Traders in Mombasa have welcomed the lifting of the ban on the importation of second hand clothes in the country.
The traders thanked President Uhuru Kenyatta for lifting the ban on the importation of used clothes popularly known as ‘mitumba ’saying this would bring to an end their economic difficulties.
During his address to the nation Wednesday, President Kenyatta lifted the ban imposed on the importation of second hand clothes into the country in March this year as part of the measures to curb the spread of corona virus.
In his 11th briefing on the Covid-19 pandemic, President Kenyatta said the government would soon announce the details of how the business would be operated and the related protocols.
“We are so grateful to the government for lifting the ban which since its enforcement has crippled second hand clothes business,’’ said Charles Wahome, a trader at Kongowea Whosale Market in Mombasa.
Wahome said mitumba business was the only source of income for thousands of traders in the country who have immensely suffered financially since the ban was imposed five months ago.
“Most of us have not been able to meet our day to day obligations and some were even evicted from their rental houses” he added.
His sentiments were shared by Salim Abdalla, a trader at Mwembetayari who said the lifting of the ban was a huge relief to those depending on second hand clothes business in the coastal city and the country in general.
Abdalla also said majority of Kenyans with low income were largely dependent on second hand clothes and shoes due their affordable prices.
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.
The survey estimated that an average of 6.2 million households bought second hand clothes every quarter in 2019.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows that the mitumba sector contributes Sh17 billion to the country’s economy annually.
When announcing the ban, the Kenya Bureau of Standard (KBS) stated that “importation of used garments and used footwear is hereby prohibited with immediate effect until further notice. This is pursuant to the declaration of Covid-19 as a global pandemic”.
This decision was taken with main objective of safeguarding handlers and users of used textiles and shoes from any risk of exposure to the Coronavirus.
A recent study by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the virus could stay longer on different surfaces, including clothes.
When the ban was imposed, Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Industry and Trade Betty Maina announced that the temporary restriction on imports of second-hand clothes would be lifted once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
Kenya has lately witnessed encouraging reduction of Covid-19 positive cases and according to the country’s experts, the positivity rate countrywide has fallen from 13% in June to 8% in August 2020.
By Mohamed Hassan