Sometimes things that seem like a great idea to Canadians is exactly the opposite. I posted a few months ago about seeing Ugandan friends wearing Tim Hortons uniforms in Kamuli.
This morning, it came to my attention that an official Canadian government website lists used clothing as Canada's biggest export to Uganda.
The following is from a Creative Communications essay on voluntourism I wrote for the lovely Dr. Petty:
"While living in East Africa, the number of times I saw volunteers arriving with piles of used clothing to give away for free was staggering. Apparently, these volunteers did not know that clothing is widely available for purchase locally in countries like Kenya and Uganda. Free clothing drives down prices and undermines the efforts of local merchants and tailors to earn a living.
Jaswinder Bedi of the Kenya Assocation of Manufacturers says that donations of clothing that are re-sold in local market places have led to a virtual collapse of the textile industry in Kenya. Before massive quantites of donated Western clothing flooded the market in the 1990s, textile industries provided jobs for about 200 000 people. Today, less than 20 000 people work in the Kenyan textile industry."
So, Canada is dumping, quite literally, tons of used clothing into the East African marketplace, effectively destroying jobs. At the same time, we are also sending aid money to help poor people with no jobs, and then scratching our heads and wondering why poor countries continue needing Western aid.
The following picture is of the marketplace in Kamuli, Uganda, and is typical of markets across East Africa. Note the sheer abundance of cheap imported...crap.