The government is considering a ban on imported second-hand clothes, popularly known as “mitumba".
Industrialisation Principal Secretary Wilson Songa on Friday said the planned move — to be executed “in phases” — will herald immense benefits for the country including eliminating “health risks” associated with the imported used clothes and protect local textile and leather industries.
“This idea of bringing clothes for dead people and we are so happy about them, should really come to an end so that we also see how we can develop our own industries and enable our own value chains to be more effective,” said Dr Songa in Nairobi on the sidelines of the launch of a series of status reports touching on the country’s priority manufacturing sectors.
REVIVING TEXTILE INDUSTRY
Dr Songa said doing away with used clothes would improve Kenya’s value chain in the apparel and textile industry making it vibrant again.
“By doing away with those “mitumbas”, our textile value chain will become so much more efficient because we will not have unnecessary competition which really does not benefit us at all,” said Dr Songa.
He added: “Instead of (Kenyans) putting on second-hand clothes for dead people why not put something new that we are proud to have made at home and that is also competitive and of the same quality as the 'mitumbas'.”
Statistics show 65,000 Kenyans ply their trade in the imported used clothes and shoes business.
PREVIOUS FAILED EFFORTS
A section of Kenyans and traders have in the past opposed government plans to ban second-hand clothes and shoes.
Former Finance Minister Njeru Githae introduced the same idea through Sessional Paper Number 9 of 2012.
The argument from the Executive was that importing used clothes had changed from the noble idea of helping the poor in developing countries by having people in the developed nations donate their extra clothes. The government argued that the idea had transformed into a thriving business benefiting rich traders who now steer the multibillion-shilling industry.
But the passage of the Sessional Paper would require accompanying laws to take effect. This would require initiative from the Executive and parliamentary support.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta was the finance minister, he slashed import duty on second-hand clothes from $0.3 per kilo (or 45 per cent, whichever is higher) to $0.20 per kilo (or 35 per cent, whichever is higher). These rates are still applicable.
Mr Kenyatta said then that the cut was necessary to allow low-income earners to afford clothes during the economic slowdown that the country was grappling with then.
From June this year, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) ruled that importers of second-hand clothes and shoes would have to ensure their goods have been fumigated and inspected by a public health authority at the country of origin.
They would also have to get clearance certificates from Kebs. But second-hand clothes and shoe importers have protested the new regulation.