The government, once again, finds itself at a crossroads on whether to restrict entry of second hand clothes or not. A notice by the East African Community has revealed that the Government has not increased duty on imported second hand clothes after all.
National Treasury CS Henry Rotich might receive some flak for what appears to have been a deception of the public when he said used clothing, popularly known as mitumba, would also be slapped with punitive tariffs as other imported cheap clothes.
Besides compromising Kenya’s diplomatic relations with the US, restricting the entry of mitumba -- or even worse banning it -- will not only hurt those employed in the market but also consumers who cannot afford new expensive clothes. The United States has already indicated that it will be ruthless with African countries who act in the interest of their infant textile industries by slapping high taxes on imported used clothes. Rwanda is the latest victim of US President Donald Trump’s brazen trade war.
And while we oppose such illiberal policies as the ones favored by the US, and which reek of blackmail, Kenya has to face the issue of ridding its market of second hand clothing with sobriety.
Granted, as one of his Big Four agenda, President Kenyatta wants to create jobs by revamping manufacturing, but this has to be tapered with reality. The new manufacturing sector must not come at the expense of the betterment of consumers. Only when we can determine that Kenyans will be better off with their own textile can we do away with mitumba.