An East African bloc’s decision to promote the wearing of locally made attire and annual exhibits in the member states will help the garments gain popularity, said, experts.
The optimism follows the East Africa Community’s (EAC) recent declarations of Fridays as Afrika Mashariki (East) Fashion Day, during which the people in East Africa will wear attires manufactured in the region.
Afrika Mashariki Fashion Week would also be held annually in the first week of September for trade fair and exhibition of locally designed textiles and garments.
The declarations are expected to get affected in all EAC member states — Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and South Sudan.
According to Simon Peter Owaka, senior public relations officer at the EAC Secretariat, the declarations are part of strategies adopted by the region to stimulate demand for locally made textiles and garments and to build brand identity.
“The declarations would enhance local consumption of East Africa-made products and enhance our productive capacity in the textile sector. Imagine a foreigner moving in EAC countries on a particular Friday and finding people donning similar attire — a strong message of an intact community,” Owaka told Anadolu Agency.
He underlined that if a combined population of nearly 190 million people bought an attire for Friday, many jobs will be created, incomes improved and the people of East Africa will no longer have to depend on used clothes.
In 2017, the EAC member states agreed to grant garments and textiles manufacturers a three-year waiver of duties and value-added tax (VAT) on inputs, fabrics, and accessories not accessible in the region, in an effort to boost local production and to reduce the cost of production.
The bloc also adopted a three-year strategy — from 2017 to 2019 — for the phase-out of importation of used clothes and shoes by imposing increased levies on the products.
Leonard Munyandamutsa, an investment and trade expert, believes the declarations will motivate local and foreign companies to invest in local production.
According to Owaka, the EAC member states are expected to develop national policies and legal framework to foster the implementation of the regional policy decisions.
“Through member states, mechanisms or guidelines will be put in place to promote the implementation of these policy decisions. Implementation in some countries is already underway. Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania are already pursuing a similar policy agenda. We want the entire region to move together,” he said.
Owaka explained that annual Afrika Mashariki Week will be hosted in all member states on a rotational basis each year.
Desire Maniriho, a resident of Rwanda’s capital Kigali, said wearing of new locally made attires will “restore their East African pride”.
However, Miriam Maombe, a Kenyan woman working in Kigali, argued that prices of locally made products are much higher, which discourage buyers.