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Establishment Of The Chinese Property Developers Association in Nairobi Casts Doubts Among Real Estate Stakeholders



By Fred Aminga

Chinese firms that have ventured into real estate development in Kenya formed an association in a move that holds the potential to spur economic growth, job creation and infrastructure improvement while facilitating technology transfer.

With their experience in a country that is home to close to a billion in- habitants, the launch of the associa- tion is expected to enhance property development and is anticipated to address the needs of the sector, en- suring properties are well planned, organised, and cost-effective.

Establishing the Chinese Property Developers Association in Nairobi has, however, not only stirred con- versation within the industry but has also prompted criticism including from competitors and activists term- ing the move suspect.

The association, led by Zhang Ji- aping, says it aims to enhance prop- erty development, positioning itself as a bridge to serve society.

But doubts have been cast on the association’s objectives with critics saying Nairobi may face the risk of being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Largely, it is the allegations of impropriety and disregard for ethics and laws by some of the members of the association which has intensified apprehensions.

Others say that it may turn the city into a concrete jungle of high-rise buildings, potentially compromis- ing its future while enriching only the Chinese shareholders and their Kenyan associates.

These concerns are valid and fol- low past instances of impunity by some developers and the use of ag- gressive tactics, including involving law enforcement officers when envi- ronmental concerns are raised.

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Critics accuse some Chinese de- velopers of sidestepping laws and exploiting “grey areas” in zoning regulations, environmental codes, and constitutionally enshrined pub- lic participation requirements.

The worry is that the association might operate discreetly, facilitated by architects and contractors engag- ing in questionable practices.

The skeptics now view the as- sociation as an enhanced platform that could empower further such acts, raising questions about its role in regulating the industry, even as Kenya has national developers’ asso- ciations offering similar services.

Engaging with local communities,
respecting local laws, promoting sustainable development and maintaining transparency will be key in fostering positive relationships be- tween Chinese firms and Kenya.

The world over, successful ven- tures in this sector require international cooperation and adherence to best practices. Given Nairobi’s rapid growth with limited consideration for stringent environmental plans, such negligence could have severe consequences, especially with planned large-scale real estate development projects bringing forth environmental challenges.

Additionally, there is a risk of economic dependency if the local economy becomes overly reliant on foreign real estate developers, particularly if it becomes heavily skewed towards a specific nation.

Largely, such dependency can pose risks if the development is unsustainable
or if there are abrupt changes in the global economic landscape, that can hurt Kenya significantly.

To address these challenges and promote responsible investment practices, Chinese real estate devel- opers must prioritize responsible governance, transparency and ethical business practices. These measures are indispensable in ad- dressing concerns and will go a long way toward establishing mutually beneficial partnerships.

Much as these varied concerns may be valid, however, it is essential to recognise that not all Chinese in- vestments pose these challenges.
Many Chinese businesses operate responsibly and contribute positively to the economy and areas where they invest.

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It will take the Chinese Property Developers Association, local authorities and community stakeholders working closely together to pave the way for sustainable and mutually beneficial development in Nairobi.

As the association establishes itself, it is crucial to work towards positive change, striking a care-
ful balance between growth and responsibility and by addressing en- vironmental, economic, and ethical considerations.

Chinese developers can play a vital role in contributing to Nairobi’s development while respecting the city’s unique character and needs.

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