Three years ago, Heads of State from the East African Community adopted a roadmap that will lead to the phaseout of the importation of used clothes, known locally as Caguwa in their respective countries.
The Heads of State also agreed on different mechanisms to make the ban effective, including reforms in tax administration to increase domestic revenues and boost domestic investments and garment manufacturing industry.
In principle, every leader serves or should serve the interests of their electorate.
Used clothes are leftovers, and no responsible leader should promote them in their country. That is why “rich” countries keep exporting or rather dumping them in “poor” countries, especially in Africa.
On Wednesday this week, different media outlets reported that the United States Trade Representative was reviewing trade benefits to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after a complaint about an East African ban on imports of used clothing.
However, the bloc is made of six countries, and one would wonder why only the above three countries were singled out as target for the sanctions.
What the public needs to understand is that; Africa should not be considered a dumping site for leftovers. Secondly, by ratifying AGOA, Africa did not surrender its sovereignty and wellbeing of its population to the US business interests.
What should be considered is mutual respect and mutual interests.
Africa and the USA need each other in doing business and other sectors of life.
Sanctions can never solve the contentions of whichever form. For sustainable development, there is need for increased trade and investment promotion rather than imports of used clothes.
These clothes, instead of boosting trade, kill domestic economies in the receiving countries. I wish the US could listen to this and help Africa to boost its domestic investments for sustainable partnerships.
Used clothes dressing has strong psychological implications, because it keeps some Africans’ mind in a second class manhood, thinking that; Africans are made for used clothes and not the new ones. The ban did not single out the US, it targeted the entire export-import sector, regardless of the country of origin.
I understand that; the United States of America is a business partner to the East African Community, but I would advise them to push for increased exports of brand new clothes instead of used clothes, if they really wish to promote sustainable interests in trade and investments.
Under the sustainable development goals financing mechanisms, every country should increase its domestic resources mobilisation and attract foreign direct investments. East African Community should not be penalised for promoting quality imports and exports, and the United States of America should rather take advantage of the new EAC regulations to boost their exports.
When such pressure starts from some super powers, perceived or otherwise, some leaders are likely to become flexible, and end up forsaking the interests of their people to foreign interests.
Africans should stand together, not only for leaders but also all the entire citizenry, to engage every business partner in this new direction: Africans deserve brand new clothes and not used ones.
This requires focused and resilient leaders who can mobilise their peers and engage their partners. Africa should not be considered a dumping continent and Africans don’t deserve used clothes. Leadership is the key here.
The writer is a political analyst and a member of the PanAfrican Movement, Rwanda Chapter.