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Rwanda suffocates ‘mivumba’ importers

Rwandan has massively hiked import duties on secondhand clothes and shoes, coming mainly from Europe and North America, to help promote local manufacturers, officials said Friday.

The measure “takes effect from July 1,” a manager in the Rwandan Receipts Agency, Drocelle Mukashyaka, told AFP.

Import duty on one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of shoes and clothing was previously $0.2, but it has been raised to $2.5 for clothes and $5.0 for shoes, she said.

Secondhand clothing imported wholesale from the West is highly popular in Rwanda as in other African nations where these garments are sold at low prices.

But the thriving market has “completely killed the textile industry” in developing countries, Trade Minister Francois Kanimba said in mid-June.

Last February, the five heads of state in the East African Community — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda — agreed to bring about a total ban on imports of secondhand clothes by 2019.

Rwandan Economy Minister Claver Gatete on Wednesday said that ending the trade was not just about industry, “it is just not even acceptable according to our dignity”.

“I don’t know if there is any trade on secondhand clothes between any European countries among themselves,” he told a press briefing.

Patel Ritesh, the director of Utexrwa, one of the two textile factories in the small central African nation, hailed the new tax as good for business in a sector hit hard by cheap competition.

But ordinary Rwandans are less keen on the measure, fearing a rise in prices of imported clothing while local industry is not up to meeting demand.

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