Clothing Donations Kill Jobs in Africa

Taylors in third world country

Photo by Aira – www.pixelio.de

There is no better business: If a single entrepreneur is the only one in a country with access to a certain product which costs – more or less – only a symbolic price, then this entrepreneur has a license to print money.

This story appeared again and again in various media over the last 30 years. Now again in the german online magazine “Zeit-online” and in a TV documentation of the “NDR”, a northern german TV station in last November. The story is about the tremendous and outraging lie what happens to our old clothes which we throw packed in plastic bags into the containers of welfare organizations like Deutsche Rote Kreuz (German Red Cross) or the Malteser (german welfare NGO) and others. These donations, we like to believe, will be washed, sorted and shipped to the poorest of the poor all over the world – and given for free of course.

The truth is: A single company in Germany – and probably also others in other western countries – is making billions of sales with worn out donated clothes in the third world and destroy the textile industry mostly in Africa.
How could it be possible for a single company to build up a monopoly in Germany where everything is so well ruled and regulated?

About 40 years ago an entrepreneur asked for a meeting with a regional DRK (German Red Cross) executive manager to present his business plan. He was able to convince the DRK executive manager expressively supported by a check. This contract is still existing and valid until today. The company’s name is Efiba which works together Germany-wide with regional DRK affiliates and other welfare organizations. The Efiba, a subsidiary company of the Soex Group, gathers worn out clothes covered by the well known and trustful logos of the welfare NGO’s, which goes directly to that company and is brought back that way into the economic cycle. Some little money is payed to the NGO’s though, right now it is about 5 Euro cents per kilogram.

But no one likes to admit, of course. The outrage of the donators would be hardly to imagine if the whole story would find its way out of the corners of media and side news, and seen under a wider and brighter focus. Up to 300 tons a day are gathered this way, a fourth comes from the DRK, but also by other container owning companies.

After all these years about 80.000 jobs has been destroyed in the former huge and proud tanzanian and kenyan textile industry. 40.000 tons of clothes, called Mitumba, arrives only in Tanzania every month. No east african company is able to compete with the cheap second hand but well preserved Mitumba from Europe and USA. But there is a way out of this dilemma for donators: There is a law in Germany that says, if donated clothes are unrepairable, it has to be recycled and made to cleaning rags for the industry.

So all donators who really wants to help the people in Eastern Africa, cut your clothes to peaces and then pack it into the plastic bag. Maybe the Eastern African Textile Industry and thousands of people will have a future one day again.



Photo by Aira – pixelio.de

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