Join the Business Boom: Export Second Hand Clothing to Africa

Used Clothes Market

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Consumption of clothing has increased over time all around the world. The introduction of quick fashion is primarily to blame for this growth. Customers can get affordable clothing in style and fashion thanks to the fast fashion business. Most of these garments are made in East and South Asia before being sold in Western nations, where they are typically thrown away after wear.


However, there is a well-known workaround. To increase consumption, countries are sending clothes to third-world countries. This idea, which promotes utility for people in underdeveloped nations, is known as global clothing reuse. Second-hand clothing export to Africa is rising, and China is leading at this forefront. The export of China’s second hand clothes to Africa is in full flow.


Second-Hand Clothing Business Thrives in Africa

Wholesale second-hand clothes

Source: Zagumi

The market for wholesale second-hand clothes for export to Africa is a significant part of its economy. One cause for this expansion is the creation of jobs related to the distribution, handling, alterations, and refining of used clothing that result from the importation of used clothing. Additionally, second-hand clothing exported to Africa contributes to the consumer’s increased purchasing power.


Increasing fashion consciousness supports the growth of the clothing demand in African nations. Used clothes for export to Africa have significantly increased, reaching a value of $1.84 billion in 2021. China, the UK, the EU, the US, and South Korea are a few of the top exporters of used clothing to Africa, and they are also sending clothes to third-world countries.


The market for used ladies clothes and used men clothes in Africa has expanded, with China now becoming the leading exporter to Africa with a $624 million shipment in 2021. This sector has the potential to generate a lot of jobs and contribute to wealth creation in Africa. Still, the government must play a significant role in fostering a balanced operating environment supporting the sector’s long-term growth. Additionally, wearing used clothes has positive environmental effects too.


The Reason Behind the Rise Of second-hand clothing in Africa

African market

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The largest market for used clothing is in African nations for various reasons. This is due to the compelling need for affordable clothing among African consumers. African people are currently unable to purchase new clothes due to the continent’s relative poverty compared to other continents. The idea of recycling textiles is also one that many individuals have ingrained in their heads. Geographically speaking, Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, yet it is still developing economically. Africa as a whole is relatively underdeveloped and impoverished. The economic divide between Africa and rich nations is still getting more comprehensive.


The economics is not always the issue, though. People’s feelings about buying clothes products have significantly changed in recent years. They have transitioned from frenetic shopaholics to logical consumerism People are now embracing used clothing and used shoes wholesale in more significant numbers, which is why developed countries export clothes to Africa. Most people’s perceptions and purchasing habits have changed somewhat as a result of the growth of second-hand trading over time.


Popular Second-Hand Garment Styles in Africa

Used silk dresses

Source: Zagumi


The way Africans dress is changing due to second-hand apparel. It has evolved into a fusion of western and traditional design. For instance, men in Uganda are beginning to don “full-length trousers and long-sleeved shirts.” Women tend to like vintage clothing, mainly 19th-century Victorian attire, such as used silk dresses, when it comes to style. These dresses typically include long sleeves, a long skirt, and a bow knotted at the waist in addition to puffed shoulders.


Wearing a T-shirt with a traditional wrap is another common fashion trend. In addition to metropolitan areas, western dress has begun to be worn in rural areas. For instance, Zambia ladies have started wearing used dresses “wrapped with a single two-yard length of chitenge.” For kids and youngsters, t-shirts, jeans, trousers, and sports shoes are in huge trend.


One of the primary motivating factors is fashion, which has evolved into a new ideal for individuals to chase. Additionally, many non-clothing goods are now frequently coupled with clothing in the form of accessories worn on the body, like used belts, watches, and used bag wholesale.


It is increasing the demand for attractive clothing, giving opportunities to countries selling used clothes to Africa. To keep up with the latest fashion trends, they purchase second-hand goods from countries like the UK, USA, and China because of low prices and high quality.


Restrictions & Cautions to Import 2nd Hand Clothing in Africa

vintage clothing

Source: Pixabay


Second-hand clothing in Africa can be categorized into two categories: commodities of choice

and commodities of necessity. Although these two seem to contradict one another, they are both true. Africa has been importing used clothing for decades for various reasons, and the number of second-hand clothes buyers in Africa is enormous. Still, the main drivers are economic value, uniqueness, and hedonistic value.


Africans have long bought second-hand summer clothes and second-hand winter clothes because it is more affordable than new clothing because of their financial value. Hedonistic value is the joy of getting a great deal on something that ordinarily would have cost a fortune.


Additionally, there is a desire to buy things that are unique and difficult to locate. For many centuries, these forces have shaped the trade in used clothing. However, apart from these, there has been concern that the import of used clothes is affecting the local shop and textile industry, and these clothes end up in landfills. Regarding these, some countries have banned the import of second-hand clothing.


