Zambia is among the few countries in the world that permits unlimited imports of second-hand clothing (salaula) which has no value in the country of supply and is brought to Zambia usually at little or no cost.
The standard economic theory and empirical data indicates that second-hand clothing imports have positive effects in a country like Zambia. The second-hand clothing market reduces the amount of income that a family has to spend on clothing and helps to keep tailors for example in business as they mostly engage in repairs and alterations and forces tailors to proceed into making more specialized styled garments. However there is a downside to this massive importation of the second hand clothes in that it has led to a near total collapse of the Zambian indigenous textile industry because consumers are not willing to pay for the expensive pieces of clothing, also in the face of these second hand clothes tailors and other enterprises involved in the production of clothes may become irrelevant as customers will opt to buy the cheapest clothing available.
Further, those who might otherwise work in clothing industries might lose their jobs .How can the local clothing industry seek out competitive advantage when there are awfully cheap second-hand clothes available? In this regard, there is need for the Zambian clothing industry to be revamped as this would promote Non-traditional exports, vast infrastructure already exists, as an example the mulungushi textiles building has become a white elephant and yet nothing is being done to stop the massive dilapidation.
The Zambian government needs to become more proactive in supporting and encouraging local industries to manufacture clothing as opposed to the resale of imported clothes which are usually sold at expensive prices. SMEs can use the already existing building with improved processes by the help of the government and other stake holders and a deliberate policy needs to be put in place to expose the SMEs to the outside clothing industries in order for them to learn how to manufacture quality clothes that can compete globally and once this is done safeguard measures against the importation of second-hand clothes from countries that offer unfair advantages to Zambia can be put in place. The Government can take a keen interest as they would:
- Salvage the dilapidated buildings.
- Create employment across the population
- Revamp and encourage cotton growing both for this industry and for exports.