Secondhand Clothes Ban: A Clash Of Economic Interest Between Rwanda And The US



Secondhand Clothes Ban– Secondhand clothes is a global trade that serves average citizens, third world countries and charity organizations.

Average and low class citizens especially in the 3rd world countries largely depend on importation of secondhand clothes. The world largest importers of used clothing are Sub Saharan countries.

Dating back to the colonial era, secondhand clothes were shipped down to colonies. These were some of the material benefits from the western missionaries and imperialists as well.

Overtime the trade gained a global significance that serves beyond European colonies. Not all the clothing items contained in the bale were previously used. Majority of them are donations to charity organizations

Charity organizations all over the world depend on secondhand clothes to provide for the needy.

Clothing is a quintessential basic needs on man; so the importance cannot be overemphasized.

Secondhand clothes ban

In terms of economic benefits, Secondhand clothes amasses huge profits for manufacturing nations. Self-sufficient nations produce and distribute their clothing. By so doing, the country saves a great deal of expenses and invests them in other areas. From developing the homegrown textile industries, exportation becomes a next step which is more profitable.

Waking up to the call of self-sufficiency, several countries in Africa and beyond have placed a ban on the importation of secondhand clothes. Coupled with the global economic instability, manufacturing is the way forward. These countries are currently prioritizing local industrialization.

East African countries such as, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda placed an embargo on the importation of secondhand clothes.

South Africa allows the import of second-hand clothes “only for charitable purposes and not for commercial resale”(Wikipedia).

See Also: Introducing The First Ever Made-In-Rwanda Laptops

In reaction to the subsequent secondhand clothes ban, US has threatened to review their trade deals with the countries in question. By declaring the ban, the countries risk membership of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

AGOA is a United States Trade Act established for the purpose of creating a free market for US in some sub-Saharan African countries.

Recent reports say that while Kenya has withdrawn the ban, Rwanda’s Kagame is not budging even if it costs them the AGOA membership.



“This is the choice we find that we have to make. As far as I am concerned, making the choice is simple, we might suffer consequences. Even when confronted with difficult choices, there is always a way,”

“Rwanda and other countries in the region that are part of AGOA, have to do other things, we have to grow and establish our industries,”

In 2016, U.S. recorded a $43 million profit; a $10 million increase from the previous year from imports from Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. For the exports U.S moved from a $257 million profit in 2015 to $281 million in 2016.

See Also: Uganda May Loose Out On A Lucrative Trade Deal Because Of The Ban On Used Clothes

Secondhand Clothes Ban

The largest exporters of used clothing in descending order include the US, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Spain and China.

Sorted secondhand clothes are packed and exported in bales of 50 kg. The Unsorted ones are likewise compressed into bales of 500 to 1000 kg.

The higher graded ones is exported to Central American Countries while the lower graded clothing is shipped to Africa and Asia. Between 1991 and 2004 there has been an increased demand of secondhand clothes in Africa. This has taken a toll on struggling African economies.

Rwanda has raised taxes for secondhand clothes and inversely offered incentives to local textile manufacturers and investors.

India and the Philippines banned the import of secondhand clothes in order to improve the local textile industry. Countries with booming textile industries, however, are permissive of the secondhand clothes trade.

For health reasons, secondhand clothes importation became a concern as used underwears were also part of the imported bales.

So what makes secondhand clothes a heavily staple option in Africa? We have quality, durability, uniqueness, fashion trends and affordability.

The proudly African made clothings are most times only affordable to a wealthy few. The secondhand clothes ban will be felt by the poor masses. In the same way it may increase unemployment rates.

While countries like Rwanda are applauded for putting the nation’s economy first, it is advised that a sustainable alternative be in place before implementing the secondhand clothes ban.

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