Tuesday 5th of March 2024

Nairobi, Kenya

Where Is Our Future? Uganda Declares War On Used Clothing From ‘Dead People’

The tumultuous, jam-packed Owino secondhand market in Uganda’s capital has been Hadija Nakimuli’s life’s work for almost thirty years, having assisted the widowed shopkeeper in building a home and raising twelve children.
For Nakimuli and tens of thousands of other merchants, however, this vital lifeline might be severed by a possible government ban on the sale of worn apparel.

As she dug through her closet full of dresses, undergarments, shoes, and purses, the 62-year-old questioned, “Where is our future if they stop selling secondhand clothes?”
The expansive market was founded in 1971 and employs some 80,000 people, of whom 70% are women, according to Kampala municipal officials.

Menswear vendor Joseph Barimugaya remarked, “In addition to students, I get calls from ministers and members of parliament who need me to deliver clothes to their air-conditioned offices.”
There should be no tampering with this deal. The father of four told AFP that “everyone benefits, including the government, which gets taxes.”
Hundreds of shoppers, looking to get a deal, cram themselves into the tiny passageways that divide the improvised wooden stalls every day.

Here, a used Pierre Cardin jacket sells for 40,000 Ugandan shillings ($11), which is a significant discount from the retail price.

“I make less than 500,000 Ugandan shillings a year as a teacher. Robert Twimukye, 27, told AFP that he would spend his whole paycheck on clothes if he were to get a new item. He was shopping at Owino on a Saturday afternoon.

He is not alone.
“Everyone is interested in vintage clothing. Few individuals in Uganda can afford new clothes, according to Allan Zavuga, shop manager of Think Twice, a company with thirty employees spread over three locations.
“It is a disservice to the people and the country as a whole to ban it in Uganda,” he added, citing the environmental consequences of making new clothes rather than reusing existing ones.

A 2017 study conducted by USAID, the US government’s assistance agency, found that East Africa imports almost one-eighth of the world’s used apparel, creating jobs for nearly 355,000 people earning $230 million annually.
Governments in Africa, meanwhile, have long held grudges against the industry, claiming that the cast-offs hurt the continent’s textile sector.

“The deceased in a faraway nation is the source of this clothing. Presidency Yoweri Museveni stated in August of this year that “clothes are sent to Africa when a white person dies.”

“I have declared war on secondhand clothes to promote African wear,” claimed the president.

David Bahati, Uganda’s state minister for commerce, stated in an interview with AFP that it was a matter of “dignity.”.
“We will be able to replace these second-hand clothes” if the planned ban is implemented, he continued.

“It cannot be done in one day, but we can do it gradually,” Bahati stated.
To possibly enact the ban in January, the administration is looking into the matter.

“The government is ready to give investors incentives, such as tax holidays, to ensure we process our cotton into new garments to meet market demands.”

Uganda has been here before.
The Kampala City Traders Association vigorously opposed Museveni’s 2016 attempt to outlaw secondhand apparel as part of an East African push to boost homegrown industry.
There was also the factor of diplomacy.

The regional coalition of the East African Community initially presented a unified face.
But when Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda objected to the idea of losing duty-free access to US markets in retaliation, the coalition broke.

Ultimately, Rwanda decided to go it alone and enacted high levies on used apparel in 2016, which caused a precipitous decline in imports and a spike in the smuggling of used items to satisfy demand.

Two years later, in a tit-for-tat action, the US halted duty-free advantages for clothing made in Rwanda.
Geopolitics is not a concern for either buyers or sellers at Owino.
Reeling with fury, second-generation merchant Harriet Musoke Kyambadde questioned, “Who did the government consult (before deciding) to ban secondhand?”

Throwing her hands in the air, the mother of three told AFP, “Banning this business will be sending me into abject poverty.”

Content courtesy of AFP, Barron & NFH


According To A Greenpeace Analysis, The Majority Of Clothing Delivered To East Africa Is Garbage.

According to a Greenpeace analysis, the circularity advertised by global fashion firms is “still a fantasy,” with the majority of apparel delivered to East Africa ending up in landfills.
Greenpeace Germany traveled to Kenya and Tanzania to learn about the problem of imported textile waste in these countries and to learn about some of the numerous local efforts working to combat it.

