Kenya spent its hard currency worth Sh4.41 billion on importing second-hand clothes and footwear between January and March alone, official data shows.
The import bill for second-hand clothes, also called mitumba, reached a staggering Sh3.28 billion, a 13 per cent growth on the Sh2.85 billon spent in the first quarter of last year, data produced by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
Due to high quality and rock-bottom prices, the volume of mitumba imports have grown rapidly in the last two decades, leading to the decline of Kenya’s cotton industry.
In May, Kenya hastily withdrew from a collective East African decision to ban mitumba after American suppliers threatened to match the move with a retaliatory action.
The suppliers had warned of lobbying Congressmen to block Kenya’s duty- and quota-free access to US market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).
Textile sales account for more than 90 per cent of Agoa exports through which Kenya netted Sh35.2 billion of hard currencies last year.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have over the last two years been mulling implementation of the bloc’s industrialisation policy which gives priority to a joint restriction on second-hand clothes and shoes.
“We would like mitumba clothes to compete with clothes that are produced within East Africa, within Kenya, and if those products are much more competitive and much more consumer-friendly, then you will see a reduction in the mitumba business in our country. But it is not going to be through a ban,” Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed is quoted saying.
The KNBS data shows first quarter import of footwear also soared to Sh1.13 billion or a 16.5 per cent increase on the Sh970 million orders of similar period last year.