Old clothes for Africa – curse or blessing?

Tanzania. Dar es Salaam. In one of the largest ports of East Africa, the huge plastic bales arrive at regular intervals. From there they are distributed to all corners of the country and sold at local markets.

The bales, called “Mitumba”, contain nothing but masses of old clothes from Europe and North America. Around 60,000 tonnes of old clothes come to Tanzania from Germany alone every year.

When the first loads of Mitumba arrived in East Africa in 1980, they did the population good. The cheap clothing was long awaited by many. Gradually, however, the local textile industry was weakened more and more. Tanzania produces kitenge and kanga, both traditional fabrics from which dresses, trousers, shirts or suits can be made. However, many of these producers could not withstand the enormous price pressure caused by Mitumba. The Tanzanian textile industry suffered enormous losses. More than 80,000 people lost their jobs, so that now only 20,000 people are working in the industry.

Old clothes are therefore a major problem for the East African economy, which is why many countries are seeking a ban. However, a large part of the inhabitants is dependent on Mitumba because of the low price. Over time, kitenge and kanga have become even more expensive, so that the poorer part of the population can no longer afford them.

To prevent the traditional fabrics from disappearing, we work exclusively with local products. Kitenge is an important part of the Tanzanian culture that is worth protecting. Matema stands up for this.



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