he Nigerian economy has been impacted by past economic downturns in practically every sector. Secondhand clothes sales and usage is one of the businesses that individuals are getting involved in, and it is gaining traction in Nigeria. One of the key factors driving many people to sell and buy used goods around the world is the significant increase in population unemployment.
Nigeria is plagued by a slew of issues, including poverty, unemployment, mismanagement of resources, and low wages, all of which force people to sell and wear used items. Importing worn clothing typically causes a downward change in the demand curve in the new garment business. Many factors contribute to the sale and use of secondhand clothing, according to studies conducted by Slotterback in 2007.
Individual unemployment is number one; second is poverty in all forms, both relative and absolute; and last but not the least reason is a lack of better job opportunities and a low wage income.
Over the past few decades, the Nigerian secondhand market has expanded to include towns such as Ibadan, Enugu, Kano, Onitsha, and Port Harcourt, among others. A growing target market, dominated by low-income earners and members of the diminishing middle class who can no longer afford to buy brand new clothings, welcome them with open arms.
However, Lagos, Africa’s largest city with a population of over 20 million ( its outskirts included), is clearly the country’s largest hub for secondhand items, with everything from vehicles to refrigerators smuggled in to suit the needs of the country’s increasing low-income middle class. This is especially true when it comes to secondhand garments in Aswani, Katangowa, Yaba, and Oshodi where the affordable things are known as “Akube,” “Gwanjo,” and “Okrika.” Market days are held once a week (Aswani Market), and thrice a week (Katangowa Market) when new items are supplied and the stalls are given a new look. In Yaba and Oshodi, every day is a market day with the exception of Sundays.
Despite a government restriction on the sale of used clothing in Africa’s most populous country, it is believed that 80% of Nigerians wear illegally used clothing.
The restriction, reportedly enacted to safeguard local textile producers, is one of several enacted by African governments in response to a deluge of donated clothing from the developed world.
Despite the restriction, the Katangowa market in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, is the continent’s largest used clothing market. It has been dubbed the “Wall Street of used garments” by Nigeria’s Moment newspaper.
The secondhand clothes business has been chastised for its role in the demise of Nigeria’s retail and garment manufacturing industries. Despite government efforts to curb it, the industry continues to thrive, and textile manufacturers in the country face limited capacity for apparel manufacturing, low patronage, and limited purchasing power.
Nigeria, along with South Africa and Egypt, was the third largest textile sector in Sub-Saharan Africa in 1980, accounting for 63 percent of the West African sub-textile region’s capacity, according to a research by Africa-Practice. However, the sector has been badly strangled by economic difficulties, poor policy, and government indifference.
Nigerian textile factories have decreased in number from 125 in the early 1990s to less than 40 in 2010. Lagos continues to have the most textile factories (16), but they are primarily small, unintegrated single-process operations. The integrated factories of Kaduna, which are located in northern Nigeria and are home to some of the country’s oldest integrated textile mills, are in better form than they were previously, although they are no longer as influential in the market sector.
Wholesalers in the destination country unload bails of clothing, which are typically acquired by the ton from western relief organizations, sort the inventory, and then resell it to other intermediaries or market sellers at a substantial profit. They are also in charge of “massaging” illegal clothing, past customs.
Although secondhand clothing can be imported directly into Nigeria from Western countries, many traders prefer to import through bordering countries such as Benin Republic’s Cotonou and Togo’s Lome. Most importers claimed they prefer to bring their goods into the country through land borders since it is less expensive than paying customs duty at the seaport, and the delay is small compared to cargo/containers arriving at Apapa, the country’s busiest seaport.
Due to the fact that secondhand products are officially “contraband,” many traders are forced to bribe border officials in order to ship commodities into the country. It is, nevertheless, a successful business that benefits governments on both sides of the border, resulting in a symbiotic relationship.
In Nigeria, dealers buy old garments in bales ranging from $200 to $400 and arrange them into grades. Bale is divided into two grades: Grade AA and Grade AB. Grade AA refers to clothing that is almost new and therefore more expensive, whereas Grade AB refers to clothing that is a mix of high and low quality.
Economic concerns over the impact of used clothing on replacing native production are likely moot, because insufficient enforcement allows used clothing to reach West African markets in large quantities, regardless of the legislation.
Every year, a fifth of all garments sold worldwide — around one billion pieces of clothing — are discarded. That is equivalent to the weight of the world’s tallest building, 500,000 tons of clothing.
Nigerians are not the only ones who like to shop for used clothes. According to the UN Comtrade database, used clothes shipments from wealthy OECD nations to Ivory Coast totaled 13,066 tons, while Ghana imported 79,963 tons.
Shoppers in Katangowa, on the other hand, appear to be more concerned with style than with sustainability.
Regardless of government regulation, it appears doubtful that the used clothing trade in Nigeria and other nations would stop anytime soon as long as consumers have these goals and sellers want to make a profit.
Though the secondhand market is praised as a sub-sector that has provided opportunities for millions of Nigerians, the textile industries have the potential to double this figure and boost the country’s GDP, but this would necessitate major policy changes and government support, which is not a priority right now.