The used-clothing industry is not hidden (Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-Hand Clothes, by Andrew Brooks, Books, 9 April). There have been various television, radio and newspaper features on it, and it employs tens of millions of people worldwide. Although used clothing is popular in sub-Saharan Africa, to blame it for textile production failures in Africa is a red herring. Used clothing has been popular since the 1980s and during that time textile producers in Africa have prospered.
However, they have been struggling in recent years because, like textile producers in Europe, they have not been able to compete with cheap Asian imports, particularly from China.
The phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Agreement in 2005 has also been disastrous for African textile producers. Under the MFA, limits were placed on the amount of textiles that any country could export to developing countries. This largely protected the African producers at the expense of the Chinese. Since this has been phased out, it has been extremely difficult for African producers to compete on the global market.
In addition, a totally unreliable electricity supply and inadequate infrastructure together with difficulties in the sourcing of raw materials make it virtually impossible for textile producers in Africa to compete.
So while it is tempting to portray the relative success of the used-clothing industry as a scapegoat, there are numerous compelling reasons that show that this is simply not the case and does a great disservice to everyone concerned, including textile producers.
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