KIGALI – The Rwandan Government has said it will cover tax obligations for local textile exporters to ensure they are not adversely affected by the expected suspension of duty-free access to the US market under the AGOA framework. The move is part of plans to develop the country’s textile industry which, it is claimed, has been harmed by the continuous import of second hand clothing. Government sources claim Rwanda could create more than 25,000 jobs and increase textile exports to US$43m if it supports the local textile sector.
In March this year, the US announced plans to suspend the application of duty-free treatment to all African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)-eligible goods in the apparel sector for Rwanda. The suspension followed the implementation by Rwanda of an East African Community decision to phase out second-hand clothes imports to help boost the region’s textile industry.
In 2015, the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State adopted a three-year gradual process to phase out the importation of second-hand clothing and footwear to promote textile, apparel and leather industries in the region, however, only has Rwanda implemented the ban despite threats by the US that it was violating the AGOA to which it is a signatory with 40 other African countries.
The issue of used clothing flooding the African markets is hugely contentious. When I interviewed Alan Wheeler, director with the Textile Recycling Association about this in 2017, he claimed banning clothing imports would not support textile production in East African Community (EAC) states as, adding that used clothing is not a significant factor affecting the economic prosperity of textile producers.
Africa imports 32 per cent of the world’s used clothes valued at US$1bn.