The United States government’s insistence that Kenya must continue importing used clothes in order to export apparel to its economy under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) is to say the least puzzling.
Nairobi’s recent announcement that it would raise the import duty on used clothes as agreed by the East African Community member states met immediate reaction from the US.
The US warned that Kenya would lose the duty free access that hundreds of locally made or manufactured products have under Agoa, forcing Nairobi to change course.
At the crux of US argument is that Kenya’s change of policy contradicts its quest to help alleviate poverty in Africa – a position that is clearly self-centred and narrow to America’s view of the continent. It is a position that does not or refuses to acknowledge the fact that industrialisation has been the surest way of lifting millions of people out of poverty.
That second-hand clothes have killed local apparel manufacturers is a well-known fact even to the Americans.
So here we are facing a delicate situation where Kenya and its EAC partners need the US market to grow their apparel industries, but importation of used clothes does work against that. Isn’t this something America should find worth thinking about?