On December 15th, 2020 a fire razed part of Kantamanto Market leaving over 200 secondhand retailers, tailors, dyers, cleaners and up-cyclers devastated during the busiest shopping week of the year -- after an already difficult year with the pandemic raising costs and interrupting business. The people impacted by the fire are already working to rebuild the market. Please support them in this effort!
What is Kantamanto Market?
Kantamanto Market is the largest secondhand market in West Africa and possibly the largest in the world. Every week roughly 15 million garments exported by the Global North (the majority being used clothing donations plus some deadstock & store returns) flow through Kantamanto. Here there are roughly 30,000 people who labor six to seven days a week doing all they can to recirculate the Global North’s discards.
Contrary to popular belief, the global secondhand trade is not charity. The secondhand clothing trade is a business, and it is a supply chain.
Kantamanto's retailers pay a hefty price for this clothing. Bales weighing 120lbs are purchased by retailers for anywhere from $75 to $500 a piece. Many retailers go into debt taking out loans with interest rates as high as 35% just to buy bales. Many refer to their job as a “gambling job”.
The Christmas 2020 fire was not the biggest fire to hit Kantamanto in the last decade, but it is perhaps the most impactful.
Before 2020 less than 20% of Kantamanto’s retailers earned a profit on the average bale but since the Covid pandemic, the situation has worsened. Retailers spent their savings during lockdown, less people were shopping throughout the year and the cost of bales went up (along with many daily expenses increasing in price). Throughout 2020 many retailers were driven to take out loans just to put food on the table. They were counting on Christmas as the time when they would finally break even or make a profit.
The fire plunged many of these retailers further into debt.
The fire that razed a portion of the market took with it roughly 200 stalls piled high with bales, sewing machines, knitting machines and thousands of units of finished garments, mostly school uniforms.
Thankfully no one was killed in the fire although multiple retailers had heart attacks from the shock and several people have been injured during the cleanup. Some were burned as they sorted through the smoldering piles hoping to recover sellable clothing.
You can see news footage of the fire here .
What is the goal of this fundraiser?
We hope to raise a minimum of $40,000 which will be distributed in $200 units to 200 retailers, tailors, cleaners and dyers who were impacted by the fire. With some retailers losing over $5,000 in goods, this is nowhere near the level of support that is necessary, but it is a goal we feel we can meet. Retailers have said that they would use the $200 for a range of purposes including paying off debt, buying a new bale of clothing, paying their children’s school fees and rebuilding their shop.
With covid cases are on the rise in Accra, we hope to raise this money as soon as possible!
Funds will be distributed by The OR Foundation team members. This will be done at the burn site by partnering with aisle leaders or it will be done exclusively through mobile money transfers.
Who is The OR Foundation?
The OR Foundation is a USA and Ghana based non-profit working at the intersection of environmental justice, education and fashion development. We have been working between the USA and Ghana since 2009 and have been focused on researching and advocating for the Kantamanto community since 2016. You can learn more about this via our project website deadwhitemansclothes.org and our instagram account @theorispresent
We currently have four team members on the ground in Accra and two in the USA who are all engaged in this effort. We are a small team but will make every effort to be transparent about fundraising.
Are there other ways to help?
Yes! You can:
1. Share information about this fundraiser with your community!
2. Ask fashion brands, resale platforms and secondhand collectors/exporters in Global North to help us raise funds! Kantamanto is part of the fashion industry.