African Countries That Ban Second-hand Clothing Import

Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Rwanda have decided to outlaw second-hand clothing, most of which are imported from the United States and the United Kingdom. This ban is because they fear importing second-hand clothes might affect their local clothes. With this ban, they hope local factories can generate much-needed jobs.


It started in 2015 when the East African Community declared they would not allow used clothes and shoes to be sold in their markets from 2019.


However, the US has asserted that this planned restriction violates the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which aims to increase investment and trade on the continent, and that it goes too far. Let’s see which country has implemented the ban.

Colorful flea market

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Used clothing is one of 35 products that Nigerian customs have categorically forbidden from entering the country. Although the government legally prohibits second-hand clothing, the laws are not strictly adhered to. You can see used men t-shirt, used ladies silk skirt, etc., and several

second-hand clothes sellers in the market. The problem is that it still lacks the facilities and infrastructure necessary to enable local companies to compete with quick Western fashion, especially imports of used clothing.



To support its textile sector, Rwanda banned the import of used clothing in 2018. Rwanda’s duty-free export privileges were terminated due to this action, which the USA did not appreciate. According to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, Rwanda is not permitted to enter the American market.



Ethiopia has also outlawed the sale of used garments, although the trade in these goods has continued to flourish. Markets selling second-hand clothing and second-hand brand shoes

are common in Ethiopian towns and cities.


South Africa

South Africa only permits the import of used or pre-owned clothing for philanthropic purposes; it does not permit their sale for profit.


Countries that need a Fumigation Certificate

In most nations, the seller must show the buyer a fumigation certificate. As a result, the fumigator issues a fumigation certificate after receiving authorization from the licensing authorities. Most countries do not allow imported goods without a fumigation certificate. This becomes more important when it is about second-hand clothing.


But, first, what is fumigation? Well, it is a technique for eliminating pests, termites, and other toxic living things to stop the spread of exotic organisms. As you have seen above, some African countries have banned the import of used clothing. Still, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Cameroun only allow second-hand clothing and used mix shoes if there is a fumigation certificate. It also ensures the safety of its citizens.

How to Source for Trustworthy Exporters

second-hand jeans

Source: Zagumi


Choose Your Source

When looking for second-hand clothing export to Africa, the first step is choosing your source. You have to decide from which source you will be exporting the products. This matters a lot as the quality, material, and affordability of the used clothing matter. It’s a good idea to do some market research before deciding.


Traditional Exporting Countries

Most used clothing, such as summer and winter clothes, is produced in the West, the United States, and Europe. The United States is one of the oldest second-hand clothing export to Africa. The United States exported about 719 million kg of used dresses in 2018. All across the world, second-hand markets receive these exports.


The United States produces 1.4 million tons of worn clothing each year, and it exports 800,000 tons 20% of worn clothes sold locally at thrift stores go to countries in Africa, and the remaining 80% is sent abroad. Every year, 1.5 to 2 million tons of worn clothing are produced in Europe. Large clothing sorting facilities can be found in Western and Eastern Europe. Only high-quality used clothes make up 10-12% of what is sold in local second-hand stores; the remainder is exported.


China, A New Choice

China is the best option for exporting old clothing because it is simple to find high-quality, good production flow, reliable raw materials, and reasonably priced labor. China is one of the largest exporters of textiles, with a market value of $266.41 billion. As was said above, the utilization of quality raw materials, affordable production, cutting-edge technology, etc., are the driving forces behind this enormous turnover. More than half of the world’s output comes from the Chinese textile industry.


Advantages Of Going With China 

Chinese used clothing can satisfy the demands of the used clothing market. Due to the country’s high need for used clothing and its popularity among international nations, second-hand clothing production is flourishing here. As you may be aware, China has recently overtaken Western countries as the most common exporters of used apparel. It is so because Chinese clothing wholesalers have certain unique benefits and provide a powerful supply chain net. For instance, regarding physical appearance, Southeast Asian and African people are more comparable to the shape and stature of Chinese people. They have similar fashion preferences as well. For instance, simple, plain, solid-color, and used sun protective clothing, popular second-hand clothing in Africa, is also popular among Chinese people.


Chinese used clothing is becoming increasingly popular because of the country’s size and the high need for stylish and attractive clothing. With the rise of fast fashion in recent years, young people’s need for wardrobe changes has accelerated. Additionally, some discarded clothing was not even worn while the tag was still attached. So, not only are second-hand items from China of the highest quality, but they are also fashionable.


used shoes sorting line

Source: Zagumi


Choose Your Market

Buying and selling used clothing can be profitable if you find the appropriate market and supplier. It is crucial to understand needs with solid demand but limited supply. It would be best if you took full advantage of the chances in the second-hand clothing industry by selecting reputable second-hand clothing suppliers now that you are aware of the trends showing how the use of used clothing is rising.


