Members of Parliament from both chambers of the House have welcomed a three-year plan to phase out the commercialisation of second-hand clothes, locally known as ‘caguwa.’
They urged the government to ensure the exercise is successful so as to create local jobs and reduce the country’s trade deficit, but warned against any hasty implementation.
The MPs were speaking in Parliament yesterday while reacting to a presentation by Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi, about the government’s activities to promote industries with a special focus on textile.
While the lawmakers agreed with the government’s recently announced plans to phase out second-hand clothes and shoes on the Rwandan market over the next three years, they called for measures to be taken to ensure that the process doesn’t hurt both traders who sell the clothes and clients who buy them.
“The first step in phasing out second-hand clothes should be to increase local production of both good quality and affordable clothes before we can ban second-hand clothes that are currently imported,” said MP Marie Rose Mureshyankwano, the chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies.
MP Theobald Mporanyi agreed with Mureshyankwano, advising government to first ensure that local production is enough to supply the local market for garments before banning second-hand clothes.
“How sure are we that within three years we will be ready to ban caguwa (second-hand clothes). Will we have managed to produce enough clothes to dress our people?” he wondered.
The prime minister told the lawmakers that the government has plans to support local producers so they can make enough clothes, including helping them to work together in cooperatives to optimise their production potential.
Murekezi also said that the government will slap an expensive import tax on second-hand clothes and shoes to make it hard for Rwandans to buy them, a move that will compel them to buy locally made clothing.
“Caguwa has to be expensive. The more we increase taxes on importing second-hand clothes, the more we will be investing in our own garment industries,” Murekezi said.
Among other measures to boost the country’s industries, including textile industries, the MPs urged the government to reduce the cost of electricity for manufacturers, ensure that there are raw materials that industries need such as synthetic fibre for textile industries and well-prepared skin for shoe makers, as well as training young people in different manufacturing skills.
“We have so many young people who need jobs and one way we can create the jobs for them is through developing our industries,” said MP Juliana Kantengwa.
The prime minister told lawmakers that Rwandans have been importing more second-hand shoes and clothes in the last five years, with the imports growing from $10,711,960 in 2010 to $28,530,170 in 2015.
“A big portion of this money can be invested in making clothes and shoes in Rwanda instead of spending it on importing them,” the premier told lawmakers after revealing the amount of money spent on importing second-hand shoes and clothes.
The country’s policy for industrialisation, which was adopted in 2011, emphasises the need to build infrastructure for industries, diversifying production of goods in the country, and increasing locally made products for export.
Under Rwanda’s second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II), the government has targeted activities in the industrial sector—such as manufacturing, construction, and mining— to contribute 20 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2018, up from the current 14 per cent.
Officials say that the industrial sector needs to grow at an annual rate of 14 per cent to achieve the 20 per cent target, which means that every effort is needed to promote it.
The industrial sector remains the third biggest contributor to the country’s growth after services and agriculture.