TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Rather than donating clothing to American charities, let's create a charity that gives it directly to the worlds poorest.

When clothing is donated to charities, it is usually sold for pennies a pound, and after several middlemen, sold to the world's poorest at a large markup. Not particularly efficient or charitable. Why not eliminate the middlemen?
With a one-way distribution system already in place, a retailer like WalMart or Target could collect used clothing in stores, consolidate at distribution centers, and send a shipping container filled with fifty-eight thousand pounds of clothing to Africa for less than ten cents a pound, The containers could then be donated to existing charities.
Charities could distribute clothes directly to those in need, or they could create microbanks for women. A woman would receive a "loan" of ten pounds of clothing which she then sells and returns two dollars to the charity, while making a profit of between five and twenty dollars.
One container, a five to six thousand dollar investment, creates over five thousand loans worth up to one hundred thousand, while raising over ten thousand for the charity. The charity also receives am empty container to sell or convert into a school or clinic.
By introducing more clothing to Africa, the program would probably also drive the cost of clothing down for everyone, saving millions for those who can afford it least. In the end, everyone benefits.
Africans benefit from loans and cheaper clothing.
Charities receive new funding.
Retailers receive positive publicity with little cost and oversight.
Consumers have an easier time donating clothing while gaining
closet space.

A much more efficient system than what exists now.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jan 19 2012: .
    Just make sure that the you're not inavertantly destroying the clothing market in the country you're sending them to.
    Severel regions in Africa had the beginning stages of flourishing clothing markets, but the introduction to free clothes near enough eliminated it.
    You'd be surprised how many charities actually do more harm than good due to a lack foresight.
    • Jan 21 2012: Thank you and very good point. In my limited travel in third-world countries, the used clothing market is already thriving in much of the world. This changes how the clothing reaches the existing markets, but doesn't and shouldn't create new markets.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.