Iraqis for Ed Pugh!

When you donate used clothing to certain charities, they sell it to brokers, who in turn pack it up and ship it to various African countries.

There, brokers distribute the used clothing, at large markups, throughout the country. That’s why you might see a Zambian boy wearing a Bart Simpson T-Shirt, or an Iraqi man wearing a T-shirt for the 1994 Kansas State Representative race of Ed Pugh, or a Nigerian post office employee wearing a baseball cap that says "forget about the love and passion, just whack it up her doggy fashion" (same site).

Does this also happen to German clothes, I wonder? It’s probably harder to tell, because Germans are much less likely than Americans to wear clothes printed with a raunchy/ephemeral message. Africans might be wearing cast-off German clothes, but it would be much harder to immediately identify the clothes as specifically German. Or maybe I’m wrong, and there are Liberian dock workers proudly sporting Marius MüllerWesternhagen concert T-shirts.

Now for the socially redeeming part of this post (you knew it was coming). A documentary film has been made about used Western clothes in Africa, and their baleful impacts on local manufacturers:

What happened to all of the Zambian clothing manufacturers? Mark O’Donnell, spokesperson for Zambian Manufacturers, explains that in 1991, when the country’s markets were opened to free trade, container load after container load of used clothing began to arrive in Zambia, undercutting the cost of the domestic manufacturers and putting them out of business. The skills, the infrastructure and the capital of an entire industry are now virtually extinct, with not a single clothing manufacturer left in the country today.

6 thoughts on “Iraqis for Ed Pugh!

  1. I was in Cameroon, West Africa last month in a remote village near the Chad border called “Pouss” and saw a man on the market wearing the official jacket of the German Post Office. And it looked pretty new. Not only did he have no clue what it was and where it came from, I also had a hard time explaining to him what mailmen and the postal service are.


  2. As long as the world’s largest socialist state, the European Union, goes on letting streams of milk and wine flow (e.g. to the sewer or the milk powder processor, as dried milk takes longer to rot), as long as mountains of butter and produce are piled up to eventually be ploughed under or -much worse, mind you- thrown on the world market at subsidized prices, so African farmers become the EU’s welfare-moms and dads, while European farmers are unemployed-de-luxe at the tax payer’s expense, so long we stuck-up twits need not to sneer at Americans, who don’t think that Entwicklungshilfe is such a big deal.

    Capital punishment? Trigger-happy gun toters? Ghettoes? Uncompassionate conservatism? I know, I know – and done condone. However, Yanks are refreshingly frank about being sods, while we belong to the underhanded and self-righteous variety. Being hypocrite garden gnomes just rocks big time!

    Ceterum censeo, we’re a bunch of Islamophile anti-Semites, too – but you knew that. Besides, some of us are pure joy.


  3. @Marek,

    you are right, the locals in Pouss were complaining left and right about receiving too much welfare from Europe.


    what’s with your umlauts!?


  4. And, Marek, the EU isn’t alone in distorting market prices, the US continues to subsidise its cotton farmers, even though there are vast resources in Africa.


  5. @ Hendrik

    Thanks for the Cameroonian update. Man, I love those Post Office jackets. But even better are the fantastic yellow bikes they have. Do I have to go to Pouss to score this cool stuff?

    As for my umlauts, according to my latest medical check-up, they’re doing just fine. Why do you ask?


  6. @Andrew,

    in case you’re still reading this (do you somehow get an alert on new comments no matter how old the topic??) your link to that Marius thing doesn’t seem to work because of an umlaut. At least it doesn’t work on my sorry little English language system.

    Neither the postal jacket nor the bike were for sale anywhere last time I checked, the bikes being especially sought-after for their durability. The blacksmith of Pouss, Haman Assoualaye, who gave me his telephone number +237-6226095 (they don’t have electricity but they have excellent mobile coverage) in the faint hope that being ‘in contact’ with a white guy will somehow bring him fame and fortune, might know the man with the jacket.


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