• On Monday, the Ugandan government indicated the direction it wants to take with the importation of used clothes after the Finance minister announced a plan to impose higher taxes on such imports.

    This new direction by the government comes in a few days after the East African Community (EAC) meeting that agreed to devise strategies of terminate imports of used items -commonly known as ‘mitumba’ in the region.

    At the 17th Ordinary EAC Heads of State Summit in Tanzania, member states (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania) discussed the importance of promoting local textile and leather industries. This, the meeting said will be actualized by stopping the importation of used clothes, shoes, among other leather items.

    The Daily Monitor quoted Uganda’s Finance minister, Matia Kasaija as having proposed to increase the rate of the environmental levy imposed on ‘mitumba’ from 15 percent to 20 percent of the Cost, insurance freight (CFI) value.

    While this development is expected to boost the textile and leather industries in the country, Mr Julius Kapwepwe Mishambi, a director at Uganda Debt Network (UDN) feels that households need to be empowered financially.

    He urged the government to boost the citizens’ household incomes to enable them to purchase brand new cotton products.

    Kenya’s cautious approach

    Whereas Uganda is proposing an increase in taxes for such goods, Kenya is taking the easier route.

    Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta held a meeting with the Association of Mitumba Importers in Kenya to discuss matters concerning the ban.

    President Kenyatta told the importers, it was time for the textile industry to promote the local manufacturing and grow high-value jobs while ensuring that the used items business goes on uninterrupted.

    “There is a need to provide competitive alternatives for ‘mitumba’ traders through Kenyan manufactured apparel, to be sourced locally at competitive prices whilst ensuring the adequate supply of good quality products,” said the President.

    According to the president, the ultimate goal is for the ‘mitumba’ industry to slowly move into the new clothes market, supporting local production and local jobs.

    Apart from being a source of environmental hazards, ‘mitumba’ has been blamed for the collapse of the textile industries in the region.

    Killing the importation of used clothes is expected to help build the value chains of regional member states in the apparel and textile industry.

    Image credit: CNN