At a typical bustling market in Nairobi, sellers offer secondhand jeans and sneakers from California, Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys from Ohio, and sweatpants and raincoats from Britain. The used clothing provides tens of thousands of jobs in Kenya and millions of dollars in government revenue.
But on Wednesday, Kenya’s government banned the import of secondhand clothes to safeguard the health of its citizens amid the coronavirus pandemic, one of several far-reaching measures the East African nation is taking. With 28 confirmed cases, Kenya has shuttered schools, banned religious gatherings, suspended international flights and introduced an overnight curfew that goes into effect on Friday.
The trade ministry said the new directive was also meant to support the local textile industry at a time when key sectors like transportation, tourism and agriculture face mounting challenges.
Used clothing is big business across Africa, with traders in sprawling markets from Kampala, Uganda, to Lagos, Nigeria, catering to low-income workers. But African nations have been looking to wean their markets off the hand-me-downs along with cheap imports from Asia.
Reporting was contributed by Katy Reckdahl, Hana de Goeil, Campbell Robertson, Richard Fausset, Paticia Mazzei, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Julie Davis, Iliana Magra, Elisabetta Povoledo, Abdi Latif Dahir, Daniel Victor, Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Corkery, Sapna Maheshwari, Mariel Padilla, Fatima Faizi, David Zucchino, Vivian Wang and Yiwei Wang.