Hadija Nakimuli and thousands of other vendors might not be able to support themselves in Uganda if authorities decide to forbid the importation of used clothing.
Recently, President Yoweri Museveni “declared war” on used clothing, mostly imported from Europe and the United States, with the goal of “promote African clothing.”
The 62-year-old mother of twelve, Hadija Nakimuli, questions, “Where is our future if they stop second-hand clothes?” as she sorts through her vibrant collection of dresses, knickers, shoes and bags. Hundreds of shoppers make their way through the cramped aisles between improvised wooden booths every day in search of good bargains.
“This trade should not be disrupted. Everyone benefits, including the government, which collects taxes,” Joseph Barimugaya, father of four claims.
The Ugandan Association of Resellers of Second-hand Clothes and Shoes estimates that approximately 16 million people, or one in three Ugandans, purchase used clothing.
According to a 2017 study by USAID, the US government’s humanitarian agency, East Africa imports more than 12% of the world’s exported used clothing, supporting jobs for about 355,000 people and earning $230 million annually.
Nonetheless, governments throughout Africa frequently condemn the importation of used clothing, citing its detrimental effects on the regional textile sector.
In an interview with AFP, Uganda’s Minister of Trade David Bahati insists that this is an issue of “dignity.”