by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- When Judith Boke gave birth to her first son seven years ago, she bought baby diapers occasionally, using them only at night because the items were pricey.
"I used to buy a pack of 32 for about 800 shillings (7.8 U.S. dollars), which was expensive, so I agreed with my husband that we use nappies most of the time," she said on Wednesday.
Today, Boke is finding her life much easier when nursing her two-month-old baby boy. She can afford to use diapers throughout the day as prices have dropped markedly after Chinese brands entered the market of the east African country.
The Chinese-made diapers are among myriad products from the Asian nation that have won the hearts of Kenyans. From clothes, furniture, house fittings and motorbikes to electronic items like TVs, radios and mobile phones and motorbikes, the Chinese-made imports have offered Kenyans affordable and quality options. Besides, they offer employment to hundreds of dealers selling them.
In downtown Nairobi, Kenya's capital, quite a a number of shops sell items imported from China. At the OTC bus station, several shops lined up in a lane next to the terminus are manned with up to three people, one taking cash and the rest attending to customers.
There are at least 10 shops at the lane nicknamed Beijing. At one of the shops, attendant George Kamau is overwhelmed by customers amid brisk business.
"You can take an alternative diaper brand because the one you want is out of stock. It is as good as the other one," he told a Somali woman on Wednesday, who was buying goods in wholesale for resale.
Away from OTC terminus, on River Road, another set of shops selling various Chinese-made items are lined up on the streets.
Several mobile phone shops are selling products from Chinese phone giants that include Tecno, Xiaomi and Huawei.
"This is brand new from China and you get it at the best price, only 45 dollars and you have a phone that has a camera, big screen, touch and radio. With this you will have no problem taking selfies," a saleswoman said at a shop as she marketed a Tecno phone.
As markets and shops in the East African nation teem with Chinese-made goods making both buyers and sellers happy, Chinese-made motorbikes have also offered thousands of Kenyans jobs.
The Motorcycle Assemblers Association of Kenya and the ministry of transport estimate that there are close to 800,000 motorbike taxis, commonly known as boda bodas, on Kenyan roads, more than three quarters of which are imported from China.
Each rider makes an average of 9.8 dollars a day, which means the drivers are generating at least 7 million dollars a day.
The association estimates that some 5 million people across Kenya depend on the motorbikes for transport every day, as they offer livelihood to thousands of others who comprise of boda boda riders' families.
"I bought my first bike made in China at 590 dollars from someone, which was secondhand, but from that machine I have been able to get two more in two years. I have now employed two people," said boda boda driver David Kiarie.
Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, attributed Kenya's love for Chinese goods to their affordability and quality.
"Kenyans embraced Chinese brands because they are affordable and of good quality. With incomes shrinking for some people and others stagnating, the Chinese goods are offering good bargains to consumers and jobs to the sellers," he said.
At least 800,000 jobs were created in Kenya last year, according to the Economic Survey 2018, the majority of which were in the informal sector where traders selling the Chinese items belong. With imports on the rise, more jobs are expected to be created this year and in the years ahead.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data show the value of imports from China last year stood at 3.8 billion dollars, up from 3.2 billion dollars in 2016.