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ABSTRACT

African clothing industries have declined since the implementation of economic liberalization policies in the early 1980s whilst used-clothing imports to Africa have increased. The general effects of economic liberalization on African clothing industries are well documented, although little research has been conducted on the particular impact of increased imports of second-hand clothes on the local manufacturing sectors. Whether these two processes are causally related is difficult to determine due to limitations in official data sets. In this article, the used-clothing trade is explored in detail and a broad range of cultural and local economic processes are investigated. Trends such as declining local purchasing power and the opening of African markets to cheap new clothing imports, as well as imports of used-clothing, are examined, along with the converse boost to African clothing export production resulting from preferential trade agreements in the 2000s. With respect to the differential legal and illegal imports of second-hand clothing to selected African countries, it is demonstrated that official trade data sets often fail to capture the nuances of contemporary social and economic processes.