Six-nation East African Community - Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan -as a whole has proposed a ban on second hand clothing by 2019. They hope the ban will help domestic textile manufacturers.
The United States trades millions of dollars worth of used clothing to East African countries essentially tax free. African countries export duty free products to the United States in return.
The bilateral trade agreement that makes this transaction possible, the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), is the center of a controversy roiling African-US trade relations. AGOA, a preferential trade deal intended to lift trade and economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa, was originally enacted in 2000 by President Clinton, then renewed in 2015 by President Obama.
A US lobby, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), filed a petition with the United States government against limiting clothing imports. Following the petition, the U.S. Trade Representative latter said that US was reviewing trade benefits to Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
But downtown Kampala, in Owino Market, traders seem unbothered by these developments. Instead, every day, bales of clothes are opened. Owino is a regional selling point for second hand clothes. With traders coming from as far as neighboring countries of Rwanda, South Sudan.
Across Africa, secondhand merchandise is the primary source of clothing. East Africa imported $151 million worth of used clothes and shoes in 2015, mostly from Europe and the United States. At least 70 percent of donated garments end up in Africa, according to Oxfam, a British charity that also sells used, donated clothes to the continent.