Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.



SecondHand Clothing

January 4th, 2013

The End of the Kenyan ‘Mitumbas’? – SECONDHAND CLOTHING

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We came across this article that we feel would create some interesting debates so had to reblog it.

What are your thoughts?

 

For those who don’t have a lot of money to splurge on expensive clothes and shoes, they always come in very handy as they are affordable. For those who love some unique style, they come in a variety of unique pieces. For those who love fashion, they are very chic -in fact the only way you can ever get the chance to rock an International designer outfit or shoes that you would normally NOT be able to afford…they are IT! Yes…I’m talking about second hand clothes and shoes also famously known as ‘mitumbas‘.

These could very soon be non-existent. Why?…

Second hand clothing and shoes will be banned from entering the country should proposals in an industrialization bill go through come January next year.

The Bill, which has already been approved by Cabinet and now before Parliament, is meant to protect the textile and leather industries.

Industrialisation Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho says this is a move by government to create a market for local traders and manufacturers.

“These are used clothes meant to help the poor but are used as a trading tool. We are trying to strengthen the issue of counterfeit and standards especially at the points of entry. We know it is a tall order because the players are not small guys,” he said.

When you look at all the benefits of second hand clothes bring with them and not forgetting the fact that they are a source of employment to thousands….Would you survive without your mitumba clothes and shoes?

The second-hand clothes market popularly known as ‘mitumba’ employs thousands of people most of whom consist of the youth.

Gambia – Secondhand clothing market – image copyright Africa Fashion Guide

Second hand clothes and shoes will be banned from Kenya should proposals contained in Sessional Paper Number 9 of 2012 go through, come January 2013.

The Sessional Paper, which has already been approved by the Cabinet and now before Parliament, is meant to protect the textile and leather industries. Industrialisation Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho says this is a move by government to create a market for local traders and manufacturers.

“These are used clothes meant to help the poor but are used as a trading tool. We are trying to strengthen the issue of counterfeit and standards especially at the points of entry. We know it is a tall order because the players are not small guys,” he said.

In his Budget Policy Statement in June, Finance Minister Njeru Githae directed the Kenya Revenue Authority to revert to the lower charge per container of imported second hand clothes to Sh1.1 million on a 20-foot container. The second-hand clothes market popularly known as ‘mitumba’ employs thousands of people most of whom are youths. The industrialisation policy also seeks to ban the export of leather and place a two percent levy on imported leather products, clothes and shoes that will go to supporting local traders.

 

Source: CapitalFM Kenya and capitalfm.co.ke





 
 

 
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5 Comments


  1. Tiddles

    Banning the Mitumbas is only part of the solution but definitely headed in the right direction. I hope the Kenyan government does not just stop there but also looks at other factors/regulations (taxes, labor laws etc) that may limit the textile and leather industry. I think its time that Kenyans start creating policies that better serve Kenyans particularly in the long term. Clearly there is a market for clothes within the Mitumba price range however Kenyan companies (Manufactures and retailers) now need to rise up to the Quality, Style and pricing standards set by the Mitumba market.


  2. Kiki

    I have to say I am a bit on the sceptical side. Whilst I agree that it is of high importance for Africa to protect it’s local apparell industry there is a question about the validity of this legislation. The job creation that second hand trade brings to young entrepreneurs who have established a sense of vintage fashion style and independence does not perhaps impact the industry as greatly as charities do who are rapidly monopolising the international trade of secondhand goods. Ofcourse we cannot overlook the good work charities do, however they also have larger profits and are increasingly establishing larger sorting warehouses in the west that prepares bales of secondhand goods for international trade which judging by their annual reports are lining their pockets rather well. I can’t help but feel this needs to be investigated.

    And lets not forget thats this is not just about ownership of western fashion labels but a very successful history of Africa’s ability to appropriate and create a new fashion identity thats mixes up a plethora of cultural references.


  3. Amber

    No one in the west is getting rich quick by sorting and selling used clothing. No. One. Making a living, yes. Making more money than the average end user in Africa, yes. Getting rich, no. It’s a business model that works. Goods that are astonishingly overproduced and overabundant here in America – these clothes would otherwise be thrown away, are transported elsewhere. In the middle, the person who sorts it gets paid for their time and effort, the person who sells it gets paid for their time and effort, and the person who buys it gets value for their money.

    THIS is a way to foster the local economy – people are running their own businesses.

    If the government wants to encourage local purchase of locally produced goods, then help the local manufacturers follow other successful models like Uniqlo’s Social Business program in Bangladesh.

    But perhaps the government is being asked by local manufacturers to get rid of the competition, because they can’t compete because their product doesn’t fit the market. Too expensive, bad quality, small range of styles, etc. – I don’t know what the issues may be. I say, don’t eliminate the competition of local businesses, let them get better at what they do.


    • Elle

      Amber, I was with you until the last paragraph. Every country including the US has some legislation that protects it’s domestic industry. Arguments about poor quality are not based on the reality on the ground. There are a number of manufacturers in countries like Kenya that produce well made, quality clothing. However those businesses cannot compete with subsidized, low cost second hand clothing. NGOs are known for distorting domestic industry. Yes a few people get to run some marginally profitable businesses, but larger or even small manufacturers that support cotton farmers, workers and benefit the local economy have to shut down.


  4. This is a complex issue. Local manufacturers need a level playing field but not absolute protection from any competition. I have worn a high quality pair of jeans made in Kenya while in the US at a reasonable price. Funny thing is that this kind of jeans can only be bought in Kenya as a “mtumba”. Some national pride here is also compromised.



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