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East African Business Community want Second Hand Clothes promoted

The Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya (MCAK) has called on governments across the East Africa region to boost Second Hand Clothing and Textile Sector (SHC) for enhancing economic and social development.

The Second-Hand Clothing sector (SHC) represents a powerful force for economic growth, environmental sustainability, and job creation in East Africa and has empowered millions of people particularly women and young people by giving them a chance to establish thriving micro-businesses in second-hand clothing supply chains.

Speaking during the event, MCAK Chairperson Teresiah Wairimu has sensitized on the need to not be swayed by those advocating the imposition of barriers and restrictions on the second-hand clothing sector, as such measures would only undermine the livelihoods of 3.4 million hardworking individuals in East Africa and hinder the progress of the majority.

“It is crucial to dispel the misconception that a growing secondhand industry undermines domestic textile production; rather, we stimulate our own textile production using recyclable materials and fostering innovation to create a thriving domestic textile industry by supporting SHC,” stated Wairimu.

Further, Wairimu added that the world is awakening to the environmental imperative of extending the life of clothing through reuse and reducing textile waste; therefore this sector aligns perfectly with the global focus on the circular economy.

The Chairperson revealed that every ton of second-hand clothing imported into the EAC states generates an impressive 7.58 jobs providing a significant source of income for millions of individuals involved in second-hand clothing distribution chains across East Africa.

“The second-hand clothing market makes substantial contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and government revenues. In 2021, the industry delivered government revenue estimated at US$419 million across East Africa which is used to fuel public sector development, improve infrastructure and provide essential services for the citizens,” Wairimu voiced.

She observed that the availability of second-hand clothing also enhances consumer welfare by providing affordable options for those on low incomes, helping to ease poverty and improve living standards as well as appealing to the rising African middle class by providing quality clothing.

She added that it is essential for policymakers to recognize that the expansion of domestic textile production and the growth of the second-hand clothing industry are not mutually exclusive and therefore we should build upon the strong foundation we already have.

“I am pleased to launch our latest report ahead of African trade ministers converging in Kenya this week. Our report shows once again how important the Mitumba industry is to Kenya and East Africa. Our dedication to these endeavors should be seen as a message to all stakeholders that we are active and engaged in our communities and global in our capabilities,” Wairimu announced.

She noted that the report’s findings will provide guidelines on how East Africa can lead the way to a more sustainable textile industry, rejecting the wastefulness of fast fashion in the west but forging a valued industry that supports jobs and the wider economy.

At the same time, the Professor of Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London, Patrick Diamond noted that the report makes the case that the second-hand clothing sector is vital to the economic and social future of the countries that comprise the East Africa Community (EAC) and that growing the industry is a win-win for consumers, governments and the environment.

By Susan Gichanja and Daisy Masinde

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