LAST week I ranted a little about our national AGOA misadventure. The issue still rankles.
When the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) was first announced, Uganda was one of the 38 countries in Africa eligible to export over 6,000 products into the United States both tariff- and quota-free. In the beginning, we could have taken in ANY AMOUNT of those 6,000 products.
We did not even come close to doing so – according to very many internet sources. The numbers from 2016 that suggest we only exported US$9million in textiles that year, next door (only terrestrially) to Kenya’s US$394million, make me tag the word “misadventure” to this.
But we did open up that factory in Bugolobi under Tri-Star Apparels and, as I have surely said before, some clothing ‘Made In Uganda’ found its way into the United States and other countries.
My rant last week was about the association called SMART (Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association), whose leader Jackie King started a petition to strike Uganda and some other countries off the list because we insist on stopping the second hand clothes trade purportedly to develop our own textile manufacturing industry.
Whereas their spurious claims were annoying in both tone and content, I found it necessary to check a few more things about this ‘industry’ they claim will suffer if countries like Uganda set up textile manufacturing industries of our own, employing Ugandans in their thousands in respectable jobs.
To show you how ridiculous the ecosystem of this second-hand clothing is, one of the SMART petition points was the claim that the second-hand clothing earns charity organisations money so that they can “help Africa”.
In short, they tell the US government, we should not MAKE our own clothes using cotton that we grow, so that we can receive second-hand underwear from them that we pay cash for, which cash will go to organisations that pay for their operations and then send us some “aid”.
Seriously, they send us second-hand underwear because they KNOW we will take it.
I saw this in a Huffington Post article:
Some charity organisations, you will be amazed to learn, are actually collecting this money to spend in THEIR countries. So a Ugandan buying a second-hand bra is actually funding an American or a Canadian, rather than a hapless fellow Ugandan.
In one article online a Scott Ebenhardt of the ‘National Diabetes Trust’ in North America is quoted saying that the textile division of that non-governmental organisation earns Diabetes Canada US$10million a year.
Diabetes Canada is THEIR national charity, serving 11 million Canadian Diabetes sufferers IN CANADA. It runs a programme called ‘Clothesline’ that “collects gently used clothing, small household items and electronics…” and sells them to hapless Africans targeted by the likes of SMART.
On their Facebook page they proudly state that, “Every year we divert 51million kilogrammes from Canada’s landfills” – Which is 51million kilogrammes of garbage that hapless Africans wear and walk around NOT building textile manufacturing industries.
A large portion of that 51million kilogrammes of second-hand items is clothing and whereas it’s not all used underwear, just imagine how disgusting our economic stunting is.
Mind you, in 2016 we are reported to have spent US$888million (about Ushs3TRILLION) importing textiles – new and old – from other countries.
That figure came out during one of the President’s speeches, where he was urging us to spend more of this money on our own textiles and clothing here in Uganda.
The SMART people don’t want that. They want you spending your money on second-hand underwear so that Canadians with diabetes get treatment.
So as you go out to buy a second-hand piece of clothing instead of one made by a good Ugandan tailor – who are now numerous and easy to find from Kitintale to Yumbe – please remember that YOU are the donor in this case.
Your money is going to fund an NGO in a foreign country, AND your money is funding a second-hand clothing business that is a member of SMART, AND your money is treating Diabetes in Canada or some other disease in the US.
Most importantly, by buying second hand underwear and shoes, you are being a donor because you are sacrificing the opportunity to invest in a textile manufacturing industry here that would have exported hundreds of millions of dollars to the United States under AGOA, and elsewhere.
But you are clearly NOT the clever donor. That one has you believing that you are the recipient of charity – the BEGGAR dressed in smelly rags and smiling in gratitude.