The five heads of state in the East African Community -- Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, last February agreed to introduce a total ban on imports of secondhand clothes by 2019. But as immediate action to help promote local manufacturers, Rwandan has massively hiked import duties on secondhand clothes and shoes, coming mainly from Europe and North America.
Rwandan Revenue Agency manager Drocelle Mukashyaka said that the measure takes effect from July 1 2016. Import duty on each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of shoes and clothing was previously $0.2 (0.18 euro), but it has been raised to $2.5 for clothes and five dollars for shoes.
Secondhand clothing imported wholesale from the West is highly popular in Rwanda as in other African nations where these garments are sold at low prices.
Trade Minister Francois Kanimba said that in mid-June the thriving market has completely killed the textile industry in developing countries. Annual imports of secondhand clothes were worth a quarter of the $125 million spent on textiles.
Rwandan Economy Minister Claver Gatete on Wednesday said that ending the trade was not just about industry, it is just not even acceptable according to their dignity.
Patel Ritesh, the director of Utexrwa, one of the two textile factories in the small central African nation, hailed the new taxes as good for business in a sector hit hard by cheap competition.
Chinese-run firm C&H Garment currently makes textiles only for export, but will in July launch products on the Rwandan domestic market. The management official Saidi Hitima, said that they are going to produce because demand will be higher.
For ordinary Rwandans the decision to hike import duties on secondhand clothes will only benefit the rich and they are less keen on the measure, fearing a rise in prices of imported clothing while local industry is not up to meeting demand.
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