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Recyclers lobby East Africans over textile import ban

British textile recyclers have urged East African ministers not to ban imports of used clothing in an effort to support struggling local producers.

The East African Community (EAC) agreed at a meeting of ministers in November 2014 to “to study the modalities for the promotion of the textile and leather industries in the region” and consider stopping the importation of used clothes, shoes and other leather products from outside it.

The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) says a potential ban could be detrimental to both exporting and importing economies and has urged the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) to engage with the EAC before the BIR’s next summit in October.

TRA director Alan Wheeler, who presented a report on the UK market at the latest BIR summit in Dubai, told MRW: “Kenya in particular is one of the biggest importing countries in sub-Sarahan Africa, so the ban would have a really big impact on the used clothing industry. Not just here in the UK but in Western Europe and North America.

“I’ve been working behind the scenes with BIR and people at the department for business, innovation and skills and the department for international development in trying to get relevant links into the East African communities.

“Through BIR we need to lobby the EAC, to explain to them why banning imports of used clothing will do nothing to help textile production and could jeopardise employment prospects for millions of people in the region and the economy as a whole.”

Wheeler said unreliable electricity supply and poor infrastructure were the real causes for African textile producers struggling, along with the end of the multi-fibre agreement (MFA).

The MFA helped production expand in Africa when it was rolled out during the 1980s by limiting the amount of textiles that any country could export to developing nations.

But this was phased out in 2005, prompting increased exports to East Africa from China.

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