As traditional open air markets near extinction in other parts of the world, Africa’s open air markets and Bazaars remain vibrant, providing a meeting place, not just for bilateral bargaining but also a place to establish new relations and valuable cultural interchange.
Bazaars are generally bigger open-air clusters of shops involving several merchants with a wide range of products and services open to the public. Nowadays, the word bazaar is used to describe an event in which sellers show their new products and services to the public and offer a discount on sales during this period. In some countries like UK and North America, the word bazaar is used interchangeably with ‘rummage sale’ which refers to a fundraising event organized by churches or other party through selling donated goods for low prices.
Some notable open air Markets and Bazaars in Africa include;
The Roque Santeiro Market was established in the 1980’s, at a time when the country was still beaten down by war and provisions were scarce. The market helped many Angolans to survive during the civil war. It was called Roque (Rock) Santeiro after the hero of a Brazilian soap opera, broadcast in Angola in 1985, who died defending his city. It was known for being the biggest open-air market in Africa, for transactions worth thousands of dollars a day, and for being the main stage for the sale of every imaginable product. The Angolan writer Pepetela once said: “If you cannot find it at Roque Santeiro, it’s because it hasn’t been invented yet”.
Located in a northern suburb of Luanda, the ‘Roque’ was the size of 500 soccer fields in an area that measures one kilometre by one half a kilometre, with almost 200,000 stallholders. The infrastructure of each vendor stall was minimal: each “store” has a packed dirt floor, and the best roofs were some old, worn tin sheets, though more commonly just tarp.
Today, this open-air market has been moved to a new site north of the capital.
Kejetia Market is reputed to be the largest single open air market in West Africa with over 10,000 stores and stalls. It is situated right in the heart of Ashanti Kumasi, popularly known as “The Garden City” or “heart beat” of Ghana because of its many beautiful species of flowers and plants.
It is bordered to the North by the Kumasi Cultural Centre and to the North West by the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The southern part of the market forms a border with Adum, the commercial centre of the city. Virtually everything that one wants to purchase from a market can be found at Kejetia. It ranges from jewelry, food, toiletries, gorgeous fabrics (in the center of the market), spices, and grains.
Addis Merkato: The largest open air market in Africa situated at the centre of the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. An old-adage of Merkato says “The only thing that is not available in Merkato is the word ‘not available’”. This adage captures the essence of Merkato. The market provides its visitors with all their needs, including food, fashion, agricultural products, construction materials and many other products. Every product is sold in its own district called ‘tera’ in Amharic.
A recent research showed that there are about 13,000 employees, 7100 business entities and 2500 retail shops in Merkato encompassing a total of several square miles.
The main problem with Merkato, as with other open air markets, is accessibility. Most of the roads are not accessible by vehicle and very congested by high pedestrian traffic. There is also a shortage of parking spaces and lack of entertaining functions in parallel with shopping. MBD