AfCFTA Protocol bans second-hand clothes trade in Africa

Review and Mail Writer

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a continent-wide trade pact aimed at creating a massive market of over 1.3 billion people, has recently adopted a protocol prohibiting the trade of second-hand clothes in Africa.

This decision was made during the Second Ministerial Retreat of the Council of Ministers on the AfCFTA, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya. The protocol serves as part of a broader effort to boost the textile industry within the continent.

The trade in second-hand clothes has been a significant business in Zimbabwe, particularly within the informal sector. In 2015, Zimbabwe initially banned the importation of second-hand clothes in order to protect the local textile industry and encourage value addition.

However, restrictions were later eased following protests from vendor associations, whose members heavily rely on this trade.

Currently, imports of second-hand clothes are controlled, with traders sourcing bales of such clothing from countries like Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia, often at a cost as low as $150, while profits can reach up to $500.

Due to import controls, these bales are frequently smuggled into the country through unofficial entry points.
During the Council of Ministers’ meeting, held under the theme “The Role of the Private Sector in the Implementation of the AfCFTA: Own and Drive AfCFTA,” several other topics were discussed.

These included the unresolved rules of origin regarding textiles and clothing, estimated losses in tariff revenue, allocations for adjustment facilities, and proposals for front-loading the liberalization of trade in basic agricultural products.

Mr. Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general of AfCFTA, expressed the significance of the decision to ban trade in second-hand clothes.

He stated that it sends a strong message that the African single market will not serve as a dumping ground for used clothes from outside the continent. Mr. Mene emphasized that this move would protect the African textile industry and promote investment, fostering value addition and industrialization in Africa.

Mr. Admire Masenda, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Textile Manufacturers’ Association, welcomed the protocol, highlighting its potential to revive the textile industry across the continent.

He stressed that second-hand clothes have had detrimental effects on the industry, hampering its growth and resulting in job losses. Revitalizing the textile sector would create better employment opportunities for citizens, enabling them to purchase new clothes.

While the decision has been applauded by industry representatives, some informal vendors have expressed concerns about the ban’s potential negative impact on their livelihoods.

In the East African Community, member states such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi had previously been urged to prioritize purchasing clothes and shoes made within the region to support local industries.

Rwanda is the only country to have implemented the plan so far, introducing high import taxes as a deterrent.

Zimbabwe, as a cotton producer, once had a thriving textile industry but currently faces challenges such as stiff competition from imports and a lack of investment.

Approximately 95 percent of textiles in Zimbabwe are now imported, while the majority of cotton lint produced locally is exported due to limited domestic demand.

Overall, the adoption of the protocol banning trade in second-hand clothes within the AfCFTA represents a significant step toward protecting the African textile industry and fostering economic growth through value addition and industrialization

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