Is this the end of the Mitumba Industry in Kenya?

By Roshie Anne

I came across Maureen Ojunga’s article (via capitalfm) late last year that stated that there might be a ban of second-hand clothes (Mitumbas) in Kenya. I thought that was a jest because I personally grew up on mitumbas. At one time my bargaining skills were top notch. So why resort to banning second-hand clothes?

In order to protect the textile and leather industries, the government proposed to ban the importation of second hand clothing in an industrialization bill that they are currently working on. The bill is to be finalized sometime this year. Elections have currently been at the fore front and once we usher in a new president, this Bill which is still pending might be pushed forward.

If this bill passes, what happens to the many youths that earn a living through selling second-hand clothes?  How will they put food on the table? How about the girl who has a knack for styling but not enough money to spend on the expensive boutiques at Village Market? I can honestly say that that was me once upon a time. I learnt how to put my looks together from digging in a pile of  mitumba in Ngara or Toy Market. Ah! The wonderful good old days.

On the other hand, this bill might be good for the local fashion industry in Kenya.  Fashion Designer Zeddie, of Blackbird Jeans says,

I think it’s a good idea. The fashion industry will be boosted with this bill. It will bring business to the fashion designers who are trying to show case their work. Kenyans are very innovative; they can be able to think of ways of getting good, well made clothes without resorting to mitumbas. This might even boost creativity.”

Fundi Frank, deemed as the god-father of Kenyan fashion, says,

The bill has taken a long time to be implemented. Mitumba clothes are now being imported from China and other places. This does not help the Kenyan fashion industry at all. It’s killing the industry. The bill should be passed so that the fashion industry here in Kenya can move forward.”

There’s a high-unemployment rate in Kenya, many youths who sell mitumbas will have to resort to something else. Fundi Frank thinks that this will now become a political issue. The government will have to figure out what to do with the youth and squatters once the bill has been passed.

Industrialization permanent secretary echoes Fundi Frank’s, and Zeddie’s  statements stating that the bill is a move by the government to create local market for manufactures and traders.

Will this bill be the end of mitumbas?

Only time will tell!


Roshie Anne is an up and coming fashion designer living and working in the US. She also has her own fashion blog where she shares her style inspiration and fashion tips.


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