Textile Recycling Association welcomes research papers about the impact of Second Hand Clothing Industry on Sub-Saharan Africa.

The second hand clothing trade has positive social, economic and environmental impacts in exporting and receiving countries.

The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has welcomed two separate pieces of research into the impact of the second hand clothing trade on Sub-Saharan African countries. They draw similar conclusions and deduce that the industry has positive social, economic and environmental impacts on these countries overall.

“The impact of the second-hand clothing trade on developing countries” was written by Sally Baden and Catherine Barber and commissioned by Oxfam. This study looked at what impact the Second Hand Clothing trade is having on new textile and clothing production in West Africa in both the formal and informal sector. It also drew upon a detailed case study of the Second Hand Clothing sector and new textile and clothing sector in Senegal.

They concluded that the trade:

  • Is a dominant feature of the clothing market in many sub-Saharan countries;
  • Has clear consumer benefits, particularly in counties with low purchasing powers and poorer consumers;
  • Supports the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries.

They also concluded that whilst the second hand clothing trade is thought to be a factor in undermining local textile/clothing production, it is not clear whether production would ever recover in the absence of the second hand clothing trade. This is because new imports from Asia are cheaper than locally produced goods and there are serious supply constraints.

The other research paper was put together by Dr Simone Field from the Institute of Development Studies based, at the University of Sussex. She presented the interim results of her research entitled “The beneficial nature of the second-hand clothing trade in Sub-Saharan Africa” at the “European Conference – Textile Recycling: How can we save a sector in crisis?”, which was held in Brussels, Belgium on 13th October 2005. Her research has drawn upon results from a field study carried out in Kenya in 2004.

Dr Field’s research suggests that recipient countries receive significant economic gains. She said “in relative terms, the trade has had a very positive impact on poverty alleviation during the current harsh economic climate”. She estimates that 5 million people (out of a population of about 30 million) are affected directly or indirectly by the second hand clothing trade in Kenya through employment and income generation. This is against a backdrop of an unemployment rate of 40%.

Dr Field also cited typical negative comments from Kenyan Government officials towards the second hand clothing trade such as “the trade is killing our textile and clothing industry”. She challenged this assertion suggesting that it was too simplistic and a number of other factors have played an important part including:

  • the 1995-97 drought which hit cotton producers;
  • the increase in cheap cotton lint from Pakistan and India;
  • the collapse of the Kenyan Cotton Board which resulted in the withdrawal of subsidies;
  • the import of cheap new textiles from Asia; and
  • trade liberalisation in 1990.

The TRA’s National Liaison Manager, Mr Alan Wheeler said that “these pieces of research demonstrate that clothes recycling is not only good for the environment, but also that it has an important social and economic role to play. The benefits extend to the UK where we estimate that private textile reclamation businesses employ around 5 – 10,000 people, with a further 9,500 employed in UK charity shops. The public and politicians should be fully aware of the crucial contributions this industry makes to the world economy and sustainable development”
Further Information
Contact: Alan Wheeler – Textile Recycling Association

Tel: 00 44 (0)870 042 8276
Fax: 00 44 (0)1622 840022
Web: www.textilerecyclingassociation.org

The research paper by Oxfam can be downloaded by clicking here.