charity clothes

Revealed: This is why some African countries don’t want charity clothes

Donating second-hand clothes has had a negative effect on textile industries in African countries.

The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, has said: “We are put in a situation where we have to choose – you choose to be a recipient of used clothes… or choose to grow our textile industries.”

Rwanda is planning to ban the import of second-hand clothes by 2019 and has already put up tariffs.

Imports of cheap second-hand clothes from the West have had an impact on local clothes manufacturers – but so have changes in world trade policies and the rise of Asian garment producers.

The hand-me-down trade also employs thousands of people in some countries.

African countries once had large textile industries – and some critics blame the flood of cheap second-hand clothes from abroad for the continent’s shrunken textile sector.

There has long been a global trade in second-hand clothes, handed in to charity shops in wealthy Western nations and then sold on to traders in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

This is big business. Some of the wholesale traders in African nations have established highly profitable businesses.

However, some African countries have had enough of hand-me-downs and the impact they are having on local industries.

In 2015, member states of the East African Community (EAC), which comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, announced they would ban second-hand imports from 2019 to protect their own clothing manufacturers.

East African countries, which account for 13% of the global market in second-hand textiles (worth a total of $274m (£208m) in 2015), began imposing tariffs.

But then, under pressure from the United States, countries in the EAC reduced tariffs and withdrew the proposed ban. Rwanda, however, refused to back down.

And in March 2018, the US temporarily suspended Rwanda from an arrangement allowing sub-Saharan countries preferential access to the US market.

But Rwanda stood firm and maintained its import tariffs, saying it wanted to build up its own “Made in Rwanda” textile industry.

And, as a result, it lost some of its duty-free privileges on exports to the US.


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