A Ugandan activist held up old, imported underwear in parliament to make a case for supporting local manufacturing and banning imports
It is a busy, sunny afternoon in downtown Kampala as hundreds of traders dealing in second-hand clothing in the Owino Market compete for customers. Customers have to be swift to dodge the hands trying to grab and pull them towards the goods the traders are trying to flog. Clothes, undergarments, bedding, shoes and bags are strewn on top of wooden stalls packed next to each other. Higher quality clothes are placed on metal hangers above customers' heads. To buy these, the customer must strain their neck upwards and make a choice. The trader immediately brings it down with a long stick before negotiations kick off. After haggling, the customer often ends up buying the clothes for a far cheaper price than the original price.
According to the Department of Statistics, part of the Bank of Uganda, Uganda imported $202.59 million worth of textiles and textile products in 2014. Mayambala Omufirica, chairperson of the Global African Congress Uganda Chapter, is calling on the Ugandan parliament to enact a law called "Made in Africa Bill 2015."Mayambala argues that it is time for the government to cater to its people by supporting local manufacturing industries instead of encouraging imports of second-hand goods: "It is degrading if we cannot manufacture simple underwear and our people continue to wear worn out underwear and bras deemed unfit to wear anymore." Holding a blue, dirty and worn out male undergarment in parliament, Mayambala cried out: "This thing is dirty and disgusting! Save our dignity and health by imposing a ban on the import of second-hand undergarments!"
Mayambala's pleas may end in the corridors of parliament however, because in the middle of the Owino market, seven women in a single line are selling exactly what he wants banned. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Jennifer Kasujja said she has been selling bras for over ten years. "We do not want to deal in second-hand clothing, but the problem is that people who are manufacturing new clothes do not use the right people to make the new clothes," she said. She strongly suggested that the only way to make them sell new clothes is if good quality clothing and textiles are produced that can be accepted by the public. "Most of the new clothes are fake and get worn out really fast, we can't sell that," she said. "Most of the new bras on the market have fake stitched labels plucked off from originals, but the poor quality soon shows."
Namuli Sumaya, another trader, told Anadolu Agency: "I don't support the ban, these clothes are strong and our customers always return to buy more." "We import our bras mainly from UK shops such as Marks and Spencer," she adds. The second-hand undergarments range between $1 and $4, compared to $10 to $20 for new ones. Through her underwear and bra business, Sumaya says she has managed to send her children to school, build a house and provide for her family. Ahmed Wetaka, a customer, confesses to buying second hand garments: "I buy them because of their superior quality and durability compared to the new clothing." Other than undergarments, Ahmed recalls that before eid in July this year, "I bought a second-hand thawb (traditional Islamic garment) for my son that was far better than the new ones which they will never wear again." Price is also a factor for Ahmed, with a new thawb costing on average between $8 and $10, compared to $3 for a second-hand one.