Kenya makes U-turn on mitumba ban plan

Tuesday May 16 2017

Bales of second-hand clothes. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Bales of second-hand clothes. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Kenya has backed away from plans to impose a ban on second-hand clothes in a move officials say will leave local textile dealers at the mercy of market forces.

Industrialisation secretary Adan Mohamed told reporters in Beijing that retaining the flow of these clothes, commonly known as mitumba, into the country will allow both importers and local producers to remain in business.

“...it is our desire to develop and promote our textile industry in our country to create more jobs for people in our country,” he said at a press conference on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China.

“And through the transition of market forces we would like mitumba clothes to compete with clothes that are produced within East Africa, within Kenya, and if those products are much more competitive and much more consumer friendly, then of course you will see a reduction in the mitumba business in our country. But it is not going to be through a ban or anything of that nature.”

Over the past two years, East African Community member states of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have been mulling over a joint restriction on second-hand clothes and shoes in a move meant to protect local textile manufacturers but which could harm a multi-billion shilling group of importers.

This announcement came as some US lobbyists were pushing for Kenya to be suspended from the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) group of countries for supposedly violating the principles of trade between the US and Kenya.

Agoa, which was extended last year, often allows exporters from African countries that meet given terms, to export their goods into the US without the usual tough restrictions. In turn, America also gets some preferential treatment of their products.

The lobbyists argue a ban could mean Kenya was disobeying the very principles it has benefited from.

Mr Mohamed said the claims is based on falsehood, denying Kenya was even planning to stop any importations at all.

In 2015, the EAC heads of State agreed to start drafting regulations that could guard local clothes and leather producers and “directed the council of ministers to study modalities for the promotion of textile and leather industries in the region.”