IN A market in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, a cacophonous auction is under way. Sellers hold crumpled T-shirts and faded jeans aloft; traders shout and jostle for the best picks. Everything is second-hand. A Tommy Hilfiger shirt goes for 5,000 Rwandan francs ($5.82); a plain one for a tenth of that. Afterwards, a trader sorts through the purchases he will resell in his home village. The logos hint at their previous lives: Kent State University, a rotary club in Pennsylvania, Number One Dad.
These auctions were once twice as busy, says Félicité Mukarurangwa, a trader. But in 2016 Rwanda’s government hiked import duties on a kilo of used clothes from $0.20 to $2.50. Now she struggles to break even. The traders are not the only ones who are unhappy. Exporters in America claim the tariffs are costing jobs there. In March President Donald Trump warned that he would suspend Rwanda’s duty-free access to American markets for its apparel after 60 days if…Continue reading