Monday, 9 January 2012

Zimbabwe bans second-hand underwear

I'm not sure why this  only makes the news now (it was passed in December), but SA's Times Live just discovered it, so here we are: Zimbabwe's government has banned the import of second-hand undergarments, "whether purchased, donated or procured in any other manner".

Taking advantage of the economic crisis, and the general poverty levels in Zimbabwe, enterprising people have been importing second-hand clothes by the bale and selling them from cheap store-fronts or at markets, thereby further cutting overheads. Some argue that this reduces the cost for consumers and is therefore a good thing. The practice has all but decimated local textile markets, however. Zambia faces the same problem. In the case of underwear, it is particularly problematic.

Of course, it is possible that the influx of cheap Chinese-made goods would have had the same effect on the industry, but the second-hand market has further exacerbated the problem. From a market-perspective, the second-hand imports are also sometimes sourced through donations, meaning that they start out, before any other overheads are added, free. This means they will inevitably undercut any local industry, no matter how competitive the local industry tries to be. In this sense, they are far worse for African industry than cheap Chinese imports - at least the Chinese companies begin with the same profit-motive as the local industry, instead of basing their profitability on free second-hand donations.

This seems to be coupled with a crack-down on undeclared cross-border trade by the Zim government. Sounds like Zim might be taking a serious look at at least starting to protect some industries. Good sign for a recovering economy.

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