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.