Kenya is one of the world’s largest importers of second hand clothing commonly referred to as “Mitumba” in Kenya.
The clothes are mainly donations from Western Europe and North America intended for the poor in Africa and other parts of the world. This however has not stopped businessmen from selling them and making huge profits.
Although second hand clothes trade in Kenya is declining due to the increase of new imports from Asia, it still remains significantly high. The trade has clear consumer benefits. This is especially true in countries with low purchasing power.
In Kenya, second hand clothes offer an affordable alternative to the costly Asian imports. The second hand clothes are not only for the poor, those who earn a good income also opt for these clothes as they can buy designer labels and unique garments at an affordable price.
The trade supports thousands of livelihoods in Kenya. Second hand clothes trade employs people in trading, distributing, repairing and laundering the clothes. These people would have otherwise been unemployed with no means to support themselves and their families.
Apart from clothes, other used items are also traded including toys, shoes, accessories and books.
Although the second hand clothes imports have undermined the textile industries in Kenya, they have provided more affordable choices for Kenyans and employed many, hence a welcome trade.