Friday

12th Apr 2024

Kenyan traders react angrily to proposed EU clothes ban

  • Western media has driven a 'false narrative' about the second hand clothes trade, says Teresia Wairimu Njenga, who chairs the Kenyan Mitumba association (Photo: Waldemar)
Listen to article

Kenyan textiles traders have reacted angrily to a proposed EU ban on second-hand clothes exports following the first discussions at an EU environment ministers meeting in Brussels earlier this week.

Denmark, Sweden and France are proposing that the EU apply the Basel Convention to used clothes, banning exports of hazardous textile waste and requiring prior informed consent to be obtained before importing textile waste.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The export of textile waste from the EU to developing countries causes significant environmental, social, and health problems. The EU has to put an end to this practice," Denmark's deputy permanent representative to the EU, Soren Jacobsen, told the Environment Council meeting on Monday (25 March).

Many economists contend that second-hand clothing is a barrier to African industrialisation and supply chain development in textiles, arguments which led the eight-nation East African Community to agree to ban second-hand clothing imports in 2016, although the plan was later abandoned.

However, thousands of businesses across the continent make a livelihood from the market.

"Nobody is giving us trash by force. What we are buying is good quality clothes, and if a supplier wants to sell us trash, we would be happy to refuse their consignment," said Teresia Wairimu Njenga, who chairs the Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya.

The industry is aware that an export ban would pose an existential threat to its future.

Last year, the Mitumba association commissioned research which claimed that the second-hand clothing trade in Kenya provides two million green jobs and supports 20 million livelihoods.

Wairimu Njenga has previously complained of "wildly inaccurate misinformation circulating in Western media about the second-hand clothes trade", adding that this had created a "false prevailing narrative that has demonised our trade and put millions of jobs and livelihoods at risk on the false altar of protecting the environment.

"Rather than being a threat to the environment, second-hand clothes are a crucial pillar in global endeavours towards reuse, a circular economy and sustainability in the textile sector," she added.

The French environment ministry is leading the campaign for a ban after French lawmakers approved a new law that would gradually impose fines of up to €10-per-item of clothing by 2030, as well for a ban on advertising for such products. Europe currently dumps 90 percent of its used clothes in Africa and Asia.

Kenya imported 177,386 tonnes of used clothing in 2022, a 76 percent increase on the amount imported in 2013, according to the United Nations trade data. Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa are other major markets for used clothing in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa imports $1bn [€0.93bn] a year of second-hand clothes, accounting for 30 percent of the global market.

Will Senegal's new president break from the EU?

Elected on a tide of youth and radicalism, Senegal's new president Bassirou Diomaye Faye has promised to take the country out of the West African CFA franc — a currency viewed by many as a relic of French colonialism.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us