Worldwide the second-hand clothes trade has generated about $3.67 billion in revenue, according to the 2016 estimate. From this figure, Africa has a 35% total value of the trade, while Europe, Asia and the Americas and others have 27%, 26%, and 12% respectively. The lives of many Africans have been positively changed due to the income from this business; many Africans have either ventured into the business or benefited indirectly from it. More than that, with the quality advantage over the locally made clothes, the demand in Africa for the second-hand clothes has reached the apex height. Despite these enormous advantages of the second-hand clothes trade, many African countries are banning the import of the clothes in order to encourage the continent’s textile industry.
Supporting the need to sustain locally made clothes, Rwandan President Paul Kagame emphasized his pledge to ban the import of second-hand clothes. Rwanda has not only increased the tariffs on the second-hand clothes, it equally wants to ban its importation by 2019. Mr. Kagame maintains his stand despite serious pressure from the USA, one of the biggest exporters of the second-hand clothes to other parts of the world.
“We are put in a situation where we have to choose – you choose to be a recipient of used clothes… or choose to grow our textile industries.” President Kagame defended his decision.
Supporters of the second-hand clothes ban have argued that the local textile industry can hardly create jobs and survive without the government eliminating competition from the imported second-hand clothes. Another group argues that the encouragement of the second-hand clothes trade will, in fact, bring out competition within the continent’s textile industry and force the industry to go for good quality and cheap price. Regardless of one’s argument, it seems the ban on the second-hand clothes in Africa is becoming a reality.
The question is: Should African government encourage or ban the second-hand clothes business and why?