Trade and Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina has disclosed that the government is exploiting ways to resume the importation of second-hand clothes without endangering the lives of Kenyans.
A report by Business Daily on Wednesday, July 1, indicated that the ministry had tasked Kenya Bureau of Statistics with probing the lifting of the import ban which was put in place in March after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country.
“The Mitumba guys have appealed and we have said that we need to work together to develop protocols for dealing with used clothes in the context of the pandemic.
“We have received their petition and they need to work together with the bureau to advise if there is a way or mechanism for handling the matter given that the pandemic is going on for much longer than people had thought,” Maina stated.
A technical committee was set up which involves officials from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA).
The team will be tasked with determining whether the virus will have subsided by the time the imported second-hand clothes arrive in the country as they are likely to take more than two months.
KEBS Managing Director Bernard Njiraini confirmed that the easing of trade in countries where mitumba originates from had made it easier to inspect whether proper hygiene is being exercised to curb the spread of the virus.
“Now that other areas are slowly opening up, such activities like inspection are possible. We had to first stop importation to protect Kenyans.
“The technical committee can now look at it and say well, we need to facilitate trade to continue because we understand the critical role that trade plays in micro and small-medium enterprises in their daily activities in the importation,” he stated.
The state banned the importation explaining that the move was meant to safeguard Kenyans’ health and reached to promote the local textile industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move caused intense reactions from a section of members of Parliament led by Dan Maanzo and Otiende Amollo.
Machakos MP Dan Maanzo, who sits in the National Assembly Committee on Trade, Industries and Cooperatives said that, at the time, while the move was welcome, he was of the opinion that the clothes should simply be disinfected when brought into the country.
Demand for Mitumba clothes in 2019 topped Ksh17 billion and Ksh16.9 billion in 2018.