However, according to the campaigners’ most recent study, ‘Poisoned Gifts: From Donations to the Dumpsite: Textiles Waste Disguised as Second-Hand Clothes Exported to East Africa,’ issued last week, the majority of the apparel is of such low quality that it ends up at the dumpsite.

“The failure of the fast-fashion linear business model is more visible than in the countries where many of these cheap clothes end up once their short lives are over, on huge dumpsites, burned on open fires, washed out into the sea, with severe consequences for people and the planet,” Greenpeace said in a statement on its website.

According to the report, almost one million tonnes of worn clothing are collected annually in Germany, with the volume increasing by 20% year on year. According to the report, only a small percentage of worn clothing is resold in the country where it was collected: around 10%–30% in the UK, and similar percentages in the US and Canada.

According to Greenpeace, the majority of the worn clothing is sent overseas to join worldwide second-hand commerce in which billions of old garments are bought and sold each year.

However, the non-profit claims that this report demonstrates how textile waste is frequently “disguised” as second-hand clothing and exported from the Global North to the Global South in order to avoid the responsibility and costs of dealing with the problem of disposable clothing, with these used clothes, as well as new ‘overproduced’ clothes, frequently reported and recorded as “reused.” Greenpeace estimates that over half of them wind up in landfills, rivers, or are openly burned.

Greenpeace Germany said it recently campaigned for a ban on the destruction of unsold and returned goods to be included in the German circular economy law in 2020, as well as a transparency requirement for large companies to publicly disclose the number of products they discard and destroy, including textiles.

Following pressure from a number of environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, The EU announced a new textile strategy in March 2022, which recommends a ban on product destruction and a transparency mandate.

The widespread idea that donating clothes is a circular way of dealing with garment waste, according to the Greenpeace analysis, is generating concerns.

“The trade has been labeled “charity,” “recycling,” and “diversion,” and now many people call it “circular,” according to the research, although none of these names are accurate. Circularity is not achieved by simply transferring garments from one location to another. Previously, these clothes would have ended up discarded in dumpsites in the West, but now they end up in African dumpsites.”

African countries that have taken a position against this trade have also run into difficulties, according to the report. The East African Community (EAC) agreed in 2016 to restrict used clothing imports entirely by 2019.

The reason for the prohibition was that it would improve the economy by boosting the local textile industry.

The US, on the other hand, challenged the restriction as a trade barrier and threatened trade penalties, including the loss of duty-free apparel export eligibility to the US market, under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Import tax increases have also caused complications. Consignments of old clothing were left uncollected at the port of Mombasa after importers failed to comply with new duty rules, according to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

According to Greenpeace, 150–200 tonnes of textiles are dumped in African countries every day, and because up to 69 percent of the fibers used in clothing are synthetic (mostly polyester), they are oil-based and non-biodegradable. Greenpeace alleges that discarded microplastic fibers seep into the environment and end up in the human food chain.

According to the report, because there is insufficient infrastructure to dispose of these vast amounts of textile waste and official dumpsites are overburdened, textile waste is dumped along rivers or at settlement borders.

Some of it is burned openly, causing health problems for those who live nearby and clogging rivers and drains, which can cause flooding.

Methane can be released by decomposing clothing, and synthetic materials like polyester and lycra can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Furthermore, many clothing contains harmful compounds, according to the survey.

According to Greenpeace, it is no longer sufficient for firms to focus solely on cleaning up their supply chains, and they are encouraging global fashion brands to increase their efforts to prevent their goods’ massive end-of-life impacts.
Furthermore, according to Greenpeace, the EU must ensure that its proposal to prohibit the export of textile waste and encourage long-lasting, durable, and repairable clothes of high quality is properly implemented through various rules, which must be accepted as a global treaty as soon as possible.

Greenpeace called for control of fashion supply chains in its Self-Regulation: A Fashion Fairytale report in November (2021), claiming that self-regulation was “failed to fix the problem.”

Content courtesy of Greenpeace & NFH