The Effect of the Second Hand Clothing Industry on the Development of Africa Economies

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Towards the end of the twentieth century the western world became more aware of its responsibility to protect the earth from human waste. There are enumerable movements and organization that aim to protect the ozone, oceans, polar ice caps, air, soil and land fills. A recurring message that all organizations who work to save the earth spread is the need for humans to recycle. In North America items that are no longer wanted but are still useable are donated to Charitable organizations like Goodwill and Salvation Army. People are expected to recycle everything from old containers to electronics cars and clothing. Americans donate about two point five billion pounds of clothing each year (Packer 2002). Everyone feels a little better because the donors get to make a difference in the life of someone who is less fortunate while getting a tax break, the consumers get a bargain on the items they need, the businesses create jobs and help stimulate the economy and last but not least everyone does their bit to save the environment. American charities only use about twenty percent of the donated clothes and the rest is bought for as little as three cents per pound by companies that export second hand clothing to the third world (Packer 2002). Second hand clothing exporters then proceed to resell these garments at prices that only account for the cost of transportation and a profit.

Local textile and garment industries cannot compete with second hand clothes because not only do their prices have to reflect the cost of materials and production but they do not have the added appeal of being modern. Most of the appeal of second hand clothes stems from an African mentality that everything western is better and than local producers cannot produce fashionable and durable clothing. A look at the economic development of the western world and asia shows that the textile industry is a great way to improve a nations manufacturing capabilities (Frazer). Many African nations already have the natural resources necessary to have a thriving textile industry but the influx of used clothing has hindered the development of these industries. Nigeria and Kenya are two of the largest cotton and textile exporters on the continent but are also import the greatest amounts of used clothing. The second hand clothing industry hinders the growth of local textile and garment industries because it takes away the target customer of the local industries. Locals are unwilling to spend money on locally produced garments knowing that they could get imported clothes for the same price or cheaper. A dependency on imported apparel perpetuates a cycle of poverty by reducing the customer base of local producers thus taking away possibilities of creating thriving manufacturing industries on the continent. While African policy makers are aware that second hand clothing hampers the growth and development of their nations, bans on the importation of second hand clothing fail because the immediate survival needs of Africans overshadow the economical development of the continent.

Africans have a long history of prizing imported western attire that stems from the colonization of the continent by Europeans. Europeans traded clothing and other western items with African leaders in order to gain access to their lands. The association of Western clothing with status in more civilized future made it incredibly popular with the masses "particularly in areas where the predominant coverage came from skin, hides, and barkcloth" (Comaroff and Comaroff, 1997). The modern second hand clothing industry is more directly a result of the Post World War I industrialization of the Western World. A majority of the initial shipments of second hand clothing that were sent to the continent were surplus military uniforms shipped to the continent by European and American second hand clothing dealers (Hansen, 2000). Europeans within the continent had a history of wearing second hand clothing prior...
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