December 29, 2017

"Across Africa, daily shipments of recycled clothing, sent largely from the US, UK and Canada, fuel a multimillion-dollar informal industry that employs thousands of local retailers..."

"... who turn a profit reselling the items..... Rwanda has made huge economic progress in the past 25 years. But officials argue that the ubiquity of recycled apparel – known as chagua – has stifled the growth of its nascent textile industry and has dented national pride. 'The objective is to see many more companies produce clothes here in Rwanda,' says Telesphore Mugwiza, an official at Rwanda’s ministry of trade and industry. 'It is also about protecting our people in terms of hygiene. If Rwanda produces its own clothes, our people won’t have to wear T-shirts or jeans used by someone else. People need to shift to [this] kind of mindset.... People will shift from secondhand to new clothes. What will change is just the type of product but not the business.'"

From "'It's about our dignity': vintage clothing ban in Rwanda sparks US trade dispute/Secondhand garments are stifling the country’s fashion industry, officials say, but the ban has dismayed local traders – and reportedly imperils 40,000 US jobs" (in The Guardian).

43 comments:

rhhardin said...

Side effects and perverse consequences.

Larry J said...

It's a good thing to send money, clothing, food, and other essentials when an area has suffered a disaster. It's a different matter to flood local markets with goods as a matter of course. In the end, that undermines local producers and fosters dependency.

rhhardin said...

The econtalk Mike Munger podcast on fair trade coffee is a good general explanation of helping is not helping.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2007/12/munger_on_fair.html

CJ said...

There is a huge industry in Hong Kong (my favorite city outside New York) where Africans buy shipping containers full of used/outdated cellphones and take them back to Africa on ships and resell them.

It’s fascinating to watch - go to the Chungking Mansion block and watch the Africans negotiate with the Hong Kongers over hundreds of thousands of Samsung and LG phones - they bring cardboard boxes full of phones that are supposed to be a representative sample of the rest of the container. Truly a unique spectacle.

Then you can get some Pakistani food from one of the stalls.

To be able to make a living trading in refuse from the First World.

n.n said...

Charity and welfare promote positive progress in the short-term, but are first-order forcings of negative progress in the long-term. This is not unlike environmental (e.g. green waste) and labor (e.g. immigration reform) arbitrage. As well as the "great society" effect that corrupted generations of redistributors and recipients.

Rick said...

has stifled the growth of its nascent textile industry

Crony capitalists are once again using corrupt government officials to limit economic freedom and cause poor people to pay more for basic necessities.

Left wingers will conclude economic freedom is at fault and more power to government officials is the solution.

David said...

I saw the leading edge of this in parts of Kenya in the mid 1980's. By the time I returned to Africa 10 years later, obsolete American inventory had swamped every village.

The Ugandans have this partly right but if you want to see crony capitalism wait until the indigenous clothing industry gets going. Just more fodder for the corruption plague that eats Africa from the inside.

mockturtle said...

"People need to shift to [this] kind of mindset."

I love this attitude--one of knowing what people need to do. So Obama-esque.

Birches said...

I'm guessing that most people are better dressed than the good ol days of the 80's in Rwanda. This is the same principle as free trade here. Today, I can buy my kids new winter boots at Walmart for ten bucks. This is a miracle. Thank goodness for free trade.

Michael in ArchDen said...

Not only is local industry stunted...but the local trivia teams are harmed by being mis-informed on who actually wins the SuperBowl each year!

MadisonMan said...

I'd wear clothes made in Africa, with nice tribal prints, from local-to-Africa industry, but then I'd be accused of cultural appropriation.

gadfly said...

Cheaper foreign-made clothes have virtually shut the cut & sew textile industry in the United States but the American consumer benefits from lower prices - read about it here, Donald Trump. As for second-hand clothes, shops run by charities such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries are providing first-rate clothes to our lower income families. Additionally, local thrift shops have put lots of people into money-making businesses.

Whoever dreamed up the illogical scheme to replace cheap clothes with more expensive clothes in the really poor African nations needs to be put into the stocks at the local town square.

Proverbs 16:18. In the KJV, with the next verse: 18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Nancy Reyes said...

Reality check:

I live in the rural Philippines.
We have a choice of clothing: cheap shoddy Chinese imported clothing at the open air market (teeshirt 1 dollar), expensive high quality clothes at the mall (usually made elsewhere), (blouse 10 dollars), or "ukay ukay" clothes, which are used clothing sold in the open air market, often good quality brands from the US or Canada (blouse 50 cents), The only "local" clothing is when I go to the seamstress to buy stuff.

