Truth: France should ban FCFA, not “Okrika” clothes.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, in what some analysts say is intended to protect the textile industry in Africa, is pushing the European Union, EU, to stop exportation of second-hand clothes, popularly known as “Okrika”, to Africa.   

On March 14, the French National Assembly endorsed Macron's initiative, with a new law that would gradually impose fines of up to €10-per-item of second-hand clothes, by 2030, as well for a ban on advertising of such products.

I have just been reading credible media reports that Africa imports one billion US dollar worth of second-hand clothes a year, accounting for 30% of the global market. But the industry is a divisive topic among policy-makers. 

The East African Community agreed to ban second-hand clothing imports in 2016, on the grounds that they were stalling the growth of the local textiles industry.

However, Africa Confidential reported that "this prompted a lengthy trade dispute with the United States, which threatened suspension from the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, which offers tariff and quota-free access to the US market for African exports. In the event, only Rwanda imposed the ban and was suspended from AGOA as a result". 

But while some economists contend that second-hand clothing is a barrier to African industrialisation and supply chain development in textiles, thousands of market sellers across the continent make a livelihood from the market.

According to a report by the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Cameroonian economic operators spent 23.6 billion FCFA on imported second-hand clothes, during the first 10 months of 2022.

Despite restrictions by Nigerian customs, every nook and cranny of the country’s markets is filled with dozens of traders selling these clothes.

A report by Aljazeera estimated that 80 percent of Nigerians dress in used garments that are illegally imported into the country from neighbouring countries.


Nigeria is not the only country enjoying second-hand clothes. Ivory Coast imports are estimated at 13,066 metric tonnes, according to the UN Comtrade database, while Ghana imports 79,963 metric tonnes.

In Kenya, during the 2022 presidential election, used clothing was an issue. After Raila Odinga proposed a ban on second-hand clothes, his opponent, William Ruto, focused his presidential campaign around supporting Kenya's 'hustler nation' of small businesses and traders.  He later emerged winner of the election.

Despite the opposition within Africa, the French environment ministry, which says that Paris has the support of Denmark and Sweden, contends that the ban will reduce textile waste and the environmental damage it causes as there are reports that Europe currently dumps 90% of its used clothes in Africa and Asia.

With the EU institutions set to shut down for several months from next week, ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, and a new European Commission set to take office in September, the French proposal could be put on hold until later this year.

It is however left for African countries to find a balance between immediate benefits for individuals and communities and significant challenges for the long-term development of the local textile industry and the environment.

What Africans are more concerned with is for France to ban the use of its FCFA as a Senegalese opposition coalition, backed by popular firebrand, Ousmane Sonko, launched its presidential campaign platform with promises to create a new national currency. 

The platform lists a number of measures that would need to be implemented before a new currency could be introduced. But the move would pose another threat to West Africa’s CFA franc currency, which some junta-led States in the region, like Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad have also said they will abandon.


Postscript: The minute you think that the past was better, your present is second-hand, and yourself becomes vintage - Karl Lagerfeld 


Truth is a column written by Asong Ndifor

about author About author : Asong Ndifor

See my other articles

Related Articles


    No comment availaible !

Leave a comment