SECOND HAND ECONOMY : East Africa imports around an eighth of the world's used clothing into an industry that employs some 355,000 people who earn $230 million a year, according to a study by the American development agency, USAID.

The large majority of these clothes come from the US and regional leaders, including Rwanda's Paul Kagame, blame the cast-offs for stymieing development of their own clothing industries.

ACROSS RWANDA, markets selling piles of cast-off clothes once worn by the Americans have become the unlikely centre of a trade war that vendors say is ruining their livelihoods.

Kigali, determined to boost its domestic textiles industry, in 2016 raised tariffs on the importation  secondhand clothes, disrupting multimillion dollar industry and setting it on a collision course with the United States.

Friends Clestin  Twagirayezy, 33, and Marcelle Dusabe, 35, began selling  secondhand clothes a decade ago at adjacent stalls in Kigali's popular Nyabugogo market in Kigali.

It was a good business which expanded quickly, allowing them to buy homes and get married.

Then Rwanda slapped a 12-fold increase on import tariffs on used footwear, a price hike that amounts de facto ban for cash strapped traders.

''The decision took everyone by surprise, at first we relied on the stocked clothes but after a few months reality kicked in, and things went from bad to worse,'' said Twagirayezu.

''I am soon throwing the towel.''


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