Finance Minister Njeru Githae’s decision to reduce import duty on mitumba was one of the few populist measures in his Budget Statement.
The problem is, it seems to have been informed by the need to keep Kenyans clothed rather than to grow our own industry.
This is because it failed to take into account a few truths about second-hand clothes and their role in destroying the textile industry and the livelihoods of farmers in cotton-growing areas.
According to statistics, cotton production declined from a high of 70,000 bales 26 years ago to about 20,000 last year.
This is a lamentable retrogression brought on by the proliferation of mitumba clothes, which also forced retailers countrywide to close shop after they were crowded out by the so-called “exhibitions”.
Indeed, the local textile industry was killed long ago. All that the minister has done is to drive the last nail on its coffin. Whoever hears of former household names like Rivatex, KTM and Kicomi anymore?
The way to revive our textile industry is not to open the floodgates for discarded clothes from foreign countries. Let us spare a thought for the poor cotton-grower of the Kano plains.