British textile recyclers have said they face an “uphill battle” trying to persuade east African ministers to scrap a ban on imports of used clothing.
A phasing out of used textiles and footwear imports within three years was announced at a summit on 2 March by the East African Community (EAC), the intergovernmental organisation of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
The EAC instructed its partner states to procure the materials from within the region for the time being “where quality and supply capacities are available competitively”.
But the UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA) said the announcement did not seem finalised because there were “a number of caveats” that countries would have to meet to proceed with such a ban.
TRA director Alan Wheeler said: “It is just creating further uncertainty in the market at the moment. We will be trying to persuade them over the next two to three years that the idea of banning used clothing is misguided.”
Wheeler added that European used clothing exporters to the region were at a disadvantage in negotiations compared with textile producers, who could offer more money for investment.
Chinese textile producers had promised to invest in new textile production factories in east Africa if there was a ban on used clothing imports, Wheeler thought, which he said meant it would be “an uphill battle” to fight against the ban.
Last year, Wheeler said a potential ban would have a “really big impact” on the European used clothing industry, with Kenya in particular one of the biggest importing countries in sub-Sarahan Africa.