Mitumba ban is a bad idea coming at the wrong time

In Summary

• Secondhand clothes are cleaned and fumigated before being shipped abroad to mitumba markets around the world.

• An estimated one million people work directly or indirectly selling mitumba clothes in Kenyan markets.

Residents of Kwale county BUY Mitumba during the area's market day.
Residents of Kwale county BUY Mitumba during the area's market day.
Image: FILE

Government has stopped the import of secondhand clothes for health and economic reasons.

This is a misguided decision.

Firstly, there is no risk of contracting Covid-19 or any disease from mitumba, according to the WHO. Shipments are cleaned, fumigated and provided with a health certificate before being sent abroad. In any case, Covid-19 can only live for a few days on its own, not for months in a container.


Secondly, the mitumba ban will not revive local textile industries which collapsed due to the removal of state subsidies and protective tariffs in the 1990s. The ban will also destroy the mitumba business which employs around a million people.

Thirdly, millions of Kenyans have just lost their jobs because of the coronavirus lockdown. This brutal decision means that they now have to pay ten times as much to buy a new shirt. Is that fair at this time?

Even if the government can make an argument for a mitumba ban, this is the wrong time to do it. The majority of Kenyans still need the clean affordable clothes provided by markets like Gikomba.

Quote of the day: "I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all."

Apache warrior surrendered to the U.S. Army on March 27, 1886