Why some African countries don’t want charity clothes

second-hand clothes
Second-hand clothes

In recent years, the textile industry in African countries has taken a hit because of second-hand clothes from the Western world. Remembering the great and rich African Fabrics and Textiles industry of years and centuries prior, many have thus decided to stop accepting these to keep building or rather re-building their own textile industry. Over 30 years ago, President Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso instituted the Faso Dan Fani in the workplace to encourage the local textile workers. Today, our wish is that other African countries will follow suit, and that throughout the world there will now be clothes worn with the label ‘Made in Senegal,’ or ‘Made in Mali,’ or ‘Made in Tanzania,’ or simply ‘Made in … [the African country’s name]’. Below is the excerpt of the article from the BBC. For the full article, go to The BBC.


Faso dan fani2
Faso Dan Fani

Claim: Donating second-hand clothes has had a negative effect on textile industries in African countries.

The Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, has said: “We are put in a situation where we have to choose – you choose to be a recipient of used clothes… or choose to grow our textile industries.”

Rwanda is planning to ban the import of second-hand clothes by 2019 and has already put up tariffs.

Verdict: Imports of cheap second-hand clothes from the West have had an impact on local clothes manufacturers – but so have changes in world trade policies and the rise of Asian garment producers.

… African countries once had large textile industries – and some critics blame the flood of cheap second-hand clothes from abroad for the continent’s shrunken textile sector.

[…]  In 2015, member states of the East African Community (EAC), which comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, announced they would ban second-hand imports from 2019 to protect their own clothing manufacturers. 

Kente cloth
Kente cloth

East African countries, which account for 13% of the global market in second-hand textiles (worth a total of $274m (£208m) in 2015, began imposing tariffs. But then, under pressure from the United States, countries in the EAC reduced tariffs and withdrew the proposed ban. Rwanda, however, refused to back down.

And in March 2018, the US temporarily suspended Rwanda from an arrangement allowing sub-Saharan countries preferential access to the US market.

But Rwanda stood firm and maintained its import tariffs, saying it wanted to build up its own “Made in Rwanda” textile industry. …

Thomas Sankara: 30-year Anniversary

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Today marks the 30-year anniversary of the death of Thomas Sankara, our African Che.  The first article I ever wrote on this blog was on Thomas Sankara, Thomas Sankara, The African Che. To me, Thomas Sankara is one of the most charismatic, selfless, dedicated, and beautiful African leaders of all times. And I love his sense of humor, and humility. He may not have had a perfect time in power, but what I am certain of, is the deep love he had for his country, his people, and for the whole of Africa. Imagine, someone who renames his country and people to empower them, from Haute Volta to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright man. I would also like to thank the people running the website entirely dedicated to his memory, thomassankara.net; I raise my hat to them, and their tireless work throughout the years.

Here is a summary of Thomas Sankara‘s actions in his 4 years of power. These are taken from thomassankara.net. For the full article, check out Full facts about Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso . Enjoy the video below!


Guerrillero Heroico
Picture taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960, at the La Coubre memorial service

After renaming his country Burkina Faso, here are Thomas Sankara’s accomplishments, [after] ONLY 4 YEARS in power (198387).

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (21 December 194915 October 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara.

– He vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles in a matter of weeks.
– He initiated a nation-wide literacy campaign, increasing the literacy rate from 13% in 1983 to 73% in 1987.
– He planted over 10 million trees to prevent desertification
He built roads and a railway to tie the nation together, without foreign aid
– He appointed females to high governmental positions, encouraged them to work, recruited them into the military, and granted pregnancy leave during education.
– He outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy in support of Women’s rights

Flag of Burkina Faso

– He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
– He reduced the salaries of all public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
– He redistributed land from the feudal landlords and gave it directly to the peasants. Wheat production rose in three years from 1700 kg per hectare to 3800 kg per hectare, making the country food self-sufficient.
He opposed foreign aid, saying that “he who feeds you, controls you.”

