PIC: Faith Lumonya, programme officer of SEATINI, displays secondhand undergarments after a press conference in Kampala. (Credit: Francis Emorut)
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.
SEATINI's Nathan Irumba (left) and ACTAD's Suzan Nanduddu addressing the media in Kampala
This decision arose out of the need for the EAC to advance a market-driven integration by boosting manufacturing and industrialization; promoting forward and backward linkages and achieve structural transformation through high value addition and product diversification as stipulated in the EAC 2012-20132 industrialization strategy.
“It’s against this background that as the trade working group comprising of members of civil society and manufacturers, we fully support the decision taken by the heads of states to progressively phase out secondhand clothes,” they said.
“It’s critical that the EAC policy space for development is not constrained.”
The civil society made recommendations, among them, imploring the governments in the region to stand firm and phase out the importation of secondhand clothes, defend the dignity and not mortgage the future of the country into consumption of second hand clothes but rather develop textile and leather industries and draw lessons from other countries such as Egypt, Ghana and Ethiopia who have used the same strategy to boost local industries and save foreign exchange from reduced imports.
Regarding the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), the group argued that it should not be used to constrain the EAC policy space for development as provided by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules but should instead help the countries in the region to achieve development.
George Magimbi, policy officer of Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), stressed the importance of progressively eliminating the importation of secondhand clothes so as to fulfill the four Social Development Goals (SDGs) which talk of ending poverty in all its forms and supporting the industrial sector.
The executive director of African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTAD), Suzan Nanduddu said: “Secondhand clothes have a negative impact on the health of the people.”
“Should we sacrifice the growth of cotton industry in favour of secondhand clothes?” asked Amb. Nathan Irumba, who is the regional director of SEATINI in East and Southern Africa.