The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has adopted a protocol to ban trade in second-hand clothes (mabhero) across the continent.
The move aims to promote value-addition and industrialization in the textile industry.
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,” discussions were held on various issues, including rules of origin on textiles and clothing, estimated tariff revenue losses, and allocation of adjustment facility. Proposals were also made to front-load liberalization of trade in basic agricultural products. AfCFTA secretary-general, Mr. Wamkele Mene, stated that the decision to ban trade in second-hand clothes is a significant step in promoting industrialization and value-addition in Africa. He said:
The decision of the Council of Ministers is a strong message that our single market will not be used as a dumping ground for used clothes coming from outside Africa.
He added that the move would significantly protect the African textile industry and promote investment.
According to Zimbabwe Textile Manufacturers’ Association chairperson, Mr. Admire Masenda, the protocol banning trade in second-hand clothes would revive the textile industry across the continent. Mr. Masenda stated that second-hand clothes have adversely affected the industry, and reviving it would create better job opportunities for citizens who can, in turn, buy new clothes. He cited a study that shows the UK alone dumps about 14 million tonnes of clothes in Africa per year, leading to a loss of approximately 200,000 jobs across the continent.
In 2015, Zimbabwe banned the importation of second-hand clothes to protect the local textile industry and promote value addition. However, due to an outcry from vendors’ associations, restrictions were later eased. While the ban has been supported by the industry, informal vendors argue that it would hurt their livelihoods.
Approximately 95% of textiles in Zimbabwe are imported, and the country exports around 85% of cotton lint due to a lack of local investments. Zimbabwe, as a cotton producer, used to have a thriving textile industry but now faces competition from imports and a lack of investment. Traders typically source second-hand clothes from neighbouring countries, sometimes through smuggling.
The East African Community has encouraged member states to buy clothes and shoes made in the region to boost local industries, with Rwanda being the only country to implement the plan through high import taxes.