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Thika Cloth Mills On The Path To Full Recovery, Calls For ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’.

Thika Cloth Mills CEO Ms. Tejal Dodhia addressing the press during a company tour last week.
When Kenya liberalised its economy in the early 1990s, it opened its doors to mass importation of used clothing (mitumba) leading to the textile industry’s virtual collapse as the sale of second-hand clothing, called got so widespread. Mitumba first came to Kenya in the late 1980s at a time when the textile industry was booming, employing some 30% of the formal labour force.

In 2000, the signing in the U.S. of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) briefly revived the textile industry, but mostly in the export sector rather than the domestic market.

Nonetheless, things are starting to shape up for the textile industries with Thika Cloth Mills CEO Ms. Tejal Dodhia recently expressing some hope that the government was doing everything possible to revive the industry.

She revealed that Thika Cloth Mills was still recovering from the effects of liberalisation that led to the closure of at least 17 giant textile industries adding that the substandard imports that dock at the port in myriad containers were slowly driving manufacturers to their knees. Raymonds, Kicomi, UTI, Bhupco, Mombasa Towels and TSS textile companies which supported spinning, weaving, cotton and garmenting in Kenya were all closed after unfair competition from external companies got its way in Kenya.

Dodhia notes that since the inception of Jubilee government, the industry has expanded noting that the level of exports had increased.

Speaking at the factory, the CEO said that Thika Cloth Mills was now able to receive tenders from Safaricom, National Youth Service, KEBSA, and Kenya Ports Authority among other big companies. She revealed that the company was currently supporting 22,000 small scale cotton farmers in Makueni, Kitui, Taita, Taveta, Mpeketoni and the former Nyanza Province adding that the company was optimistic to doubling the number in the next two years.

Following modernisation of the company machine operations, the CEO said the company was willing to expand with an aim to increase its production and workforce giving hope to jobless youth.

“I have full confidence that ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’ policy will be implemented by government institutions. Thika Cloth Mills has invested so much in technology and equipment with the aim of supporting both our customers and cotton suppliers, doubling the already 54,000 jobs in the value chain to 100,000 over the next two years,” said Dodhia.

Dodhia lamented that Kenya was unable compete with the world market following the mass importation of counterfeit textile products. She challenged Kenyans to promote locally made products by purchasing them adding that this, would improve the economy, attract more investment, retain skills and increase innovations.

“Kenyans need to protect and promote their brands. Whenever a company closes its doors, we lose jobs, investment is gone and skills lost,” she added.

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She asserted that Kenya had the potential of becoming a global player in the textile industry, challenging import-export sectors to move and reduce imports to save the local manufacturers.

“Reduction of counterfeit products will help our local manufacturers fight substandard products as well as help grow local companies which will then in return invest more, grow and allow innovation towards better products and most of all create jobs that Kenya desperately needs,” she stated.

“As challenging as it may be, I also urge KRA to ensure dumping does not happen and correct taxes are paid at entry points. KEBS should also join the fight and ensure no substandard and counterfeits enter our markets,” she suggested.

She called on companies, government institutions, schools, politicians making their campaign products and security companies that import their clothing form other countries to consider outsourcing these products locally.

Thika Cloth Mills makes uniform materials, trousers, shirts, bed sheets, Kitenge, pillows and kikois.

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