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The Second-hand business in West Africa - a graceful act of international courtesy or a taboo?

Posted by SwedAfrica Consulting AB on May 18, 2015 at 5:00 AM

In most West African towns and cities, it is almost impossible not to notice the daily purchasing and/or retailing of second-hand goods by the road sides, shops, markets, etc. These have become great businesses and are financially lucrative to both petite and international traders.

Second-hand clothing, cars and house equipment have become a source of livelihood for many. Swedes and other Europeans for instance, are quite generous when clearing out their closets to donate for charity. Clothes and other usable items are dropped at different charitable shops or NGOs fighting against poverty. To a certain extent, one could start thinking that charitable organisations are receiving far too many used items exceeding the needy in their various communities. Some have actually justified the sale of these used items on the grounds that principally collecting, sorting and transporting second-hand goods are pricey. Thus, these kind gestures later develop into lucrative businesses that deeply affect many in West Africa.


People are constantly replacing the Chinese products with the second-hand ones commonly known as “OKRIKA”. Typical examples of okrika and other used goods are footwear, home décor, kitchen utensils, caps, pullovers, dresses, t-shirts, shirts, jeans, machineries, just to name a few.

It is also interesting to mention here that some indigenes in these countries believe in purchasing second-hand items instead of the ready-made Chinese and locally produced textiles. The main reason being that most of these products are either shipped directly from Europe or USA. Thus, regarded as unique and quality guaranteed! We have met persons who strongly emphasis that having second-hand items in their homes imply they are also enjoying the same comfort as those in the Western societies!


Medically, it has been proven that some of these used clothing if not properly disinfected could result to health hazards or varying skin diseases and fungi infections such as “jetti-jetti”. Some critics postulate that used products’ importations have a negative impact on the locally produced goods in most West African countries. Of course, looking at the bigger picture, poor production conditions in these countries play a pertinent role too.


One question that has started impacting this practice is whether or not it is or will be banned by the importing West African countries. Nigeria, for instance, has banned the importation of used clothing as this action is expected to boost the local textile production and sale. Other countries in this region such as Ghana are currently looking into options of restricting imports of second-hand clothes for the same reason as Nigeria. While Cameroon, just like many others, is still embracing them - and other second-hand items inclusive.


SwedAfrica’s market research strongly suggests that the exportation of used goods is a positive trade practice for the importing countries, although a handful of countries look at it differently. In conclusion, West African countries should look into flexible import restrictions to promote specific domestic competencies.


Written by:

Euphrasia Gorgoglione

SwedAfrica - Better Business Sweden & Africa

Epost: [email protected]


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