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Recycling clothing for profit in Senegal

Senegal is just part of a global industry in recycled clothes, whose biggest exporter is the United States

News Central



Workers of a recycling centre of second-hand textile of the French social enterprise "Le Relais" sort through bales of clothes in Diamniadio, Senegal. - (Photo by Mariama DARAME / AFP)

The market around Colobane Square in central Dakar has been a hive of activity since dawn as hundreds of buyers and sellers haggle over the latest imports from Europe.

Piles of designer stone-washed jeans and jackets and shirts vie with skirts and T-shirts – all of them pre-worn.

Second-hand clothing, “feugue-diaye” in the Wolof language, is a vibrant business in Senegal.

Each year, thousands of tonnes of garments find a new home in West Africa, helping people to look good and businesses to make money.

“If you want cheap brand-name clothes, this is the place to come to,” says Mamadou Sarr, a 23-year-old wholesaler, pointing to the bales of jeans on his stall.

“All these have come from England.”

A picture taken on June 25, 2019 shows bales of second-hand clothes ready to be sent to wholesalers, at the textile recycling centre of the French social enterprise “Le Relais” in Diamniadio, Senegal. (Photo by Mariama DARAME / AFP)

Binta, a 29-year-old habituee, says the bargains can be extraordinary.

“You can buy dresses, jeans, T-shirts for a low price, designer gear,” she says.

She contends that second-hand clothes sent from Europe are “harder-wearing” than new garments exported to Senegal from China.

Retailers rummaging through the garments always have an eye out for a particular jewel: a football (soccer) jersey, which is much prized by young Senegalese.

Sarr and his older brother buy the clothing consignments for between 35,000 and 70,000 CFA francs, which they then sell off in 45-kilogramme batches to retailers.

After paying intermediaries, customs duties and transport costs, the brothers can clear as much as 450,000 CFA francs in a good month – roughly eight times the minimum salary in Senegal.

Golden threads

Senegal is just part of a global industry in recycled clothes, whose biggest exporter is the United States, with 756,000 tonnes.

Many wholesalers in Senegal get their clothes from Le Relais, a French cooperative that collects used clothing in France, the former colonial power.

Le Relais sends Dakar around 500 tonnes of pre-sorted clothing per year and has a warehouse in Diamniadio, about 30 kilometres from Dakar, where its 51 employees sort another 200-250 tonnes.

The garments are sifted according to category – dresses, shirts, etc. – then sorted again, graded according to their quality and state of wear.

Workers of a recycling centre of second-hand textile of the French social enterprise “Le Relais” sort through bales of clothes in Diamniadio, Senegal. (Photo by Mariama DARAME / AFP)

“There are some goods which aren’t worth anything, but the main thing which we have been trying to do is create jobs,” says Virginie Vyvermans, Le Relais’ deputy chief in Senegal.

Profits from sale of the clothes go into local development projects and into paying the salaries of the employees, most of whom are women. All are on permanent contracts – not temporary or daily work.

One of them, Marie-Helene Marome, spoke highly of her job: “I’ve been able to enrol my children in a private school and buy some land for a home,” she says.

One of Le Relais’ customers, Aliou Diallo, 34, explained how he decided to quit his job as a grocer after the warehouse opened up.

“I saw a chance,” says Diallo. He has seven shops and warehouses around Senegal that employ 30 people.

According to Sarr, retailers often double the markup on clothing they buy from wholesalers.

“A trader who buys a T-shirt from me for 300 CFA francs can sell it in his shop up the road for 500, 700, 800,” he says.


If wholesalers, retailers and customers are delighted with the second-hand business, specialists say there is also a disadvantage.

As developing countries elsewhere have come to experience, the dumping of cheap or free clothing can cripple the local textile industry.

Mamadou Sarr (L), 23, a wholesaler of second hand clothes prepares his stall at the Colobane Market, the biggest market of second-hand clothes in the senegalese capital Dakar. (Photo by Mariama DARAME / AFP)

In the 1980s, “customs duties (in Senegal) were slashed and import quotas were abolished, and this opened the door to massive imports of second-hand clothes,” says Ahmadou Aly Mbaye, a professor of economics at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar.

