I bet you had no idea that Nairobi is a manufacturing hub of some of the world’s best known clothing brands.
We often claim that Kenya’s textile industry has progressively been killed off by mitumba, which is true to some extent. However, government policy has led to the development of a whole new textile industry based at the Export Processing Zone (EPZ).
It so happens that probably Kenya’s biggest employer is based out of EPZ Athi River. You may not have heard of United Aryan (EPZ) Ltd, but this company employs more than 10,000 Kenyans. It is the largest apparel manufacturer in the country.
United Aryan has been subcontracted by some of the world’s leading brands to produce clothes for the global market. Levi’s andWrangler are its biggest clients.
Then there is Hela Intimates EPZ Ltd. It was opened 6 months ago and is already employing 3000 Kenyans. Hela has an even more impressive client list than Aryan.
Among the innerwear brands it is making right here in Nairobi are: Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger & Victoria’s Secret.
Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed paid them a visit last week.
These clothing items cost next to nothing to manufacture, yet when they get to the American or European market, you’ll be lucky to buy any of them for less than $50.
EPZ companies like these are good for employment, but basically pay almost no tax.
Until now, it’s a mystery why the government has never allowed them to sell their products in the country. Perhaps we would have dealt with the mitumba problem once and for all.
The government has now announced that up to 20% of their products will be sold locally. “We have taken a position that up to 20 per cent of goods and apparels manufactured by our EPZ companies can be accessed by Kenyans at affordable prices but for the same quality exported to other countries like the US,” CS Adan Mohamed said.
To start it off, there will be a ‘super sale’ this week, from Wednesday 29 to Friday 31 at the KICC.
Brand new wear will be sold for between Sh100 and Sh600. While this is definitely good for the consumer, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of noise from other sellers who do not enjoy the same tax-free advantage.