eye on what is happening at Kariakoo area, which has now turned into a major business centre between Tanzania and the neighbouring countries of East and Central Africa. The law establishing the Fair Competition Commission states quite clearly that, anybody engaging in fakes or substandard business is committing a criminal offence.