Textile companies “disappeared from Senegal and the neighbouring region,” he notes.

Any attempt to revive the country’s garment industry would encounter “the huge obstacle” posed by cheap imports, he says.

And if the workers at Le Relais enjoy job security and other conditions, such rights are rare in the clothing recycling business, adds Mbaye.

Many people have job insecurity, suffer more accidents and are lower paid than counterparts in other areas of the economy, he says.



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Central Africa News

Social media restriction in Chad lifted after one year

Access to social media was cut in March 2018, as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution



Chad President Idriss Deby said Saturday he was lifting social media restrictions which were imposed more than a year ago for “security reasons.”

“For some months, security requirements led the government to toughen access conditions and control measures for electronic communications,” Deby said in a closing address to a digital forum in the capital N’Djamena. 

“These measures were imposed in a context of terrorist threats (but)” the current situation ” leads me … to instruct the firms concerned to lift immediately the restriction on electronic communications,” said Deby.

On Saturday afternoon, it was possible to access social media applications including Whatsapp and Twitter, an AFP journalist reported.

Access to social media was cut in March last year as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution shoring up his power after almost three decades in office.

Access remained possible using VPN networks but the use of those is costly in one of the world’s poorest nations.

Barely five per cent of the population enjoys internet access.

Chad is a Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in Africa and notably faces threats from Boko Haram, which has made several deadly incursions into its territory in recent months.

The largely desert north, bordering Sudan, Libya and Niger, is highly volatile while several rebel groups have set up base just over the border with Libya.

In late January, Chad rebels seeking to destabilise Deby entered the northeast of the country from Libya but were pushed back after French air strikes.

In the east, farmers and nomadic groups have also clashed while the south on the border with the Central African Republic is still tense after the 2013 overthrow of former CAR president sparked unrest which spilt over the border.

Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year having been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who grabbed power in 1990, looks to maintain his grip on the country.



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Lifestyle News & Gists

18 killed in village raids in Nigeria’s Katsina state

The victims were buried the same day after funeral prayers attended by the emir, his entourage said.

News Central



A detachment of anti-riots policemen keeps watch sitting on an armoured tank at the main gate to Katsina State secretariat

Armed bandits killed at least 18 people in raids in northern Nigeria, where attacks by kidnappers and cattle rustlers have been on the rise, residents said Friday.

Gunmen on motorbikes stormed into four villages in Kankara and Danmusa districts in Katsina state on Wednesday, shooting residents as they fled.

“We collected 18 dead bodies from the four villages after the attacks,” said Sada Iliya, a community leader from Unguwar Rabo village where nine people were killed.

“The bandits rode through the villages, opening fire on people,” he said.

Residents on Thursday transported the bodies to the state capital 130 kilometres (80 miles) away and presented them to the traditional emir in protest at the attacks.

“We took the 18 corpses to Katsina for the emir (so that he could) see what we are going through at the hands of bandits,” said Isyaku Jari from Maidabino village.

The victims were buried the same day after funeral prayers attended by the emir, his entourage said.

Katsina state has suffered months of attacks by cattle thieves and kidnappers, prompting villagers to form vigilante groups to protect themselves.

The gangs hole up in forests, using them as bases from which to launch assaults.

In May, 34 people were killed when bandits attacked three villages in Batsari and Danmusa districts, according to police and residents.

The latest violence comes amid efforts to halt the attacks in neighbouring Zamfara state, which has seen the worst of the bloodshed. 

Bandits, herders and local vigilantes attended a peace meeting on Tuesday brokered by the regional government and police.

Farmers and herding communities in the area have long been terrorised by the gangs but the vigilante groups they have formed have been accused of extra-judicial killings. 

The gangs have demanded that their suspected members stop being targeted for reprisal attacks, while mediators are pushing for both sides to disarm. 



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East Africa News & Stories

Arab spring deja-vu for Egyptians exiled in Sudan

Post-Bashir Khartoum in 2019 has much in common with Cairo after January 2011, when president Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

News Central



Arab spring deja-vu for Egyptians exiled in Sudan
An Egyptian student who fled political repression in Egypt and moved to Sudan is pictured in Khartoum on June 27, 2019. - Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who have fled repression in Egypt to seek refuge in Sudan are now feeling a deja-vu as their host country is now engulfed in a popular uprising similar to the revolt in their home country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Egyptians exiled in Sudan, who fled after their elected Islamist president was deposed by the military, say the current standoff in Khartoum reminds them of their own broken dreams.

