Uganda’s President Calls for Ban on Used Clothing Imports, Facing Backlash


Summary: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has declared his intention to ban imports of used clothing, citing that the items are coming ‘from dead people.’ The ban, if implemented, would pose a significant threat to the country’s thriving secondhand clothing market, which is popular among traders and consumers alike. While other African governments have also expressed concerns about the impact of the used clothing trade on local textile industries, implementation has been slow due to pressure from the United States. The ban proposal has sparked panic among traders and received opposition from industry associations and some local clothing producers.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has announced plans to ban imports of used clothing, arguing that these items are coming ‘from dead people.’ Museveni’s proposal has not yet been enforced and would require a legal backing. The ban on secondhand clothes is not unique to Uganda, as other African governments have also expressed their desire to halt the shipments, claiming that the trade undermines the growth of local textile industries. However, the East African Community trade bloc is yet to fully enforce the ban due to pressure from the United States. The proposed ban has caused concern among traders in Uganda, who fear that it would spell disaster for their businesses.

In Uganda, used clothes are sold in large open-air markets, roadside stands, and even shops in malls. These clothes are not only affordable but also continuously reduce in price as traders make way for new shipments. For instance, a pair of denim jeans can be bought for as low as 20 cents. The ban would have a significant impact on traders like Glen Kalungi, who visits the popular Green Shops chain to buy clothes and resell them for profit. The Green Shops, owned in part by Europeans, receives clothes from various suppliers and takes measures such as verification and fumigation to ensure quality and safety.

While there are supporters of the ban, such as the association of traders in Kampala (KACITA), which proposes a phased embargo, others argue that the ban would put local clothing producers at a disadvantage. Some local apparel makers admit that the quality of locally made fabric is often poor, leading consumers to prefer used clothing. However, opposition to the ban is strong in places like Owino Market, where traders rely on the sale of used clothes for their livelihoods. Abdulrashid Ssuuna, a stall owner in the market, states that a ban would essentially drive them out of the country and leave them unable to afford new clothes. Despite the debate, traders like Tadeo Walusimbi warn that a government ban would be untenable and would negatively impact many people’s livelihoods.

Tags: Uganda, used clothing ban, African textile industry, secondhand clothing market, East African Community