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Kenyan Fashion Industry Under Attack from Second-hand clothes

by Kwabe Ben

Kenya’s second-hand clothing imports (popularly know as Mitumba) have been going up over the years, an issue attributed to by the governments lax attitude towards the secondhand market.

Just where is the Kenyan fashion industry headed?

The Kenyan Textile and clothing industry representing an estimated 0.6 per cent of GDP and six per cent of the total manufacturing sector.

Kenya is a beneficiary of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which offers an access to duty-free, quota -free access to the United States markets providing an opportunity to all income groups.

This has seen a diminishing possibility of employing numerous persons, according to an analysis by Kenyan-based East-African consulting firm, Msingi, estimates that the East African textile and apparel industry could reach 80,000 jobs in 2025 and 200,000 in 2030.

Garment exports from the region could reach $1.4billion (about Sh160.2 billion) in 2025, and double to $2.7 billion (Sh308.9 billion) in 2030.

There is a rising curve in matters to do with second-hand clothing as seen in statistics. Traders in 2014 having brought in 106,974tonnes, 110,659 tonnes and 131,941 tonnes consequently in 2015 and 2016.
Preceding is the three quarters of 2018 import sales that were at 134,000 tonnes.

Second-hand clother Sales of as low as sh30. 

The ease of accessibility of the Mitumba as made it affordable for as low as sh30, with most of them sourced from United States according to dealers and observers.

This has constantly threatened the ‘Made In Kenya’ brand for home made products.

They are steadily winning as they offer a wide variety of quality apparel including high-end brands like Versace, fendi which can be found at chain outlets in secondhand market at a minimum of sh1000.

The availability of the Mitumba has created a whole new taste for foreign apparels, this as few retail stores are stocking the original quality.

Even without unequivocal traditional attire or garment style as is with our brothers of the East Africa, the African print -themed outfits are mostly used in ceremonial occasions like graduations, parties and weddings in our areas.

‘Mitumba’ a main business for all income classes.

It’s with this loose noose on regularities that the Kenyan fashion industry keeps succumbing to the available competition.

Though our fashion industry is a dynamic enterprise for its incessantly evolving through various dimensions. This has seen it on global trends and international televisions.

The Kenyan fashion designers now are enforced to majorly seek a wide range of customer bases from mass market to high-end market.
Despite introduction of the ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’ initiative by government in 2017, a bid to encourage uptake of local apparel. Kenya is largely supplied by second-hand clothing, locally known as Camera, Caguwa or Mitumba easily found in stalls at malls, open-air markets, and hawkers.

This has led to a large failure in the execution of the initiative for domestic industry protection policies, a strategy that included reserving 40 per cent of public procurement for local goods and campaigns to educate and promote.

“The biggest constraint on the fashion industry is mitumba. For as long as you have countries full of second-hand clothes, you have suppressed demand and a supply chain that has been killed. Regulating second-hand imports will create more commercial opportunities and outward growth of the industry,” said a Kenyan designer.

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