Mitumba are secondhand clothes that are often imported into the country from other countries such as the United States of America, and the United Kingdom.
Almost every Kenyan has a mtumba cloth in their house. Even the richest in Kenya, at one time in their life, they wore a mtumba. This is the only piece of clothing that people have grown knowing.
Kenyans love to buy mitumba because of two major reasons; one, they are cheaper compared to new ones. With as little as 20 shillings, one can get a piece of cloth that will push them for years. Two, they are durable. Most mtumba clothes are durable as compared to new ones.
But now, there are no mtumba clothes and Kenyans have nowhere to turn for more affordable clothes. The few second-hand clothes that are available are now more expensive than new ones because retailers have no idea where the next stock will come from.
What brought to mtumba shortage?
Covid-19. That was the reason. When Covid-19 came knocking into the country, and after it was announced that the virus has an ability to survive on surfaces for hours, the Kenyan government banned the importation of mitumba to prevent the spread of the virus.
The ban was also informed by the fact that most of the mitumba comes from the United States of America (where the virus has hit them hard) and China (where the virus originated). But as time melted by, it was scientifically proven that mitumba has lower chances of spreading Covid-19.
The Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) recently urged the Kenyan government to reverse its recent COVID-19-enforced ban on the import of used garments and shoes, stating that all available research on the novel coronavirus shows they do not pose a threat to people who wear such garments or footwear.
Although numerous studies including those published in the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet have shown that COVID-19 may be detectable on hard, non-porous surfaces like plastics and metals for hours and potentially up to 2-3 days, they also say the virus is even less likely to survive on soft, porous surfaces like textiles including rugs, carpets, shoes, and clothing, whether they might be new or used, the SMART emphasized.
The lifting of the ban
President Uhuru Kenya directed the Cabinet Secretary in charge to lift the ban on the importation of mitumba into the country. This was good news for businessmen and women in the industry. But since the President gave the order, the CS in charge went mute and nothing has ever been done since.
Advantages of mitumba business
Employment opportunities. More than 200,000 people are employed by the mitumba business. The business also supports millions of od families indirectly. Since the ban, it is estimated that at least 5,000 people have been losing the source of income daily.
Source of revenue. The government collects revenue in the form of taxes from mitumba traders. All this has been lost since the ban was put in place.
Source of income. Thousands of people have lost their sources of income as a result of the ban. This has seen an increase in crime as many young people look for alternative sources to survive.