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Second hand clothes in EAC

Customers at a secondhand clothes stall in Nyeri, Kenya. Tanzania argued that the EAC decision to phase out importation of second hand clothing and leather is yet to be implemented

Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are defending their decision to raise tariffs on imported secondhand clothes, saying it is based on current value, trade realignment and that —for Rwanda— it’s a one-off.

The three countries are reacting to calls by a US business association to restrict their eligibility for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Together with the East African Community Secretariat, they have written to the panel of the out-of-cycle review, comprised of representatives of six US government agencies: the Departments of Commerce, Labour, Treasury and State, as well as the US Agency for International Development and the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The review could decide if the three countries should lose some of the benefits of Agoa. Tanzania and Uganda, in their submissions, insisted that the doubling of levies on imports of used clothing, from $0.20 to $0.40 per kilogramme, was for realignments with the current value.

Tanzania’s Trade Permanent Secretary Adolf Mkenda said increase or decrease of tax, duties and fees is a fiscal decision, which is implemented as part of annual fiscal measures.

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PIC: Faith Lumonya, programme officer of SEATINI, displays secondhand undergarments after a press conference in Kampala.

Civil society organizations have backed the East African Community (EAC) heads of states to ban the importation of secondhand clothes in order to build the capacity of cotton and textile industries within the region.

"It is important that the decision by the heads of states to phase out secondhand clothes be supported in order to enable the EAC in general and Uganda in particular grow and enhance her local production capacity," said Faith Lumonya. She is the programme officer of Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI).

With specific reference to Uganda, the group argued that Uganda National Textile policy value chain analysis indicates that with added capacity at spinning, weaving and finishing stages, more revenue can be generated and more jobs could be created internally beyond the 2.5 million across the value chain.

“As such, the EAC can implement measures to phase out secondhand clothes so as to boost her domestic industries,” the civil society groups told the media in Kampala. On February 20, 2015, the EAC heads of states directed the council of ministers to study modalities for the promotion of textile and leather industries in the region and stopping the importation of used clothes, shoes and other leather products from outside the region.