Rise in cost cargo transport drives up prices of clothes

Wednesday August 03 2022
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Since 2016 when the government implemented a policy to ban secondhand clothes by slapping a 12-fold tax on their imports. FILE PHOTO | NATION


The sharp rise in cost of transporting cargo has significantly driven up the price of clothes on the local market.

Many vulnerable households cannot afford clothes for both adults and children as well as school uniforms. The situation is worse in rural areas and some Kigali suburbs where it is common to see children putting on old clothes.

The households faced the brunt of economic hardships in the past three years, and just before breadwinners incomes stabilized, the economy was hit by inflation and a sharp rise in prices on the market

Bicamumpaka Bernard is a resident of Busanza. He recently got a job at construction site after a year of being jobless. He also works part time as a broker but still what he earns is barely enough to buy food and take care of the needs of his five children and a wife

“I don’t remember the last time I bought clothes for my family. Not that I don’t want, but I can’t afford them, clothes are very expensive for me now, the little I earn is for buying food.”

“I recently went to the clothing market in Kimironko and I couldn’t believe the prices, I came out with nothing, the Murindi market is the same,” he added.


Low income earners used to depend on second-hand clothes which provided affordable options before a ban was slapped a few years ago.

Low income households could get clothes for as low as Rwf500, Rwf1000, and Rwf2000 for their children in second hand clothes but this window was closed.

Source of clothes

The market that used to be served by second-hand clothes shifted to costly Chinese clothes imports, which have been increasing in price since 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic broke out.

The prices of these clothes even got worse in the first part of this year as fuel prices shot up, hence making getting out of reach for many. A shirt that went for Rwf8000 has now hit Rwf15000, while a trouser that used to go for Rw10,000 now costs Rwf20,000. 

A small dress for girls that used to go for Rwf3,000 or Rwf4000 now costs Rwf9,000 or Rwf10,000 in many markets. The situation was worsened by the fact that traders in Chinese clothes who used to import them from Uganda want to shift to Dar es Salaam.

While high demand for Chinese clothes in the first months of this year and cargo glitches traders faced drove up prices, a pain which is faced by the final consumers.

One of the factors the government fronted to justify the ban on second hand clothes was to support the growth of the local textile industry. And this came with a promise of producing clothes for all categories of people including affordable low income earners, but this has not happened.

Most of the ‘Made in Rwanda’ clothe makers have been serving the high-end market and middle income, leaving the poor and vulnerable who previously benefited from second-hand clothes, without any affordable clothing options.

The promise to fill the gap with locally made clothes has become a pipe dream seven years later, as clothes makers are yet to produce affordable clothes for mass consumption largely due to high production cost.