Ethical fashion in Africa

When wearing clothes, we should think about where they come from. The sad fact is that a lot of clothes that are sold cheaply are often affordable because the workers making the clothes are underpaid. Both men and women work in clothes factories, but the majority of them are women who are mistreated. It is possible to wear clothes that are both ethical and affordable.

WHY IS ETHICAL FASHION IMPORTANT FOR AFRICA?

Ethical Fashion means that everyone involved in the fashion industry, from the factory worker to the retail assistants, are treated fairly. This means that they get paid proper wages, work in suitable working conditions and the manufacturing is environmentally friendly.

JOBS

The main role of African countries in the fashion industry is to export clothes. Western fashion brands have normally gotten their clothes from China and Bangladesh, but a lot of them have decided to focus on clothes manufacturers in Africa. The United Nations predict that by 2035, the working age population in sub-saharan Africa will have reached 900 million people. This increase in labour attracts western companies to invest more in African countries by setting up factories. This will create more business for some African countries, but this should be done with consideration for the workers.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS

The sad case in countries, such as Bangladesh, is that the workers do not work in good environments, the work hours are long and they are underpaid. This is why western investment in Africa should only be encouraged if it means that the workers are treated fairly. If western businesses want to thrive in Africa, then they have to treat their workers well, if they want them to stay. Another attraction for these Western investors is low wages. Ethiopia, for example, has one of the world’s lowest wages for garment workers (around $60 a month).

WOMEN AT WORK

This is an issue that affects both male and female workers but mainly women. Women make up 80% of the world’s garment industry. Issues, which some of these women face, include verbal and physical harassment. If women who work in this industry get pregnant, they could also get fired because they will not be able to work as long as before. This means that they cannot provide for their families and the cycle of poverty continues. This can be avoided in Africa. The setting up of clothes factories in Africa is a recent development. This means African people can voice their opinions so to demand the fair treatment of workers. Western investment does not have to mean the exploitation of African workers and resources.

ENVIRONMENT

Ethical fashion also includes the environment. An increase in factories will increase jobs but will also increase pollution levels in the area. Let us say that a factory is set up near a small community. This will mean that the fumes coming from the factory will have an effect on the community and the general environment. Industrial activity should not be harmful. This means that when accepting the building of factories, African countries should make sure that these companies will preserve the resources and the environment.

The future of African Clothes manufacturing is bright. African countries have both the raw materials and the manpower to encourage a healthy industrial growth. This can be done by supporting better workers’ right in terms of treatment and work environment. If workers are happy with their work environment, then they are more efficient and happy. This means that in order to encourage investment in African countries, workers’ rights have to be protected and the environment as well.

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