East African Community (EAC) member states have agreed to start a process to impose a ban on second hand clothes.
The development came on a day when South Sudan was admitted to the region’s bloc.
Majority of second hand clothes, commonly known as ‘mitumba’, traders have, however, not welcomed the decision, saying the sector clothes many Kenyans and is a source of income to many.
Gabriel Njeru, who sells imported second hand women’s handbags, said most of his customers are low income earners, adding that the prices are friendly.
“This is a good business. I place food on the table from this trade and also educate my children in secondary and primary school,” he said.
But traders like Njeru face a bleak future should the EAC leaders at the 17th Ordinary EAC Heads of State Summit in Tanzania ban second hand clothes and shoes.
Apart from the ban on second hand clothes and shoes, other issues to be discussed are ban on vehicle importation in a bid to promote motor vehicle assembly.
It is estimated that 65,000 people work in Gikomba; Kenya’s largest open air ‘mitumba’ market.
The traders said the ban, if implemented, will affect the economic growth of the country.
“This is not a good idea. It will not only affect the traders but also the poor in the society. Where will we go and we can’t go to work in an office? The ban will destroy jobs created in the business and hurt millions of poor consumers,” said trader Susan Gichea.
The importation of ‘mitumba’ is blamed for the collapse of the country’s textile industry.
While critics see the second hand business as a problem in the region, traders in Gikomba do not view it that way.
On admission of South Sudan to the EAC, Tanzania President John Magufuli said: “I am happy to see the Republic of South Sudan join the EAC. Now the EAC will serve a population of 150 million and we now expect oil from South Sudan.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the EAC integration process was important because the world is in competition.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
“The purpose of EAC is to see how to survive in a competitive world because we are not alone in the world,” said Mr Museveni.
The summit also saw the launch of a code of conduct for private sector members.