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General News Fri, 12 Sep 2008

Trade In "Oburoni waawu" Underwears Increases

The trade in second-hand clothing (Oburoni waawu), including underwear, has recorded a massive boost, one month after the Ministry of Trade had warned against it and threatened stiffer restrictions.

Outraged by its growth and the risk in especially wearing someone else’s underwear, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, President’s Special Initiative (PSI) and Private Sector Development (PSD) last month warned Ghanaians to desist from trading in such items because of the health implications.

The warning was issued by the sector minister, Papa Owusu-Ansah, when he met with importers in Accra.

He noted that the importation of such items, particularly used underwear, was likely to carry diseases to the user.

At the first Importers Forum organised by the ministry in Accra, he said the government would take the option of banning such products if importers did not refrain from their importation.

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But one month on, the Daily Graphic witnessed a flourishing trade in the second-hand clothing in Accra, with prospective buyers from all walks of life travelling to Kantamanto Market, an area around the Railway Station, to patronise the latest fashion in mostly imported second-hand clothes and to bargain for the best of prices.

On a visit to that part of Accra alone, Daily Graphic found hundreds of sellers and buyers in all categories of clothes that include used bed sheets, T-shirts, trousers, shirts, dresses, towels, and gents and ladies panties, as well as brassieres.

Before daybreak, especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Kantamanto Market looks like a carnival bursting with buyers and sellers of used clothes setting their market up for the day.

Some haul their goods in wheelbarrows and on home-made carts, but a lot do so on their backs, dumping them on the hard-packed soil and into their shops in the market that stretch from behind the COCOBOD (still referred to as CMB) building to the Ghana Commercial Bank within the Liberty House, from dawn till late in the evening.

At Kantamanto, used clothes particularly ladies panties and brassieres are patronised by people of all classes; bankers, traders, students, porters and others who get there as early as 4:00 a.m. to get the best of items.

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Interviews granted to the Daily Graphic indicated that many people patronised the second-hand items because of their low price and the quality of some of the item as compared to locally made items.

That trade in hand-me-downs, also offers millions of Ghanaians a means to earn a living.

The Daily Graphic team found out that one could purchase an underwear for as low as 20p for underpants and 50p for T-shirts, denim blue jeans and panties that had been discarded by Westerners.

Some buyers the Daily Graphic spoke to at the market were aware of the health implications of wearing used underwear but they said they usually washed them thoroughly before use.

An importer of used clothes, Mr Obed Yeboah, told the Daily Graphic that he imported about five containers of used clothes a week and sold them to retailers at between GH¢150 and GH¢450 per bale, depending on the type of clothes they contained.

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Ladies panties and brassieres are priced at between GH¢150 and GH¢450 per bale.

Other items such as used refrigerators and air conditioners, expired medicines, cars, computers and old mattresses are routinely shipped and resold in Ghana with serious implications for the environment.

At the meeting with the importers, Papa Owusu-Ankomah said under the PSI, inspection agencies were employed to carry out checks on goods at their points of exit on behalf of the importing country prior to exportation.

He said in spite of all the checks put in place, the economy still faced the proliferation of sub-standard goods posing an enormous challenge to the Ghana Standards Board.

Papa Owusu-Ankomah said High Risk Goods that had serious health and safety implications on the public such as food products, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, LPG cylinders and accessories and petroleum products continued to flood the Ghanaian market.

He said unless importers and relevant players involved in the importation and clearance of goods and other essential wares at the ports and borders showed sincere commitment to co-operate with the Ghana Standards Board and the Customs Excise and Preventive Service, the battle against the proliferation of inferior goods would be a mirage.

The Executive Director of the Ghana Standards Board, Mr Adu Darkwa, said although Import and Export regulations banned the importation of used goods, particularly handkerchiefs, mattresses, sanitary wares and underpants, these goods were smuggled and sold openly on the market.

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Source: Graphic (Jasmine Afari-Mintah & Esther Tetteh)