Trade, not Donation

Dollars funnel.

People in developed countries often feel they are doing their bit for humanity by donating unwanted clothes to charities. These charities tend to sell what they can locally, in charity shops, and then donate the rest to developing countries in need of aid.

Firstly, many charities nowadays are big business with much of the money going to administration. Things sometimes get worse with corruption and tax evasion.

But I am writing today about what happens to the clothes that are sent to Africa. You may have a rosy picture of small children being given your shoes, pretty jackets, and warm clothes. Unfortunately in 99% of cases these items end up in the hands of local traders, where they are then sold, pushing local traders out of the market and making companies which don’t need the money even richer.

One such company in South Africa is Pep stores – they take in all the factory rejects from H and M (which have probably been donated by H and M to needy countries) and sell them for more than H and M sells the top grade ones for. The tags are often scored or the edges clipped off, denoting a second or a reject. These ones are new. Other items are second hand and come from European charities – these are mostly jackets and coats but also trousers and jeans. Another big part of the stock in shops like these is army surplus from Germany. These are all sold at a profit which does not go anywhere near the people they are supposed to help.

I imagine some of the items get to where they are supposed to go but very few find their way through the sticky web of middlemen and I have always found that extremely sad.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

4 thoughts

  1. I’ve always given to the Salvation Army but lately have found them to be a bit more selective in what they’ll accept. Nice, high end garments are always welcomed but not some tattier pieces. Maybe we should start calling them “Salvation Armani”.

    1. Ha ha good one Jo! I know Oxfam had a bad reputation a few years ago for staff grabbing all the juicier bits for themselves, though have not heard that lately!

  2. Intriguing topic, Janet. Somewhat related (perhaps)– yesterday I was reading a few studies about Gross National Happiness, GNH. I looked at the data from Bhutan and the U.S. but in the end, data are data. Happiness can’t be scored, nor can altruism. It is gravely sad that things like this happen and that those in need remain so.

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