Targeting Countries

Every business requires customers to survive and grow, and the used clothing industry is no different. Planning your market, or focusing on it, will help you run an import/export business. You’ll also need to identify your potential customers and the regions you serve. All of these factors will influence the success of your venture. One crucial thing is conducting a thorough market analysis and selecting the nations to which you should export your used clothing, used toys, used scarf, etc. The more study you undertake, the more ready you’ll be to turn your trading company into a legitimate profit center. It is better to comprehend the data when targeting specific nations.


Several Asian countries, including Pakistan, and African countries like Uganda, are among the top importers of used apparel. In Latin American nations like Argentina and Brazil, the fashion sector is expanding tremendously due to increased customer demand. One can imagine the potential for used clothing in these areas, given that in 2018, the industry was worth around $160 billion and that growth for the following two years is predicted to be up to 7.5%. Because of this, it is a far easier market to get into. The leading nations that accept second-hand clothing, mixed rags, used mix bags are Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, and Honduras.


Globally, the African continent receives over 70% of donated clothing. Used clothing and shoes are imported into East Africa for more than $150 million. According to estimates from USAID, in 2017, the sector employed 355,000 employees and brought in $230 million for the government. Additionally, it helped 1.4 million people in the East Africa Community block support their way of life.


Targeting Customer Groups

A good marketing strategy for your company needs to be developed and implemented after the target market has been identified. Like new apparel, there is a ton of wholesale clothing available. Consider who you want to sell to. Concentrating on a single target market is essential to obtain a specific assortment of sizes, clothing types, brands, and fashions.


As you can see from the examples above, you are aware of the preferred worn clothing in Africa, such as used men shirt long sleeve used jersey, and how there is a rise in second-hand clothing export to Africa. Therefore, you should purchase the clothing with that market in mind. Knowing your target market will be helpful when it comes time to market your compa

Measuring the Market Size

Calculating the size of the market and its potential worth for the business is one of the most important jobs for any company purchasing and selling used clothing. Without this information, it is impossible to develop a workable business plan or gain the respect of potential investors.


As you are aware, the second-hand market is expanding rapidly; according to the thredup resale report, it is predicted to quadruple in size, reaching $77 billion in only five years. In addition, 76% of the 33 million people purchasing used clothing for the first time in 2020 intend to increase their expenditure over the next five years.


A Capable Second Hand Clothing Supplier with Certain Strength

use shoes sorting and quality control

Source: Zagumi


The next important step is to find a capable worldwide second-hand clothes wholesaler. When looking for a garments retailer, you should keep a few things in mind first. Your business may succeed or fail, depending on how much time and effort you put into your study. The wisest course of action in whatever you do for your organization is to conduct research and weigh all of your possibilities.


Therefore, thorough research is needed when you want to go for second-hand clothing export to Africa. When you conduct a comprehensive search, you will have access to a wealth of data and be well-equipped to make a choice. The following are some things to consider when searching for a source of used clothing.


Professional in Custom Clearance

Customs clearance is essential before products can be imported or exported abroad. When a shipment is cleared, the shipper must present proof that the necessary customs fees have been paid before the shipment may be processed. Customs clearance makes it simple to move cargo inside and outside a country. When exporting goods, the export clearance process is a crucial step. The Customs Department must approve a person or a shipment before it can leave the country. After submitting the appropriate customs clearance paperwork and following the customs clearance procedure, authorization is granted.


In Africa, clearing goods entails accepting and comparing the declaration of the products with the supporting documentation such as the invoice, permits, etc., inspecting the items when needed, and determining and collecting duty and VAT. Customs can request additional information and samples. Additionally, customs may hold items for other government agencies. The relevant government agency will then ensure that all applicable laws, regulations, and norms are followed.


It is more probable that shipments containing textile products will be inspected:


  • The government classifies textiles, articles of clothing, and flat products as “trade-sensitive” commodities, necessitating specific processing and documentation.
  • To ensure successful Customs release, specific paperwork and thorough information regarding the shipment are necessary.
  • To prevent shipments of illegal textiles from coming into Africa, Customs has established strict but valuable procedures.
  • Customs has the ability to halt any shipment for physical inspection if it contains textiles or shipments of clothes.


So, a credible supplier must have all the documents ready to be accessible in clearing the custom.


Used mixed rags

Source: Zagumi

Flexible Percentage of Particular Clothing Types

Working with a supplier who offers a flexible percentage of specific apparel types is crucial. For instance, your product line includes used denim shirt. Imagine that there are businesses that sell high-end goods and others that sell worn clothing at a discount. Therefore, your product selection will be constrained if you work with a provider with a limited range of offerings. You should collaborate with vendors who can create many clothing varieties in line with your product line.


