East Africa: New Plan to Revive EA Textile Sector

Arusha — The East African Community (EAC) has revealed a plan to revive the textile industry in the region.

The plan, among other things, seeks to discourage importation of textiles and apparels from outside the bloc in favour of those produced locally.

Textiles which may stop being imported under the strategy include uniforms for institutions, beddings and draperies.

"This is an effort to promote the textiles and apparels sector," said Rwanda's minister of State for Foreign and EAC Affairs, Mr Olivier Nduhungirehe.

He spoke when one of the highest organs of the EAC approved the Final Draft Cotton, Textiles and Apparels (CTA) Strategy and its implementation road map.

The strategy, drawn under the theme "An integrated and Globally Competitive Cotton, Textiles and Apparels Industry", is expected to radically change the industry landscape.

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To ensure that local textiles and apparels are competitive enough in the global market, production will be monitored at all levels of the value chain. This will start with cotton seed production, ginning, spinning, weaving, knitting and dyeing to the level of fabrics manufacturing.

EAC ministers said successful implementation would also depend on efforts to increase cotton production. In an effort to promote the textiles and apparels sector in the region, the EAC partner states were directed to act on some key areas.

These include encouraging procurement of institutional uniforms, beddings, draperies by state bodies from the local textiles and fabrics industries. Member countries of the six nation bloc were also urged to develop strategies that will boost cotton production.

Although it is too early to predict the impact, the new EAC plan is likely to deal a devastating blow on the multi-million-dollar trade in imported secondhand clothes, popularly known as mitumba, across the region. The six-nation EAC bloc imports secondhand clothes worth millions of dollars every year, mainly for the United States and lately Asia.

Four years ago, the EA counries agreed to impose a phased ban on used clothing imports over a three year period, beginning 2019.

However, attempts to stop the imports have not succeeded, thanks to US threats to enforce penalties on the premise the move violated the free trade rules.

Although the motive is to revive the ailing textile industry, some analysts feared the ban would put at risk 40,000 jobs in secondhand clothes business. Kenya, which has differed with the US on the mitumba ban plan, says it had the potential to export textiles and apparels worth Ksh40 billion (Sh880 billion).

Rwanda, which has also lately invested heavily in the textile sector for the export market, is in firm support of the ban. "The ban has already attracted investments into the sector," the permanent secretary in Rwanda's Trade and Industry minister Michel Sebera said here recently.

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