Second-hand clothing industry continues to thrive despite challenges

Data from the Ghana Used Clothing Dealers’ Association (GUCD) suggests that the import of second-hand clothes commonly referred to as “Obroni wawu” reached over $300 million over two years in 2021 and 2022.

The UK remains the highest exporter of used clothes to Ghana, bringing in about $150 million worth of clothes in 2021 and 2022, followed by China, which brought in about $82 million within the same period.

The rest are from Canada, the Netherlands, Poland, the US, Germany, South Korea, Italy, and Belgium, in that order.

Kantamanto, the hub of the trade, receives about 50 40-foot containers of bales weekly. It hosts about 5,000 stalls of second-hand clothes retailers in Accra alone.

George Addo, who has been in the business of retailing for decades, in an interview with Citi Business News said, “I have been doing this for 30 years now. I must say it is what has sustained my family.”

“The situation we find ourselves in is not ideal as prices keep rising. However, we can only keep going.”

Christiana Mensah, a wholesaler, sharing her daily routine with Citi Business News said “I arrive here as early as 4:30 am. I deal in women’s cotton trousers. I am here every day unless I must attend to an emergency.”

“Sometimes the goods we receive do not meet our expectations, resulting in a loss for us. Additionally, the purchasing power of most of our customers has decreased. A GHS100 which could afford 10 pieces of clothing can now only buy 5,” she added.

Just as many sectors of the local economy are being impacted by the depreciating cedi, the second-hand clothing business is not spared.

The General Secretary of the Ghana Used Clothing Dealers Association, Kwaning Asante Boateng, in an interview with Citi Business News said importers face several challenges daily.

“The duty alone is GHC150,000. What is making this business very difficult for us is the rate at which the cedi keeps depreciating. We want the government to arrest the dollar for us.”

“It costs between £35,000 and £40,000 to bring a container full of bales from the UK, including freight. Honestly, we do not make profits as we wish. All we strive for mostly is to break even. In order to make any profits, we need to keep importing, but it costs a lot to do so. We are struggling.”

Contrary to assertions that second-hand clothes imported into Africa are waste, creating pollution and negative environmental impacts, Kwame Addo opines that importers are committed to sustainable practices.

“Our goods are not of poor quality. Additionally, there is still a market for items that aren’t good enough to be sold. Industries purchase these items to use as rags.”

Margaret Quartey, a mother explained that the hikes in thrift prices have reduced her purchasing power.

“In the past, the prices of clothes were quite affordable, but they’ve gone up recently. I’m just sorting through the thrift stores to find ones I can afford for my children.”

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