A Case Against Charity? Made For Africa ? Hand Me Downs

This is sad to admit, but the African continent has grown a reputation for being a dump for?the world?s used products. Indeed, Africa as a continent is the largest importer of used Japanese vehicles, but the dumping is not limited to motor vehicles. African markets are also teeming with used garments from other continents. Oxfam has reported that about fifty percent of clothing sold in sub-Saharan Africa are used garments. Although initially, the sale of used imports seemed like a regular occurrence and even a good idea, the gift became a curse when exporters’ views changed, and Africa, once seen as a loyal customer became identified as a dumping ground for any and all items that other countries wanted to get rid of. Today, used items that have been banned, outdated, are subpar, performing below regulations and deemed unfit or even outright dangerous have been directed towards many parts of ?the continent. Rather than place these products into dumps and landfills, they are stuffed into crates and shipped off to Africans.

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To address this problem, we need to first understand its origins. The practice of selling used goods is normally not a bad thing. Used cars for example, command a large market in any country, developed or otherwise. It is quite beneficial for Africa to be able to import products that it does not manufacture in large quantities.? Most African countries do not manufacture their own vehicles locally. In such cases, it is not only convenient to import used vehicles, but absolutely mandatory. Add to this the fact that the average per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa is US$1,624; it is easy to understand why spanking new vehicles are completely out of consideration for the average driver. It also makes sense for cars that are no longer being used in developed countries to be sent to countries where they can make a real difference to the transportation sector.? Additionally, numerous charitable organizations take donated items from developed countries and place them in containers bound for the African continent. These items, often clothing are then sold at discount prices to those who really need them. The original intentions were undoubtedly with Africa?s best interests in mind, but lately this type of ?charity has become akin to the transportation of unwanted trash to a dump site. The good willed actions have become, in many cases, convenient regular disposals.

Today, we see cars that would never be permitted to operate in developed countries being used to transport human beings. The engines knock, and the emissions are clearly visible dark plumes of carbon monoxide, which would give a diesel truck a run for its money. The seatbelts are missing, and many cars that originally came with airbags have since been deployed and repacked, and then shipped off to Africa after it could not be re-registered in its home country. While not all imported cars are bad, it was necessary to put an end to as many of the bad cases as possible. Not only does bringing in substandard foreign goods litter the continent with the world?s refuse, it also severely hampers the growth of local industries. For example, trade liberalization policies have a history of devastating the African textile industries. In Ghana, garment and textile employment was almost completely decimated with an 80% decline from 1975 to 2000. This is a shame, considering that the quality of the new locally made garments are just as good as, or even better than the used foreign garments.

In recent times, African countries have taken action to stop the dumping. A few years ago, Zimbabwe banned the Import of second hand Japanese cars, while Botswana has made it illegal to import vehicles older than five years. South Africa has completely banned all importation of any used cars. Nigeria casted a wider net and placed a seventy percent import duty on all imported cars, new or otherwise. Fortunately for Africa and [perhaps] unfortunately for others, the unreasonably high duty makes it unprofitable to dump vehicles in Africa. To support local enterprise and employment, Nigeria gives concessions to automakers who manufacture cars within the country, and provides a discounted import levy at only thirty-five percent. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan insisted earlier this year that his country would soon begin the export of automobiles and the results have been encouraging. Vehicle manufacturers who understand the benefits of the African market have set up shop to make the vehicles locally. Many African countries have the facilities to assemble foreign made cars, and this path would be a great compromise as a stopgap measure to enhance local industry and employment until cars can be manufactured completely locally.

It is important for local enterprises to be supported. Because of the progress that has been made in local enterprise and production owing to the limitation of foreign dumping, it seems to be a clear choice for African countries to continue to limit the import of used items, if for no other reason than to stop the reduction of Africa to a waste dump. As for the used articles of clothing being brought in by charities, while there is still a large need, and the clothing and supplies that are sold in country provide a revenue stream, it only makes sense that those in the developed world work with local manufacturers to reach a business agreement that enables profit generation, economic growth and of course, spanking new, locally made clothing.

Image:?Afi Holmes/Afsthetix

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