By Adaeze Ibechukwu
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The effect of cheap clothing being dumped on African markets has been to devastate local clothing manufacture with thousands losing their jobs and plunged deeper into poverty.
African countries have also suffered cultural devastation. Instead of colourful traditional outfits, locals now wear T-shirts, football tops, and trainers.
However, the old clothes deposited in the clothing bank in the corner of the supermarket car park do not go straight to those in need.
Each year charities sell thousands of tons of unwanted clothes to merchants. They relieve the charities of the logistics involved and, in return, provide a readily available source of income.
The merchants in turn ship them across the sea to be sold on to traders in sub-Saharan Africa for a profit.
The clothes costs pennies and can be marked up as much as 3,000 per cent by the time they hit the stalls and street corners, according to the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation.
Oxfam claims on its website they send about 2,000 tons of clothes to Africa every year and this makes up 15 per cent of its donated clothes.
In the UK, there are dozens of companies, members of the Textile Recycling Association, acting as wholesalers for charities such as Oxfam.
In Ghana, the impact of the trade saw employment in the textile and clothing sector fall by 80 per cent between 1975 to 2000. Other countries like Nigeria and Kenya have seen theirs decimated.
Now tired of seeing the continent’s economy, culture and way of life suffer Ghanian-born Ben Boye has launched a campaign on to help curb the flow of unwanted clothes to Africa.
Mr Boye, 36, moved to Britain 18 years ago and during that time he has seen the devastation caused to his homeland by so-called charity. The clothes are sold in “the bend-down market”, named because customers have to sift through piles of clothes strewn across pavements.
He said: “What people here in the UK perceive as charitable donations is now big business in Africa.
“This has not only destroyed jobs in the local textile and clothing industry, but created a huge underground trade.
“It sucks money out of the local economy and undermines Ghana’s ability to produce its own clothes and grow its own industries to fight its way out of poverty.”
Ghana has no import restrictions on second-hand clothing volumes because the trade generates much-needed foreign revenue from import duties.
Mr Boye said: “Because of Africa’s all-year-round hot climate the continent is the least in need of the untold amount of unwanted clothes.
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“But now they’ve replaced our once-rich fabric culture, our custom of mending clothes and unique way of dressing with clothing depicting images and slogans, brand names and utterances alien to our environment, surroundings, culture and way of life.”
His campaign now has 1,300 supporters. One of the charities he is targeting, the African Development Trust, has invited him to visit its London office for talks.
He said: “Countries in Africa are more than capable of producing clothes perfectly suited to our climate, body types and way of life.
“Instead of taking away from this ability the charities who have made it a business to help the poor should rather invest in the infrastructure which helps this ability.”
Andrew Horton, Oxfam trading director, said: “We believe that the trade in second-hand clothes can be beneficial to the recipient countries, providing affordable clothing, creating jobs, and offering people a way out of poverty.
“However, we also recognise that it can be detrimental with the potential to undermine local garment industries.
“Our ethical trading policy attempts to ensure that we only trade in countries where second- hand clothing is a recognised commodity and where the import of second-hand clothing from the UK will not upset the local market.”

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