Is Mitumba Trade Killing The Local Textile Industry?

By Soko Directory Team / Published March 11, 2021 | 10:11 am




KEY POINTS

91.5 percent of Kenyan households bought secondhand clothes, also known as Mitumba in the year 2019.


Traders at Kenya's Gikomba market selling Mitumba. 95% of Kenyans buy mitumba clothes.

Given an option to either go for a mtumba cloth or a new one with your current financial status, what would you go for? Chances are that you will go for the mtumba cloth. There is no doubt that the majority of Kenyans prefer mitumba clothes to new ones.

A report released by the Institute of Economic Affairs in conjunction with the Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya showed that 91.5 percent of Kenyan households bought secondhand clothes, also known as Mitumba in the year 2019.

But why do Kenyans love mitumba so much? Easy. They are affordable. With 1,000 shillings and below, one can have a great wear that lasts ages. They are of good quality. They last longer than those made within the country. They are also readily available.

In 2019 alone, the country imported a whopping 185,000 tonnes of mitumba clothes. The importation was an equivalent of 8,000 containers. During the same year, the Mitumba industry contributed 1 billion shillings to the economy per month, 12 billion shillings in one year.

Stats show that the mitumba industry employs roughly 2,000,000 Kenyans. This is not a small number in a country where the unemployment rate is through the roof. Kenya’s unemployment rate is above that of Tanzania and Uganda and something needs to be done.

Every year, institutions of higher learning emit graduates into the already saturated job field. The majority who graduate from schools, unable to find a job, opt to try their hand in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The sector is ailing.

The SME sector, according to stats, employs about 86 percent of Kenyans and contributes about 45.5 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). But data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that at least 450,000 SMEs are dying annually, translating to 30,000 monthly and at least 1,000 daily.

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The larger mitumba industry forms part of the SME empire that is supporting millions of Kenyans to earn a living. The sector, just like any other business, creates employments, pays revenue to the government, and has lots of other financial benefits down the value chain.

As Mr. Kwame Owino, the Institute of Economic Affairs, “We cannot run away from mitumba. We cannot say that mitumba is killing the local sector. It is like chopping off your nose to spank your face. The value of mitumba cannot be undermined.”

There has been a heated debate in the past few months if the Mitumba industry should be banned because it is killing the local textile sector. At one point, the government of Kenya banned the importation of the same, leading many into economic turmoil.

When a sector is doing better than another, do you kill it so that the other can come up or you find out what is ailing the other sector? It is not that Kenyans hate new clothes from Kenya. The purchase of new clothes is still high too and the competition between the two sectors is high.

If the local textile sector wants to compete fairly, they should first understand the market. 90 percent of Kenyan clothing consumers are low-income earners. They should first check on their prices. You cannot make a cloth worth 5,000 shillings and expect Kenyans to buy it. They should also check on the quality of their materials. Most new clothes in Kenya wear and tear faster than mitumba.

Is Mitumba killing the local textile sector? No. The local textile sector needs to adapt to the changing trends and compete against the Mitumba industry.




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

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