Why East Africa is Banning Western Clothing Donations

Every few months you open your closet and are horrified to find once neatly stacked sweaters falling out? You try opening your dresser drawers but can't because too many socks are crammed in there. It's Friday night and you go to pick out an outfit and find yourself choosing between 12? We know the feeling.

Like most Americans you crack and decide in a you're-already-30-min-late-fueled-hysteria that you are going to simplify your life and clean out your closet. The next morning you reluctantly give away dozens of pieces of clothing and feel proud of yourself for giving back.

Ever wonder where those clothes you donated go? Well... While you may donate them to a charity in the states, across the African continent second-hand clothes from developed countries are ubiquitous. East Africa alone imported $151m of second-hand clothing last year, most of which was collected by charities and recyclers that you gave to in Europe and North America.

In response, earlier this spring several African nations did something bold. The East African Community (EAC), an intergovernmental organisation that counts Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda as it's members, proposed a ban on imported used clothes and shoes. The aim is, to encourage local clothing production and development of lost textile industries. Such a move won't be easy. The reason East Africa's clothing manufacturing sector which once employed hundreds of thousands of people closed, was because donated clothing and cheap imports undercut the prices. That means that clothing prices will rise. But it also means that jobs will come back.

This past week, Tanzania, one of the member states, took an important step towards bringing jobs back. Jenista Mhagama, Tanzania's minister of state released the following statement: “We’re determined to end the importation of used clothes and shoes by 2018. We have organized series of training for young Tanzanians so that they are well-equipped with tailoring skills, who will be employed in the current clothes-making factories and those which are coming in.” 

This is a big trial to see whether or not the plan to bring manufacturing back to Africa can really work. In the meantime, support the EAC's goals by properly recycling your clothing or donating them to local shelters in your local community. You can recycle clothing here: http://modavanti.com/modacycle