Clothing consumption all over the world has increased over the years primarily due to the introduction of fast fashion which provides consumers with low-cost apparel that is produced quickly and up to date on high-fashion trends, often at the expense of the environment. These clothes are mostly manufactured in East and South Asia and then sold in Western countries, where they are hardly worn and are quickly discarded.

Exporting second-hand clothing products to developing economies for further consumption, a concept usually called ‘global reuse’, provides utility to people in developing countries, but it can have negative economic and ecological consequences. In 2021, more than 40 per cent of the world’s used clothing exports came from three countries—China (17 per cent), the United States (16 per cent), and the United Kingdom (8 per cent).

For developed economies, Africa has become the primary destination to export second-hand clothing. The second-hand clothing industry has emerged as a major sector in Africa’s economy as it creates jobs involving handling, alterations, refinements, and distribution of second-hand clothes and helps in increasing consumer purchasing power. It helps to strengthen the demand for clothing in African countries by raising fashion awareness.

The second-hand clothing industry can be a continuous source of employment, tax revenues, and wealth creation if the governments of African countries provide a competitive operating environment that is conducive to the sector’s long-term development. The global environmental benefits of such reuse are also considerable.

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