Malawi to Ban Kaunjika, Open Way for Local Design

30 October 2020

Traders in Malawi will be banned from selling second-hand clothes - known as Kaunjika, the Chinyanja word for "bundles" - which could help the country revive its own textile industry, which was wiped out in the late 1990s as the country started opening its markets to foreign competition.

When Minister of Industry Roy Kachale visited the textile and garment industry players in Lilongwe and Mchinji to appreciate the quality of the products and challenges they face, he was asked that government should ban used clothing to boost local manufacturing

Kachale said apart from empowering local producers with the 'Best buy made in Malawi', the move will help to preserve foreign currency and empower people to achieve tangible socio-economic development.

"We are giving the opportunity to small and medium enterprises, but we are not going to do it if we are not sure of the quality that is required," said Kachale.

The minister said most uniforms or garments in State security agencies are imported; hence government took a deliberate step to ensure that products manufactured locally are prioritised in procurement.

Kachale said local designers and manufacturers should collaborate and take baby steps to push the industry towards maturity.

He said the Tonse Alliance led government is set to incentivise local manufacturers, but Textiles and tailoring Cooperative chairperson Linley Chimwaza said ban on second-hand clothing was one step towards making conditions more favourable for a local scene to eventually flourish.

"Malawians have the capacity but we need government support and protection to grow the industry and the economy," Chimwaza said.

She said the ban of Kaunjika will spur them to start shaping the future of fashion in Malawi.

Malawi government already imposed a ban on the importation of second-hand under wears is in line with the new Control of Goods Act, which aims to restrict imports and encourage local manufacturing.

Government contends that used pants - and other second-hand goods like handkerchiefs and mattresses - are unhygienic and could pose a health hazard.

Unwanted clothing from the Western world was imported at such a low cost that local textile factories and self-employed tailors could not compete.

Abiti Chezunana, another market trader, defended the second-hand business, saying the West's cast-offs were so cheap that local textile factories and self-employed tailors could not compete.

"Most Malawians depend on Kaunjika and spend hours looking and searching. Many fashion lovers they like the diversity of second-hand," she said.

She said he was not against the plan to develop local industries but said the fair thing would be to allow competition for second-hand clothes because "people should be allowed to have choices".

Betchani Tchereni, economics lecturer at The Polytechnic, a constituent College of the University of Malawi, said government should introduce hefty taxes on second-hand clothes as one way to protect the local industry.

He argued that domestic demand for locally made clothes was being suffocated by cheap, second-hand clothes.

Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu announced in the 2020/21 Budget Statement that government will prioritise the local manufacturing industry when buying textile products such as uniforms for security agencies, among others.

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