Kenyan second-hand cloth sellers (mitumba) imported clothes worth 16.9 billion shillings in 2018, a 30 percent spike from 2018.
Stats by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2018, Kenyans imported 177,160 tonnes of mitumba, the highest in a period of five years.
There have been efforts by the government to ban the importation of mitumba in “support of local industries” but every attempt failed to yield fruits.
Kenya’s mitumba sector is said to be worth at least 100 billion shillings and forms part of the larger SME sector that employs 86 percent of Kenyans and contributes at least 45 percent of Kenya’s GDP.
In 2017, Kenya’s mitumba sellers imported 135,868 tonnes of clothes at the cost of 13 billion shillings, an increase from 131,940 tonnes worth of 12.9 billion shillings in 2016.
Kenyan Factories Exported More Clothes
As the importation of mitumba increased in 2018, Kenyan factories also had something to smile about after they report an increase of 25.8 percent in exports.
Stats show that 22 Kenyan factories made 41.6 billion shillings in 2018 from exports, an increase from 33 billion shillings in 2017.
Dealers in new clothes have in the past raised concerns over the increase of second-hand clothes in the country saying the clothes were slowly wiping them off the market.
The majority of Kenyans prefer to buy second-hand clothes because of their cheap prices. For instance, with between 50 and 100 shillings, one can get a piece of cloth that might be going at 500 shillings if “new.”
Second-hand clothes sellers’ felt the tax increase in 2018’s financial year that stalled the pace of cargo clearing at the Mombasa port.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Henry Rotich enforced an import duty of 5 dollars per kilogram from the previous 0.2 dollars per kilogram.
The CS explained that the increased taxes targeted protecting against the low cost of imported products, which make it impossible for local industries to blossom.
Kenyans fancy mitumba clothes given their high quality, varying designs, and most importantly low prices. This adversely affects the local textile industries whose products are not just expensive compared to the mitumbas but also lack creativeness compared to the second-hand clothes.