13 July 2018 – Yesterday, I had a lengthy but troubling conversation with a Rwandan government insider.
The country is panicking.
President Trump has issued a threat that they cannot ignore, even if they wanted to.
I am not a mouthpiece or supporter of the Government of Rwanda. I am merely an investigative writer who feels that the current threat would actually harm the ordinary people and not the government of the day.
Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in the world, and a nation where more than 80% of the people live in poverty, and around 63% in extreme poverty has been begging for peace for the longest while.
It is still recovering from the scars of the worst genocide in Africa, and can hardly feed its own citizens.
Anyone who had gone to this country and witness first hand the sufferings of its people and its economic challenges would be bound to shed tears at what they would have seen.
But now, this poor nation is being forced to fight another war, but this time with the United States; and one that Rwanda cannot win.
One is left to wonder why would a powerful nation like the United States threaten a poor country like Rwanda with an economic war that can possibly instigate another genocide.
However, the reason is very clear; – the protection of American jobs.
Being one of the largest African importers of used clothing and other apparel from the US, Rwanda’s continued demand for recycled American clothing has resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs in the US, according to US trade records.
But on the flip side of that, Rwanda is one of Africa’s largest producers of textiles and clothing.
However, the cheap pricing of imported used-clothes from the US, has resulted in a number of textile companies in Kigali struggling to make ends meet.
As a matter of fact, hundreds of Rwandan’s have lost their jobs, while thousands of others are on the breadline, as textile and clothing producers in the country have started several rounds of layoffs, citing their inability to survive in a market that is filled with cheap used clothes from the US.
Most of these clothes are usually funneled down from US charities, and is a major staple in the wardrobes of Rwanda and many other poor countries around the world.
But while they may offer some spending relief for many Rwandan consumers, local clothing companies and local jobs are often threatened, and can certainly affect the country’s struggling economy.
As such, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagami has decided to fight back, in an effort to save thousands of jobs and needed export currency by increasing the tariff on used clothing that is coming in from the US.
President Kagami also said that his country is being used as a dumping ground, and he wants the African nation to rise above this culture.
So when his government raised the taxes in 2016 from $0.25 to $2.50 per kilogram for imported used clothes from the US, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, which represents hundreds of American companies that sell used and recycled clothing, swiftly filed a complaint with the US government in early 2017.
The business umbrella organization argued that thousands of American jobs will be lost if the US allows Rwanda to continue with the high tariff on used clothing that is being exported to Kigali.
In response, the Trump Administration threatened to start a trade war with Rwanda if the country does to lower the tariffs on imported used clothes within 60 days.
The United States also threatened to remove some benefits that Rwanda is currently enjoying under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a regime that allows several sub-Saharan African nations to export to the United States without facing tariffs.
Observers were quick to point out that a poor nation like Rwanda cannot afford to lose out on the benefits of the US-sponsored AGOA program, and is definitely in no possession to fight even a one-week trade war with the US.
For sure, it will only serve as an economic doom tool for a country that is still trying to come to grips with the loss of a million lives in a domestic war a mere decade and a half later, and the economic pains that had followed thereafter.
I remain unsure as to whether President Trump would really want to do this to a nation whose citizens are already sinking in poverty.
After all, its Africa, and most of the major news network does care much about this new impending peril that is facing Rwanda.
And while my voice alone would not be loud enough, I am pleading with President Donald Trump to avoid dragging the poor nations of Africa into a trade war that they will definitely lose.
It is like putting a newborn baby in a ring to wrestle against Batista or John Cena.
The end of that fight will be obvious.
Therefore, I am pleading again with the United States to be fair and look at the economic situation in Rwanda before cutting off their economic lifeline.
(Credits: This article was first written by Dennis Adonis and first appeared in the Florida Morning Post, where Mr. Adonis also serves as an Assistant Editor.)