The psychological—and, as a result, financial—blows of the used-clothing industry have been crippling. What seems to be carried over, along with the previously worn clothing, is that old-colonial mentality of "ours is better than yours," the often unspoken belief heralding all that is Western as superior, and all that is African as inferior.I realize that there are probably competing, or (more accurately) contributing, explanations for the plight of the textile industries. Before reading this article, I had heard that the influx of inexpensive manufactured products from Asian markets had been affecting local businesses in many African countries, and one commenter on this article mentions this dynamic. He also suggests that a lack of government commitment to foster and sustain local industry plays a role. But it seems very unlikely to me that this is the whole story, and the attitudes of local people toward "white people's clothes" that Danquah describes, from her own experience, is very compelling.
...In some countries, the preference for used clothes has all but killed the local textile industry. The used-clothing industry is Kenya’s seventh largest import, raking in well over 60 million euros per year. Hundreds of thousands of African workers have lost their jobs as a result of these imports. In Malawi, the largest textile company had to close its doors. Other such companies in Mozambique and Uganda are headed toward bankruptcy. Zambian textile workers have staged several strikes in an effort to promote national and international awareness of their plight.
This is another example of how a colonial history leaves it's residue in all kinds of unexpected places, how we must constantly be aware of this residue, and how even our most well-intentioned actions can play into it. As with many other choices we make in life, charitable giving is a political action, and requires open-minded thoughtfulness, and attention to the narratives of those who receive the help, as well as the narratives of others from their communities who are effected by it.