CS Kuria Says Government Will Ban Mitumba Once An Alternative Is Found
Moses Kuria, the Cabinet Secretary for Investments, Trade, and Industry, while speaking on Tuesday at the Changamka Shopping Festival in Nairobi said that the government will outlaw the importation of secondhand clothing, or "mitumba."
Kuria said that once the government finds a substitute for imported second-hand clothing in the regional textile sector, the mitumba clothing would be phased out.
"I will work with the textile industry to ensure that we make cheaper clothes available in this market, and then we will ban mitumba when we give people an alternative," Kuria said.
He claimed that the local textile industry is the ministry's primary area of concentration adding that Kenya exports fabric created in the country at a lower cost than it imports second-hand clothing.
"The price we are selling clothes to America is much lower than mitumba, so it is not a question of the price it is a question of availability," the CS added.
Kenya is one of Sub-Saharan Africa's top importers of second-hand clothing, and while the idea of outlawing it may be sensible, it always ends up being a contentious topic.
According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics (KEBS), the mitumba sector is the source of income for around 2 million Kenyans. KEBS reports that in 2019, Kenya imported 184,555 tonnes of second-hand clothing worth Ksh. 17.8 billion.
In Raila Odinga’s presidential manifesto for the 2022 general elections, he blamed the country's underperforming textile industry on an influx of mitumba whereas President Ruto said that the former president’s plans for the country’s textile industry will adversely affect the second-hand clothes market.
At a previous political rally during the campaigns, Raila declared that, should he win the presidency, his government would forbid the importation of mitumba and support the distribution of locally produced goods.
In the midst of the debate, however, several experts have noted that encouraging the production and consumption of clothes made in Kenya does not guarantee the success of domestic enterprises.
In June, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) CEO Kwame Owino stated that research had shown Kenyans do not substitute mitumba for new clothing.
Owino criticized the proposal as one that restricts Kenyans' freedom, noting that the multibillion-shilling industry has its own value chain and ought to be permitted to coexist with the local textile industry.
He claimed that such an action would make unneeded damage to other people's jobs simply because the government has decided what others should wear.