So my take: This will only help the Chinese factories, who are supplying lots of cheap imports to Africa (and undermining local industries). This, not "cheap imports" are the real problem.

For example, our town makes sandals: 5 dollars and lovely. But the poor wear thongs/flipflops from China (80 cents).

MadisonMan said...

I appreciate the reality check above.

Followup question: Did the Chinese fund the Guardian piece?

mockturtle said...

Besides...recycling! :-)

Kevin said...

People can become dependent on handouts which stifle their natural abilities and hold entire communities in poverty?

Who knew?

Rick said...

People can become dependent on handouts which stifle their natural abilities and hold entire communities in poverty?


Only if when Nike tries to build a local factory you claim it's a sweatshop and lobby the government to shut it down.

gspencer said...

There's a whole village walking around with Atlanta Falcons SuperBowl LI Champs-2017 T-shirts, hoodies, and hats.

EDH said...

gspencer said...
There's a whole village walking around with Atlanta Falcons SuperBowl LI Champs-2017 T-shirts, hoodies, and hats.

Not to mention the African tribal village that lives under that Hillary Clinton 'glass ceiling' prop from the election night party that DOJ/Mueller persecutor Andrew Weissmann attended.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

STOP. HELPING. US.

eddie willers said...

There is a huge industry in Hong Kong (my favorite city outside New York)

I am in the middle of re-reading Tai-Pan and will do the same with Noble House when done.

I remember loving these books in the 80's and, this time around, it's easy to read up on James Clavell (thanks, Google). I guess I am not surprised to see that he was a capitalist loving Ayn Rand type. No wonder I so enjoyed his stuff.

For those who don't know, the closest thing we have had to laissez faire capitalism is Hong Kong before the 1997 turnover.

Gahrie said...

This story is a sign of growing prosperity around the world. It wasn't that long ago that here in the West most people owned little clothing, much of it homemade. There is a reason why most houses built more than say 100 - 160 years ago don't have closets. No one needed closets, most people only owned three sets of clothes (the ones they ere wearing, the ones being cleaned and the ones they wore to church).

Bruce Hayden said...

Good friend was in the used clothing business here for a while. Unfortunately, he was mostly foc3d to shut down by the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. They discovered that they could make money by buying used clothing from the thrift stores, sorting it, then loading it in shipping containers for overseas. Making sure that their plants were far enough from ports mostly cut out the stevedores Union, which saved money. He had some great stories - for example sneaking into Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. The freedom fighters loved their womens’ stretch Pants and down parkas.

Knowing him, and that he grew up in the business of selling used stuff (first for charities (similar to what Goodwill does), then for themselves), I long ago decided that this was a good use of America’s discards. Interestingly, to me, probably a majority of the collection boxes you see any more are for for-profit companies, that sell some of the stuff they collect locally, but sell most of it is sold to people shipping it overseas. Which I think is a much better destination for used clothing, etc, than the local landfill.

Luke Lea said...

Not sure if I believe it, but I read recently that a general famine didn't begin in Somalia until international aid arrived. Before that there had been local pockets of want but when the people saw that food was available for free they stopped planting their crops.

Steven said...

Next, Rwanda outlaws the importation of sunlight in order to help develop the domestic lighting industry. All that free light isn't helping, it's just making Rwandans dependent on handouts!

mockturtle said...

I am in the middle of re-reading Tai-Pan and will do the same with Noble House when done.

Eddie, are they as good as Shogun?

Lucien said...

"Couture-al Appropriation?"

David said...

"Not sure if I believe it, but I read recently that a general famine didn't begin in Somalia until international aid arrived. Before that there had been local pockets of want but when the people saw that food was available for free they stopped planting their crops."

In their defense, a lot of them had the inconvenience of being shot at while working in the fields. Similar issues had a hand in the German food shortages of winter 1945.

n.n said...

STOP. HELPING. US.

It should be: help us help ourselves, which is a noble charity. There are exceptions in context, but, generally, people are actually and desire to be capable. The Peter Pan syndrome in the long-term is spiritually destructive and an evolutionary sink.

Rabel said...

Somewhere, in the heart of deepest, darkest Africa, a local man is wearing a pair of Bill Clinton's used socks.

The fact that the managers of the two local textile manufacturing plants cited are named Patel and Chung leads me to believe that there may have been an outside influence on the decisions by the African leaders.

