Kenyan Government lifts used clothing import embargo

The Kenyan Government has announced that imports of used clothing and shoes will be allowed to resume after they were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Announced last Friday (14 August), the new protocol provides information on best practices for supply chain operators to guarantee the health and safety of sellers, importers, wholesalers and buyers and limit the risk of the spread of Covid-19.

Used clothing.The ban on imports of used clothing and textiles was originally announced in March at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) in collaboration with the UK Government and the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) have since been working to present scientific evidence that textile imports are safe from Covid-19.

The TRA has praised the formation of the Kenyan textile association Mitumba Association of Kenya (MAK) – ‘mitumba’ is a Kenyan term for used clothing – and its work in persuading the Kenyan Government to lift the ban on used clothing imports.

MAK made repeat representations to the Kenyan Government, particularly the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, to develop a protocol to allow for the safe resumption of used clothing and shoe imports throughout the summer.

The used textiles market is a key sector of the Kenyan economy, employing around two million people – around 10 per cent of the labour force according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Commenting on the news, Alan Wheeler, Director of the Textile Recycling Association, said: “The publication of this protocol is a very significant development which we anticipate will formally allow imports to start again in the weeks to come. Whilst we have been working behind the scenes to engage in conversations with the Kenyan authorities to seek solutions that are mutually beneficial, I think much credit has to be given to the recently formed Mitumba Association of Kenya (MAK), who have made seemingly excellent representations to their government and have some really encouraging proposals to help develop their industry and give it the recognition and credibility it deserves.”

The TRA has encouraged used textile traders in other countries to consider forming trade associations to replicate the success of the MAK.

Kenya’s protocol on the importation of used textiles and shoes states that all importers of used textiles and shoes should notify the government of their intention to import, with all imports to be subject to inspection and certification under Pre-Export Verification of Conformity to Standards requirements.