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EDITORIAL: Phasing out second hand clothes is all in our interests

As member states of the East African Community (EAC) embark on a gradual phase out of second hand clothes by 2019, American exporters are sounding war drums. Grouped under the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), the American exporters have been leaning on their government to come to their aid.


Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), some selected African countries could export a range of products to the US market duty free.


Under that arrangement, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda managed to export goods worth $43 million in 2016. Now the US government has buckled under SMART’s pressure and threatened to rescind AGOA.


For many years, African countries have been the main destination of second hand clothes and shoes, most of them from the US.


But why should we be forced to import second hand clothes? What dignity is there in wearing castoffs? Our textile industries have failed to take off simply because of this kind of arm-twisting.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) must be aware that last year the US exported $281 million worth of goods to the three mentioned countries.

How can a mere $ 24 million derived from second hand exports to the whole EAC region be an issue to the extent of damaging trade relations between the US and the EAC?

Why should we agree to be dumping grounds for used things? How come no noise was made when the government banned the importation of used electric appliances such as refrigerators because of environmental reasons?

Phasing out second hand clothes and shoes is based on sound economic and health grounds. The US is working in the interests of its second hand clothes exporters; EAC should do the same for our textile industries.

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