This statement in the article is a lie:

"Earlier this year, the Office of the US Trade Representative threatened to withdraw Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda’s membership of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), a programme designed to promote economic and political development in sub-Saharan Africa."

The Trade Rep's office simply agreed to review the situation. Comments were solicited (almost all were cut and paste of a prepared statement in favor of the tariffs), a public meeting was held, Kenya has been cleared, the others are waffling on the tariff increases, but no decision has been made.

I know this because I read the Federal Register so you won't have to.

Gahrie said...

Just for the record, the world's population is at an all time high, yet world poverty and hunger are at all time lows, standards of living are high, and steadily improving world wide.

Today African and Asian rural villages have cell phones not starving children.

Josephbleau said...

Mexico gets shipments of new t shirts that did not sell and folks happily wear them, it’s all you need in that climate. I saw one gentleman wearing a Devils Head t shirt, (a Wisconsin ski area) and he had no idea what it meant, but thought it was a good t shirt.

Jupiter said...

"Rwanda has made huge economic progress in the past 25 years."

Let's see, that means since 1993 ....

eddie willers said...

Eddie, are they as good as Shogun?

Yes they are. Different cultures (Chinese instead of Japanese) but still fascinating.

I have a Kindle and a month or so ago, I got an email notice that Shogun was on sale for only $1.99, How can you lose? That also spurred me to buy the Blu-Ray version of the mini-series and, by God, it holds up. No TV show beat it (aside from Twin Peaks) until HBO started creating their great original series. Though framed for a 4x3 TV screen, at least they used film, so the transfer (excepting a few shots) is magnificent. And, speaking of how I found out Clavell was an Objectivist, this time around I was able to go to Wikipedia to learn about the real Tokugawa ("Toranaga" in the book) Shogunate and found out that Clavell's story was a real Roman à clef with all being virtually a true account with the names changed. "Blackthorne" was based on the real life William Adams.

So this week, Amazon put Tai-Pan at the same $1.99 and when I finish, I will probably not wait for a similar sale price on Noble House. $9.99 is still a great price for a book over a thousand pages.

eddie willers said...

STOP. HELPING. US.

It should be: help us help ourselves, which is a noble charity.


I was amused when I clicked "Publish You Comment" and saw that Dust Bunny Queen had written that while I was writing.

STOP. HELPING. US. was what the businessmen of France said when the Crown asked them , "How can we help?" after screwing things up for so long.

Of course, they're response was in French: "Laissez faire!"

Ray said...

A lot of the Somali and Ethiopia famines were caused by warfare.

And the problem with free food is it devastates the local farmers economically.

mockturtle said...

Eddie, thanks! Just downloaded Tai-Pan for $1.99! :-)

Yancey Ward said...

Alright, who put the MAGA hat into the the recycling bin and set this whole business off?

eddie willers said...

You'll be hooked and then they've got you for another $9.99 for Nobel House. A "sequel" of Tai-Pan set in Hong Kong in 1963.

(and you will immediately find out what a "Noble House" is in the first few pages of Tai-Pan)

Earnest Prole said...

My children loved their secondhand clothes, whether from cousins or the Goodwill. I can't remember ever purchasing new clothes for them, although they were always free to buy them with money they earned.

indiana118 said...

So why don't they just convert all the excess clothing to something that people will buy?

Instead of throwing out good clothes so that people can make more clothes, why not accept that we have enough clothes & figure out some way to turn the excess into profit? I don't know how things are there but I know here quilts sell well, and so do rag rugs & dolls.

DanTheMan said...

Once again, the Africans are fiddling with details; what they need to do is to repeal the law of supply and demand.
Then everybody can make 100K a year, and the local suit and formal wear manufacturers can flourish.

I suggest we help them with a Cash for Clunkers approach: Burn all of our surplus clothing. This will instantly make the clothes they already own more valuable, and spur investment in local manufacturing.

Caligula said...

"People can become dependent on handouts which stifle their natural abilities"

Except, this clothing is not "handouts."

Mostly it's what happens to the clothing you donated to Goodwill if it doesn't sell off a rack in a Goodwill in a timely manner and it's still in good condition: Goodwill sells it to a clothing exporter, who sells it to used-clothing distributors in Africa, who sell it to used-clothing retailers in Africa.

Yes, you donated it. But everything downstream of that is entirely commercial. It works because there's a robust demand for this used clothing (at least if it's not in the XXXL sizes that fit all too many Americans, but few Africans).

Trying to make your local economy work by banning low-cost imports is similar to making work for glaziers by smashing windows (Frédéric Bastiat's "broken windows fallacy.").