Seventy percent of donated second-hand clothing ends up in Africa, and a number of African nations are tired of it, the New York Times reports. Last year, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Burundi, and Kenya raised import tariffs on what Kenyans call the "clothes of dead white people" so high as to effectively ban them. The goal among the East African nations was to officially ban the importing of used clothing by 2019. The countries say they want to build up their own textile industries, an aim hampered by bringing in donated clothes from the West—$151 million worth in 2015 alone. They also say wearing what Mozambique calls "clothing of calamity" weighs on the dignity of their people.
The reaction in the US was swift. In March, the Office of the United States Trade Representative threatened to remove four of the six countries that increased tariffs on donated clothes from a trade deal meant to aid economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. It was pressured to do so by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, a group of 40 used clothing exporters that claims 40,000 US jobs would be threatened by the East African ban. The secretary general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development calls the US response wrong "politically and morally." While Kenya has since backed out of the proposed ban, the other countries appear ready to forge ahead. "We have to grow and establish our industries," says President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. "This is the choice we find that we have to make." Read the full Times story here. (Read more Africa stories.)