Supplying Ability & MOQ

The wholesaler’s lowest acceptable unit purchase is the minimum order quantity. To determine how much money you will need to invest in stock purchases, thoroughly understand the wholesaler’s MOQ criteria. So, it is vital to know the vendor’s minimum order quantity or MOQ.


This varies from one seller to the next. For orders with more significant quantities, most providers offer steep discounts. To obtain a sense of their product pricing, ask about the cost of various amounts. Your supplier must be able to provide used clothing by kg, pound, boxes, bales, and containers if you are shipping in bulk to regions like Africa.

Clear Quality Categories

Product quality is undoubtedly one of the most crucial factors in the garment industry. Seek out vendors who offer premium, strict quality control clothing from reputable producers. Most reputable wholesalers offer complete catalogs with excellent product photos that help you understand the items or brands they carry.


Critical: Is it Good for Africa?

Kids in western clothing

Source: Pexels


One of the primary causes of the widespread usage of second-hand clothing in Africa, which provides substantial markets for used apparel, is excessive overconsumption in wealthy nations. Adopting used clothing will decrease material use while also satisfying needs and demands. Customers in African countries are willing to pay fair prices for high-quality clothing. Therefore, even if they have to spend a little extra for each item, they are inclined to purchase used clothing instead of brand-new clothing.


Without a doubt, there is a growth in global clothing consumption. The apparel industry has expanded since fast fashion was introduced. The primary explanation is that fast fashion enables individuals to test-drive fashionable clothing at a reasonable cost. There are two justifications for exporting second-hand apparel to African nations. Africa may benefit from it in terms of job growth. Increasing fashion knowledge supports the development of the demand for clothing in African countries.


There are both advantages and disadvantages too, let’s take a look.


Advantages of second-hand clothes

Worn-out clothes enable consumers to obtain garments more easily. Due to their low disposable money, many Africans buy used apparel that is more cost-effective. Not only are the garments affordable, but they are also stylish. Consumers can purchase the newest trends, the designer used brassier, even used bedsheet and used blanket at reasonable prices.


Employment opportunities are improved. In Africa, there is a well-organized system for selling used clothing, and several people are employed at various points. It generates jobs in the transportation, cleaning, mending, and restyling industries. There is a whole system and other opportunities, such as clothing merchants and people renting out their facilities to vendors.


The sale of used clothing has also helped the fashion industry’s efforts to recycle and reuse used clothing into new, higher-quality products. For instance, according to Kenya’s figures, the second-hand clothing market has given about two million individuals job opportunities. Used clothing is referred to as Mitumba in Swahili; Mitumba dealers are included in the second-hand clothing and footwear business, which employs 10% of the total labor force.


For East African nations, used clothes are a significant source of cash. For instance, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya have increased import taxes. Kenya imported 183,500 tonnes of used clothing in 2021, and the tax revenue must have been in the neighborhood of $73.4 million. This implies that the second-hand clothing market annually brings in about six million dollars for Kenya’s government. In addition to payments to the federal and local governments, the merchants also make payments for business licenses.


Disadvantages Of Second-hand Clothes

The consequences on the environment have also been a topic of discussion. Many environmentalists have concluded that the fashion business has terrible environmental effects worldwide. The apparel industry contributes around ten percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. It is a significant cause of concern, and the fashion industry is also a cause of the water population.


Along with the environmental implications, there is also a matter of dignity. African shoppers are thought to be dumped on with used clothing. The second-hand clothing sector is criticized because, in their opinion, garments that are not valuable to the economies of wealthy countries are transferred to Africa. As you read above, one of the reasons Kenya and Tanzania increased their taxes on importing old clothing was to regain their dignity. The Rwandan government has also acknowledged this in a statement stating that the levy’s imposition is necessary because using second-hand clothing jeopardizes the pride of its citizens.


Concerns about the second-hand clothes market undermining home manufacture and possibly suffocating the domestic textile industry have always existed. The African textile industry struggles to adapt to shifting fashions since worn clothing is inexpensive and keeps up with current trends. Regarding pricing, imported clothing is less expensive than local clothing, making it challenging for the local economy to compete with imported goods.


second hand brand shoes used

Source: Zagumi




More used clothing is being transported to African nations due to the rising production of fast fashion garments. It includes everyday wearable basics like used cotton pajamas and luxury goods such as used fur clothing. Second-hand clothing gives customers more choices and offers them stylish, reasonably priced outfits appropriate for any group, including men, women, and children. Although there are arguments against using second-hand clothing, it is difficult to prove that a restriction on imports will positively impact the local economy or employment opportunities. Millions of Africans currently have work opportunities thanks to the second-hand market.


However, there is a misperception that only people at the bottom of the economic pyramid purchase the used clothing found in outdoor marketplaces across Africa. Second-hand clothing store owners also frequent such open markets, searching through the mountains of clothing across stalls. You can contact us if you are looking for a professional worldwide second-hand clothes wholesaler.


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