Kenya: Secondhand Clothes Traders Plead for Lifting of Import Ban

Second hand clothes on display at a stall in Toi Market in Nairobi.

Nairobi — Dealers in second hand clothes are appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to lift the ban on importation of used garments forced upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mitumba Association of Kenya Chairperson Teresia Njenga in a statemented issued on Sunday said the continued ban on the importation which was a temporary measure to contain COVID-19 is putting 2 million livelihoods at stake.

"According to the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey 2015-2016, 51 per cent of Kenyan households bought second hand clothes and footwear every quarter in the year. It is estimated from that an average of 6.2 million households bought second hand clothes every quarter in 2019," she said.

The Association Secretary Nancy Wangari confirmed that they have already submitted their proposed protocols for reopening to the Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina which include fumigation of all the imported clothes and shoes at the entry ports before they are released to the market.

"One of the key protocols we have suggested is mainly to disinfect and to re-fumigate the used clothing on arrival at the port. We are waiting for the Committee of Experts set up by our CS to advise on the way forward on the issue of the importation of used clothing," she stated.

CS Maina has directed the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to assess the possibility of lifting the ban without running the risk of importing the disease that has claimed 160 lives.

Other officials include Nicodemus Sonkoro and Peter Kangethe supported the appeal as their members grapple with economic hardships arising from depleting stocks.

"When you look at the low cadre traders especially those who get there wears from retailers and wholesalers, even their lives have been negatively affected, because even the stalls they were trading from have been closed and we are now even more concerned because the importers have began closing down and leaving for their country," said Sonkoro who represents brokers and retailers.

"We are pleading to our able President, to listen to our concerns. We are just asking that as you consider modes of resumption for other sectors of the economy, please don't kill ours. This is where we get our livelihood," Kangethe, a representative of the group that offloads the goods from cargo trucks, said.

According to a recent Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Manpower Survey, the popular second hand clothes and footwear industry employs an estimated 10 per cent of the extended labour force.

Since March, Kenya has reported over 7,000 COVID-19 cases while the disease is expected to peak in September meaning that the country must tread carefully even as it tries to revive the business.

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