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara

– He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity [Thomas Sankara Speech on Debt and Unityagainst continued neo-colonialist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance. • He called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting.[Thomas Sankara’s Speech at the United Nations / Discours de Thomas Sankara aux Nations Unies]
– In Ouagadougou, Sankara converted the army’s provisioning store into a state-owned supermarket open to everyone (the first supermarket in the country).
He forced civil servants to pay one month’s salary to public projects.
– He refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes.

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

– As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer.
– A motorcyclist himself, he formed an all-women motorcycle personal guard.
– He required public servants to wear a traditional tunic (the Faso Dan Fani), woven from Burkinabe cotton and sewn by Burkinabe craftsmen. (The reason being to rely upon local industry and identity rather than foreign industry and identity)
– When asked why he didn’t want his portrait hung in public places, as was the norm for other African leaders, Sankara replied “There are seven million Thomas Sankaras.”
– An accomplished guitarist, he wrote the new national anthem himself.

Thomas Sankara Speech on Debt and Unity

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

This past weekend saw the anniversary of Thomas Sankara’s assassination. In memory of this great man who graced our continent. I decided to repost his speech on African debt, which after almost 30 years is still very actual. His speech in one of unity. Imagine if we had been united, would there have been a Libya 2011, or Cote d’Ivoire 2011, or all the subsequent others? Unity does make us strong.


Thomas Isidore Sankara, our African hero, was killed for his convictions, love of his people and his country. This great hero gave one of the greatest speech I have heard about the problem of the  African debt. Such an eloquence! Such Truth my Lord! Such humor! I do agree with him that the African debt cannot be entirely paid… and that the African nations who do not show up at the UA summit should not have favors extended to them the same as those who attend the meetings. Moreover, he talks about living and breathing African: his delegation and himself were entirely dressed by Burkinabés tailors with cotton from Burkina Faso. Please watch, listen, and celebrate one of the greatest man the African continent has ever seen! Don’t forget to watch part 2 as well.

The Diisa : Malian Men’s Life Scarf

I recently learned about the Diisa, a long fringed indigo shawl worn by men in Mali, and men across the Sahara Desert. I knew of the  shawl, but never knew its name. I also knew of the shawl and always wondered why it was always blue, and not any other color. The Diisa has been worn by African men for centuries. Its ‘blue-ness’ comes from the ‘diisatogène‘ which is one of the strongest artificial component of Indigo dye.The shawl itself takes a long time to weave, and is later on indigo dyed. Our ancestors probably knew all this chemistry that I just learned today, and probably honed down the recipe. Samori Toure, the great African leader, can be seen wearing his diisa shawl on several occasions.

The excerpt below is from the Adire African Textiles blog. Enjoy!


Malian artist and master dyer Aboubakar Fofana commented:

Samori Toure wearing his diisa

… The dissa shawl was such an important piece for a man from this region. It was given to a young man by his mother when he got married. She would have saved for this shawl since her son was very young they were a lot of work and were worth the same as 10 head of cattle. They were indigo dyed, and when the man died, this shawl would be his shroud. The celestial blue of indigo would help him pass from this world to heaven. I’m very proud to be making a modern interpretation of the dissa, with its long fringes, and I hope I am carrying on the tradition of something important in my culture.

And Belgian art historian Patricia Gerimont, who is working on a book on indigo dyeing in Mali, supplied this information on indigo in Burkina Faso (my translation): “the indigo shawls and wrappers in Burkina are dyed by a specific group called the Yarsé, and also by other groups of Marka dyers. The Yarsé speak Mossi but are of Marka origin, you also find them in Dogon country under the name Yélin.


The Faso Dan Fani: Woven Cloth of the Homeland

Flag of Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso

Today we will be talking about the Faso Dan Fani, known as Burkina Faso‘s national cloth. For starters, the Faso Dan Fani means “woven cloth of the homeland” (pagne tissé de la patrie). All the words are Dioula: Fani = cloth/wrapper (pagne), Dan = woven (tissé), Fasohomeland (patrie). It is known locally as FDF. As you have probably guessed, the Faso Dan Fani is a handwoven cotton cloth. The weaving style and patterns differ depending on the ethnic group. As you all know, weaving cotton is an ancient African tradition (African textiles): in the old days, the spinning was done by women, while the men were left with weaving the cotton threads into cloth. With time, women took over the weaving business as well.

