Kenya, one of the largest importers of second-hand clothing in Sub-Saharan Africa, imported approximately 185,000 tonnes of second-hand clothing, approximately 8,000 containers in 2019. Between 2015 and 2019, the country recorded a steady rise in second-hand “mitumba” imports, driven by demand for its use and exports to other countries.
According to a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs, import volumes rose from 111,000 tonnes in 2015 to 185,000 tonnes in 2019, reflecting the high demand for the goods in Kenya. In the same period, the nominal value of the imports rose by 80% to Ksh 18 billion.
Demand for Second-hand Clothing
Kenyans’ appetite for second-hand clothing follows the accommodative prices of the items in a country where many households face income constrains. Low income and high living cost have relegated footwear and apparel to the last priority among the Kenyans.
Data from the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that in 2019, expenditure on clothing and footwear accounted for only 2.5% of total private consumption of Ksh 7.9 trillion, compared to 44.8% for food and beverages and 6.4% for housing. Such leaves only Ksh 197.5 billion for clothing and footwear, averaging to Ksh 4,150 per person annually for both new and second-hand clothes.
The low annual per capita spending on clothing and footwear leads to a price-conscious approach towards clothing purchases, forcing many Kenyans to opt for second-hand clothes over new clothes. As a result, 91.5% of households buy second-hand clothes worth less than Ksh 1000, and only 8.5% buy second-hand garments worth more than Ksh 1000, with many opting to buy new clothes only for work or school. On the other hand, only 74.5% buy new clothes valued at less than 1000.