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MIVUMBA: Trump targets Rwanda, spares Uganda and Kenya


Trump speaks at a luncheon with African leaders including Uganda’s Museveni and Nigeria’s Buhari last year.

Trump to suspend duty-free apparel imports from Rwanda, spares Uganda and Kenya

Washington, United States | AFP |  President Donald Trump suspended the duty-free status of Rwanda’s apparel after finding the African nation unfairly blocked US exports of used clothing (commonly known as Mivumba), officials announced Thursday.

However, the US Trade Representative’s office said Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda would be spared similar fates after moving to eliminate barriers to imports of US apparel.

The sanction on Rwanda is set to take effect in 60 days.

USTR said Trump opted for suspension rather than termination of the preferential treatment under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) since it “would allow for continued engagement with the aim of restoring market access and thereby bringing Rwanda into compliance with the AGOA eligibility requirements.”

East African nations announced in 2016 they would phase out imports of second-hand clothing and shoes by 2019 to protect regional industries from competition.

The head of states in the EAC, which comprises of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan agreed to ban import of used clothes in the region in three years as part of the EAC Vision 2050 and the Industrialization Policy to enhance a manufacturing sector that currently contributes 8.7% to the regional Gross Domestic Product to 25% by 2032.

But in March of last year, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) complained to the USTR, saying the import ban harmed US industry.

SMART claimed 40,000 US jobs in collecting, processing and distributing used clothing and footwear were jeopardized by the African countries’ looming import bans.

The association also said the ban violated the countries’ obligations under AGOA, which was intended to promote development in Sub-Saharan Africa through duty-free access to the US market.

Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda subsequently promised to reduce or eliminate the import barriers.

But USTR found the lack of progress by Rwanda made the country ineligible for those trade benefits.

“We have and will continue to work with Rwanda to resolve this situation,” Deputy US Trade Representative CJ Mahoney said in a statement.



  1. Trump’s decision to suspend Rwanda’s apparel is as indifferent as Kagame’s to ban the importation of mivumba clothes. Both decisions hurt the economically underprivileged of both countries. As Kagame would argue that he’s trying to protect his nascent apparel industry, so would Trump say about protecting and creating jobs for the Americans. Both decisions are drastic as they’re dramatic. One would have thought that countries have consulates where diplomacy has always a place to sit. But maybe, this time diplomacy just escaped through the window?

  2. How much money does rwanda get through exports to America?

    • Great question. And more so, it is well known that African countries export their goods at a very low price. Personally, I applaud Rwanda for the bravery and I condemn the other EA countries for chickening out on a strategy unanimously set by all the EAC member countries. Shame on Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya- ’cause America ain’t our own market as EAC.

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