Kenya cautions second hand clothes dealers over COVID-19

The Kenyan Government is now cautioning dealers in second-hand clothes (locally known as mitumba) to abide by set standards and avoid importing them from coronavirus pandemic hit countries.

Industry and Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina encouraged the dealers to instead strike partnerships and source goods from local manufacturers.

According to a Reuters report in 2019 Kenya imports about 100,000 tonnes of second-hand clothes a year, providing the government revenues from customs duties and creating tens of thousands of jobs. The industry also offers quality clothes to Kenyans, many of whom earn less in a month what a pair of new Ralph Lauren khakis costs in the West.

To critics, the second-hand clothing business raises the perennial problem of how Africa can build its own industry when it is flooded with cheap imports. But traders in the local markets do not see it that way.

The Department for International Development, in collaboration with McKinsey, on Tuesday made a presentation before the Minister for Industry and Trade on Manufacturing Africa Programme which aims at unlocking £1.2Bn into manufacturing in Africa and creating 90,000 jobs.

The presentation explored analytical and operational areas where DFID could support the Business Emergency Response Centre to develop an immediate solution to emerging business challenges in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The World Health Organisation says coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets (from an infected person sneezing or coughing). It adds that the virus may remain alive for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials, including clothing.

Second hand-clothes take weeks, sometimes months, from countries where they are imported from to Kenya where they are often stored for more days before they are put on sale.

They undergo rigorous processing of sorting and packing and in most cases cleaning. The clothes are usually sprayed before they are shipped.