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Total mitumba ban won't work here, traders tell Raila

The Chairperson of Mitumba Association of Kenya Teresia Wairimu (left) flanked by a section of other members address the press at a Nairobi hotel on August 29,2020. [Collins Kweyu,Standard]

Azimio la Umoja presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga has been faulted over his remarks on second-hand clothes and the mitumba business.

The Mitumba traders association waded into the debate after Raila’s sentiments during his manifesto launch where he said he would revive the local textile industry and referred to second-hand clothes as “clothes for the dead”, which many interpreted as a sign that he intended to scrap the trade if he wins the August elections.

Speaking during the launch of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Alliance of Kenya, Mitumba Association chairperson Teresia Wairimu advised Raila and the government, against any attempt to do away with the mitumba industry in favour of local textile industries.

She said the mitumba sector had employed over two million people and was responsible for availing Sh15 billion to the exchequer annually in tax.

This is besides the fact that six million households depend on mitumba trade and 85 per cent of Kenyans wear mitumba clothing.

“To ban mitumba in promotion of the textile industry is to give with one hand and take from the other. Mitumba does not undermine local textile production. The narrative that it does is not factual. Both can co-exist,” said Ms Wairimu.

She called for a more elaborate supply chain of mitumba goods by the government with clear sorting areas in Kenya to supply Africa.

This, she said, would create over 14,000 jobs and increase the export of mitumba to other African countries.

Wairimu also invited all party leaders to accommodate the mitumba trade while drafting their manifestos.

The MSME Alliance was launched at KICC grounds on Thursday to champion the rights and interests of small enterprises.

MSME Alliance CEO Sammy Karanja said there are 7.1 million MSMEs in Kenya, with 1.6 million being formally registered and 5.8 million unlicensed.

Mr Karanja said some 1.6 million had come together to engage and negotiate with the national government.

“We want to formalise what is informal, organise ourselves and have an engagement of peers so that in the long run we can sit with the government and ensure our input is captured during policy making,” said Karanja.

He said their objective is to address current and future needs of groups such as body bodas and market traders among other small enterprises.

The Alliance has also pledged to conduct a census of all MSMEs to determine the exact number. “We are encouraging members to formalise their chamas (merry-go-rounds) and they can come on board,” said Karanja.

“Some policies regulating the MSMEs industry are archaic and we are seeking to use this Alliance as a lobby group to advocate a review. We also want to be a reliable medium of dissemination of the right information to our business partners and import the correct products,” he added.

MSME Alliance president Ben Mutai said MSMEs in various sectors had been trained by Equity Bank. He noted that other than providing legal services to Alliance members, the ensemble was seeking to attain more members to increase lobbying strength.

Equity Bank Kenya Managing Director Gerald Warui, who spoke on behalf of Equity boss James Mwangi, said a Sh700 billion kitty had been rolled out to MSMEs in East African region to be shared between Kenya and the other five countries; Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, DRC and South Sudan.