“As Long As The Second-Hand Clothing Industry Thrives, Africa’s Economy Is Unlikely To Improve”

A good portion of the clothes charitable Americans place in drop boxes provided by the Salvation Army and other non-profits winds up being resold in sub-Saharan Africa. That provides impoverished people in that region with ultra-cheap clothes, but it also might be stymieing garment industries in those nations. An unintended consequence, sure, though perhaps taking away this market would have unforeseen consequences as well. We should give, but give as intelligently as possible. Give now to help with immediate needs, while working to incentivize future markets. From Shannon Whitehead at Medium:

“People will argue that the second-hand clothing industry in Africa is booming. And, on the surface, it is — over one-third of Sub-Saharan Africans wear second-hand. The reality, though, is that for as long as the second-hand clothing industry thrives, Africa’s economy is unlikely to improve.

According to Professor Garth Frazer from the University of Toronto, no country has ever achieved a sustainable per capita national income (at a level associated with a developing economy) without also achieving a clothing-manufacturing workforce that employs at least 1 percent of the population.

Over the years, certain African nations have attempted to ban or restrict the influx of Western clothing imports. In an effort to give existing industries a chance and to maintain traditional culture, countries such as South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria have tried to implement regulation. While it’s done some good for those countries, it hasn’t provided a solution.

Simply put, as long as we, the consumer, continue to buy and discard at our current rate, there will be a market for our wasted fashion.”

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