In late March, the Kenyan government banned the importation of used garments in what it said was a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Even though used clothes are fumigated before being shipped, Kenyan authorities said they were taking precautions because of the spike in infections in the US and other countries.
Some second hand retailing businesses are threatened, as well as the sartorial choices of millions of Kenyans who depend on low-cost imports to stay stylish.
Officials also said the banning of imported clothing – known as mitumba, the Swahili word for “bundles” – could have an unexpected benefit. It could help Kenya revive its own textile industry, which was wiped out in the late 1980s as the country started opening its markets to foreign competition.
“I think corona has shown not just for Kenya but for many countries to look inward a lot and try and fill some of the market gaps,” says Phyllis Wakiaga, the chief executive of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. “The reality is that there’s a big opportunity for us to produce local clothes for the citizens.”
For years, Kenya, along with other countries in East Africa, has tried to phase out used clothing to boost local manufacturing, but the countries faced the threat of being removed from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which promotes trade by providing reduced or duty-free access to the US market. Many countries backed off from instituting a ban on imported clothing, with the exception of Rwanda.
The pandemic gave Kenya a chance to promote its own clothing manufacturing but thwarted a lively trade.
In Nairobi, the combination of the import ban, plus lockdown measures and an overnight curfew introduced to stamp out the virus, has drastically reduced activity at the popular Gikomba and Toi thrift markets, mazes of narrow pathways packed with bellowing vendors and piles of clothes, shoes and household goods.
As the largest importer of used clothing in East Africa, Kenya, with its new ban, is expected to not just upend supply chains but also lead to a hemorrhage in jobs connected to the trade and the loss of millions of dollars from government coffers as tax revenue and import duties fall.
But where some see problems, others see opportunity. The pandemic has also offered some the chance to start their own clothing line. Kenyan companies are also responding to the challenges of the pandemic by focusing locally.
Kenya is aiming to be the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the US, which could undermine Kenya’s will to retain the clothing ban.
Used clothes traders have appealed to the government in recent days to lift the ban, saying there is no public health risk associated with the trade, but officials have so far ruled that option out.
For now, Kenyan designers and manufacturers say the ban gives them a window of opportunity to start shaping the future of fashion in Kenya.
“Now is a good time to make choices and changes,” says Kamwana, the owner of Textile Loft. “You will be surprised by what comes out of this country.”
UPCOMING TOP EVENTS!
Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week will highlight the growing talent of African designers and brands to the international market. It is committed to being a part of the growth of the industry in Ethiopia and the region by making Addis the HUB, encouraging designers, making links between buyers, manufacturers, and international media.
It will bring local and regional key industry individuals with seasoned international industry figures to discuss and share ideas and experiences on how to grow and develop the fashion and garment industry to compete in the global market.
FashionGHANA Honors & Awards are also known as #FGHA began in 2018 as a fixated awarding process in between Accra Fashion Week runway shows. The award was heavily appreciated in 2019 is had a whole day dedicated to the awards night during Accra Fashion Week. After skipping a year during the pandemic in 2020, the event returned in 2021 holding the biggest fashion awards during the year.
This edition will explore the frontiers where the growth of the sustainability movement in Africa is stunted, and entice more eco-friendly brands to shift their focus to the growing African population. Will feature spectacular collections and creative designs from different designers from Ghana and beyond who will light up the runway.
Will be the biggest combined dish of thrilling music and exciting fashion with this new opportunity that will be given to young aspiring designers.
Will feature an ALL STAR cast of crowd-pulling models, prominent politicians from the major parties (to exhibit national cohesion), and professional models.
Ghana’s leading fashion event Accra Fashion Week is scheduled for 7-11 December 2022 following their 5th-year celebration last year in 2021. Accra Fashion Week is a platform for African designers that can be compared to fashion weeks across the major capitals. It aims to fill the void which sees tremendous creativity and culture across the continent with the absence of an operating fashion infrastructure.
The epic event took place at Ghana Dubai in Accra, and saw models march down the steps from the Kwame Nkrumah Monument whilst being followed by a spotlight, before circulating the central fountains. Memories of the exciting night still give chills as guests revisit the experience on youtube.
However, rest assured that 2022 is going to be even more exciting with greater performances and an upgraded designer collection. FashionGHANA.com is sure to bring you the exclusives we did on www.FashionGHANA.com/TV. All last year’s shows are available to watch on youtube. Designer’s registration is ongoing on the AccraFashionWeek.org website.
DIRECTION COLLECTION: OUT NOW!
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