The cast-off clothes that people give to charity shops are swamping the African republic of Ghana, destroying its native textile industry and threatening its culture.
About 90 per cent of the shirts, trousers, dresses, shoes and other garments donated to High Street shops end up being exported, mostly to Africa. Ghana is the biggest recipient and calls the trade ‘obroni wawu’ - literally meaning ‘white men’s dead clothes’.
Some 30,000 tonnes of second-hand clothes are exported from the UK to Ghana every year, helping to create a booming £50 million market. More than half the clothes now bought in Ghana are cast-offs from Europe and the US.
But according to Osei-Bonsu Safo Kantanka, a historian from Bonwire in the Ashanti region of Ghana, the trade is a disaster. “It is killing our culture,” he said. “If there was no obroni wawu, a lot of people would turn to the local type of dress.”
He pointed out that second-hand clothing was much cheaper than native garments. “Our belief and respect for our own things has faded to a degree that if we are not very careful sometime, somewhere, someday, we will not see some of our own things anymore.”