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The BBC's Ishbel Matheson
"Many people are struggling to get by in Zambia"
 real 56k

Monday, 25 December, 2000, 15:54 GMT
Charity killing Zambia's textile industry
Second hand clothes sales
Most Zambians can now afford top quality clothes at low prices
By Ishbel Matheson in Lusaka

The liberalisation of Zambia's economy has led to an unprecedented influx of second-hand garments from the West.

Mountains of used clothes are imported each year, and sold in markets across the country at rock bottom prices.


Everyone has put their machines up for sale and no one is learning how to sew

Dress designer
Despite having shrinking incomes and a collapsing currency, Zambians can still kit themselves out in the latest fashions - sometimes even designer clothes.

But there is growing concern that the garments - many of them donated from charity shops - are killing the local domestic industry and driving hundreds out of employment.

Charity donations

At the Soweto market in Lusaka, secretary Kumbukani Msiska is hunting for bargains.

charity tag
Many of the garments are meant for charity
She always buys second-hand clothes, locally known as "salaula".

The dress she is wearing today costs less than a dollar.

The garments from charity shops in the West make money for good causes, by selling off bales of cast-off clothes onto the international market.

Some still have their labels attached.

"Salaula comes from the US, Canada, England, Asia and Australia. It's donated as for charity, but here it is being sold as salaula", says Kumbukani Msiska, the secretary of Soweto market.

Domestic industry

This informal business is carried out by small traders. It's now worth millions of dollars a year in Zambia.

used clothes
Locally made clothes now face stiff competition
At this market, one can buy literally anything, from little cocktail dresses to second-hand knickers.

And there is plenty to choose from if you have time to rummage.

But not everyone thinks the influx of Western style clothing is good for business.

Before trade liberalisation, many Zambians had their clothes hand-made.

"Salaula" has not only killed off the domestic textile industry, but the number of skilled workers is also dwindling.

Dress designer Joy Carol Mwambazi says: "Right now if I want to buy a machine, I would pay next to nothing for it, because everyone has put their machines up for sale and no one is learning how to sew. It is more profitable to go and buy a bale of salaula and trade in it."

Calvin Klein

Zambian children
Most Zambians experience economic hardships
The economics, though, are irresistible. Adijai Msiska is an unemployed waitress.

But she loves to dress up. She has even found designer-ware on sale in the markets.

"At salaula, you find designers' clothes like Calvin Klein. You can get that in boutiques for $50 - $100. That's why I like getting clothes at salaula".

Many people are struggling to get by in Zambia.

But the cast-offs of wealthy, Western women not only clothe the poor, they can also add a touch of glamour to African women's lives.

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07 Nov 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
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