Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, has imposed a prohibition on the importation of pre-owned clothing into the East African nation, asserting that it hampers the growth of local textile industries and that these garments once belonged to deceased individuals from the Western world. Traditionally, Uganda, like many African countries, has been a significant importer of used clothing, favored by consumers for its affordability. However, local manufacturers have voiced concerns about the influx of secondhand clothing flooding the market, hampering Uganda’s progress in the cotton and textile sector’s value chain.
Museveni stated on Friday, “They are for dead people. When a White person dies, they gather their clothes and send them to Africa.” Oxfam, a British charity, reports that around 70% of garments donated to charity in Europe and the United States eventually make their way to Africa. However, the exact percentage of donated clothing originating from deceased individuals is unclear.
Museveni highlighted the challenge local clothing producers face in entering the market despite manufacturing new clothes. He mentioned this during a groundbreaking event for nine factories in the Sino-Uganda Mbale Industrial Park in the city of Mbale.
Uganda is a notable cotton producer, but a substantial portion of its cotton is exported in semi-processed form. According to Uganda’s central bank, the value of cotton exports has ranged between $26 million to $76 million annually over the last decade, until 2022.
The East African Community, a regional economic bloc to which Uganda belongs, had agreed in 2016 to enforce a complete ban on used clothing imports by 2019. However, Rwanda was the only country within the bloc to fully implement this ban.