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

In 1986, the President of the Faso, Thomas Sankara, declared that it was important to “produce and consume Burkinabé“. Thus, he declared “In all the villages of Burkina Faso, we know how to grow cotton. In all villages, women know how to spin cotton, men know how to weave it into cloth, and other men know how to sew those threads into clothes... [Dans tous les villages du Burkina Faso, l’on sait cultiver le coton. Dans tous les villages, des femmes savent filer le coton, des hommes savent tisser ce fil en pagnes et d’autres hommes savent coudre les pagnes en vêtements …]” and further “We should not be slave of what others produce [Nous ne devons pas être esclave de ce que les autres produisent].” For the president, “wearing the Faso Dan Fani is an economic act, cultural, and political to challenge imperialism [porter le Faso Dan Fani est un acte économique, culturel, et politique de défi à l’impérialisme].”

Faso Dan Fani
Faso Dan Fani

Thus under Thomas Sankara’s revolution, the traditional attire was imposed in work places. … Many were not pleased with it, to the extent that some had nicknamed the FDF, “Sankara is coming [Sankara arrive] since the PF was known to do impromptu visit of his ministries. Under him, the FDF had become the signature of Burkinabé outside the country. Sankara even made a speech at the United Nations where all the members of his delegation and himself were dressed with the Faso Dan Fani entirely made by local Burkinabé artists to be consumed by Burkinabe.

Model wearing Faso Dan Fani (Ecodufaso.com)
Model wearing Faso Dan Fani (Ecodufaso.com)

Today, the Faso Dan Fani is seen as a symbol of national pride, and people are starting to wear it again. Check out ThomasSankara.net to learn more about it, and this article “Faso Dan Fani: what if Thomas Sankara was right?” and this article on AfriqueFemme.com. Enjoy!

Why the name: Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

Flag of Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso

Have you ever wondered about the name of the country Burkina Faso?  Why would a country have two names, i.e. Burkina and then Faso?  or even simply two names in its history: Upper Volta and then Burkina Faso?  Well, the country named Upper Volta was given a new name in 1984 by then President Thomas Sankara, who chose the name Burkina Faso.

Flag of Upper Volta
Flag of Upper Volta

Originally, Haute Volta or Upper Volta, was just given by the European colonizer, the French, more as an indicator or geographic pointer, and had no real attachment to the people of that region themselves.  Thus Upper Volta was named for the region above the Volta river flowing in the area; the people of that country/area where thus known as the ‘Voltaics’ (Voltaiques in French).  Since the river had three tributaries: the Black Volta, the white Volta, and the red Volta, Upper Volta’s flag also had those three colors.  The Volta river also flew into Ghana, which was never known as the ‘Lower Volta’.  No wonder the name needed to change, as it had no real meaning!

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Well, on 4 August 1984, Thomas Sankara, with his usual charisma and revolutionary spirit, decided to change the country’s name to Burkina Faso.  He chose two names after two main languages of the country: the Moore (or Mossi language) and the DioulaBurkina from Mòoré means men of integrity, while Faso in Diouala means fatherland.  Thus the Burkina Faso is the land of upright people or the land of honest people.  The people of the country are known as the Burkinabé, where the suffix ‘bé’ comes from the Foufouldé language spoken by the Peulh people (a tribe found in many countries across West Africa), and means ‘men or women’.  Thus, Thomas used three of the main languages in his country to choose a name that was truly representative of the country and its people.  Sankara was then addressed as the PF or the President of the Faso.  The national cloth made up of woven strips of cotton or silk was called faso dan fani (this will be the subject for another post).

Enjoy this video, and travel to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright people.