Rwanda is a country in Central and East Africa and one of the smallest countries on the African mainland. It is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated.
Rwanda just like many African countries, imports about 20% of second-hand clothes from the USA. This number which would have increased over the years was brought to a complete halt by a government policy which allowed for a high percentage tax rate on imported second-hand clothes.
Second-hand clothing is a multimillion-dollar industry in East Africa.
While the clothing comes from across the globe, including Europe and China, most originates from the United States.
In a bid to resuscitate local manufacturing, East African governments, including those of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, agreed in March 2016 to increase tariffs on imported used clothes with the intention of phasing them out by 2019.
In the 2016/2017 financial year, Rwanda raised the tax on imported used clothes from $0.20 to $2.50 per kilo and to $4 in the next financial year.
As expected, the people’s reaction to this policy were mixed. Some believed the government had made the right moves, while others were more concerned about the source of livelihood for the importers and traders affected by the policy.
although the opinion of the latter is valid, I believe that if they could only be more open minded and not myopic, they will understand that this policy does more good to their future as a country, as this action will push the citizens to look inward, to discover and harness their potentials for manufacturing and exporting.
I think many other African countries can learn a thing or two from this. I do hope they are taking notes.
Rwanda’s insistence on maintaining the import tax and banning used clothing by 2019 has also ruffled feathers outside the country.
The US has repeatedly warned that should the East African community go ahead with implementing import taxes and eventually banning used clothes, they would lose the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows African countries to export certain items to the US without paying duties.
Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya in 2017 separately retreated from the pact to increase import taxes and ban used clothing. But Rwanda refused to join them.
In July, the Trump administration partially suspended Rwanda from the AGOA, effectively taking away the country’s right to export clothing tax-free to the US.
In so doing, Rwanda joined a legion of others, including Canada, the European Union and China, in facing off with Trump’s increasingly belligerent trade policies.
Ahead of the suspension, President Paul Kagame told local media: “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.”
This action opens up a myriad of opportunities for local tailors, textiles manufacturers and designers. And also creates a platform for these former merchants of second-hand clothes to collaborate with local tailors to spread newly made attires that are produced with original locally sourced fabrics all over the country and even to other African countries.
What are your thoughts about the Rwandan government policy against the importation of second-hand clothes? How do you think this can help other African countries? (This article was culled from Aljazeera)
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