“It’s the same young people that are trying to carry out the same revolutionary action,” said Abdelaziz, an Egyptian student who has been in Sudan since 2016.

“They have read the same books, lived the same experiences”, he added.

For him and other Egyptians once close to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, the popular uprising in Sudan reminds them of events in their own country, even if there are some clear differences.

Sudan’s uprising has been led by liberal movements and unions of professionals, which spurred the military to overthrow Omar-al Bashir’s Islamist regime.

In Egypt itself, the Brotherhood polarised the youth movements that spearheaded the 2011 revolt.

But Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was likewise ousted by the army after mass protests against the Islamist’s divisive year in power.

Like Abdelaziz, many supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood ended up in Sudan after fleeing a deadly crackdown launched in 2013 in Egypt.

He fled to escape a 15-year prison sentence for “protesting” and “acts of vandalism”.

In Khartoum, sitting in the courtyard of his house and dressed in a traditional white Sudanese robe, he spoke to AFP using a pseudonym to protect the fragile stability of his new life.

His host country has been swept up by the same revolutionary fervour that Egypt once experienced.

Post-Bashir Khartoum in 2019 has much in common with Cairo after January 2011, when president Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a popular uprising.

On the walls of the city, the slogans are the same: “Down with the military government”.

The graffiti depicting Bashir is accompanied by the clarion call of the Arab Spring that once reverberated across Egypt, Tunisia and Syria: “get out”.

“A very enthusiastic person asked my opinion of the situation in Sudan… I laughed and said ‘we did the same thing as you and here we are sitting by your side'”, said Abdelaziz, who is in his twenties.

“Let’s not be too optimistic, let’s stay realistic”, he added.


If he is cautious, it is because in his country, the democratic moment ended with the removal of Morsi, and paved the way for the repression of not only Islamists but also secularists.

Detained for almost six years and kept in isolation, the ex-president died after collapsing during a court appearance on June 17. 

His Muslim Brotherhood was branded a “terrorist organisation”, and thousands of his supporters were sentenced to years in prison or handed down the death penalty.

In August 2013, security forces dispersed a pro-Morsi sit-in at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square, killing more than 700 people in one day.

“Sudan appeared to be something of a safe haven at a particular time for Islamist opponents of the Egyptian regime”, said H.A. Hellyer, senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Bashir consistently denied that his country granted asylum to members of the Brotherhood.

In 2017, Sudan and Egypt signed an agreement not to host any opposition groups hostile to their respective governments.

The Egyptian authorities even gave Khartoum a list of names of Brotherhood members allegedly residing in Sudan, requesting their extradition, according to several sources.

In fact, Bashir’s regime – which came to power with the support of Islamists – had turned a blind eye to the arrival of the dissidents.

Today, Sudan’s ruling transitional military council has initiated a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, all fiercely hostile to Islamists.

“The new Sudanese regime is currently reformulating its geopolitical position”, Hellyer said. 

‘The same naivety’

Almost every day for more than a month, Abdelaziz has said goodbye to a departing Egyptian friend.

Fellow exile Ahmed, an Egyptian student who came to Sudan since 2015, saw his circle shrink —  all his friends went to Turkey, a stalwart Islamist supporter. 

“They saw a power change” in Sudan, said the young man who also used a pseudonym.

“The fear of the unknown means they want to find a safer place”.

Detained for a few months in Egypt, he also avoided 15 years in prison for participating in a pro-Morsi demonstration after 2013. 

With time and reflection, he said he has distanced himself from the ideology of the Brotherhood, admitting that it had committed “catastrophic errors” in its management of Egypt’s crisis.

To escape the memories and emotions of a painful past, he avoids Sudanese political life. 

But it is not easy when Khartoum is engulfed in protest.

“I feel like these people in the streets are a lot like us,” he said.

“It’s the same dreams, the same ambitions, the same fears, the same desire for change, the same naivety too”.



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