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Rwanda may waive customs duty on fabric imports

Rwanda may waive the 25 per cent customs duty on imported fabric, a move that is meant to boost production of locally-made garments. The number of garment makers and co-operatives is increasing in Rwanda. The policy seeks to, among other things; stimulate local industries by banning the import of secondhand clothes. There is a feeling that on the one hand Rwanda’s fashion and tailoring sectors would experience a boom once the industrialisation policy comes into effect but on the other hand, they could also shrink and potentially disappear due to stiff competition from cheaper imports from Asia.

Many co-operatives in Rwanda prefer to buy cheaper fabric from Asia, mainly China, India, Taiwan and Indonesia, as they are not satisfied with the quality and quantity that is produced domestically. There is a fear that if taxes are waived, every tailor and fashion designer will go to China to import the fabric and this will benefit not Rwandan textiles but those in China, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Rwanda’s textile factories are struggling to stay in business due to competition from imported fabrics. Because the majority of Rwandans prefer secondhand clothes, the mills have been forced to cut production. They are also grappling with high production costs.