Open-air markets are popular in Africa and the sizes of these ones will leave you amazed

In most cases, they consist of makeshift stalls or booths, where traders spread out their wares for sale.


Filled with vendors selling local delicacies, general goods merchants, and artisans, tourists can easily learn a lot about a place or its people simply by visiting such outdoor markets.

Open-air markets are popular because traders can save or eliminate the cost of renting a shop, including the cost of maintaining and securing the facility. And this cost saving is often passed on to the end buyer.

We bring you some of the largest open-air markets in Africa.


Karatina open-air market

The Karatina open-air market in Karatina town, Nyeri County, is 130 km or two hours away from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

The market, which prides itself as the largest in East Africa, is well-known for the fresh fruit and vegetables available on sale.

Karatina market is managed by the Karatina town council, which in recent times has worked toward modernizing the market with the introduction of stalls that can hold up to 3,000 traders.

The Merkato open-air market


The Merkato open-air market is in the west of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The sprawling commercial center, where nearly every merchandise is available for sale, spreads over several square kilometers of the Addia Ketema sub-city, one of the 10 sub-cities that make up Addis Ababa.

In Merkato, newly built modern shopping malls exist side by side with the old makeshift stores. And chains of stores selling a particular item have the word Terra affixed to them as a suffix. This is helpful, as it helps newcomers and shoppers find their way around the market.

With an estimated 45,000 stores and stalls, the Kejetia open-air market in Kumasi, the heart of the ancient Ashanti kingdom is the single biggest market in Ghana. The market covers such a vast area that it is not uncommon for shoppers to repeatedly lose their way.

There are shops selling foodstuffs, second-hand shoes and clothes, electronics, agricultural hardware, traditional kente strips, batik, bracelets, household goods, and more.

Kejetia market is managed by the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly and representatives of the Ashanti monarchy.


The Khan el Khalili market traces its history to the 14th century, when Emir Dajaharks Al-Khalili built a large market complex on the site of the Za’afran Tomb, a burial place of the Fatimid rulers of Egypt.

Khan el Khalili is a shopper’s paradise. Like any Middle Eastern souks (market), there are merchants selling all kinds of colorful, shiny trinkets popular with tourists. There is also a spice market, where traditional aromatic spices are sold side by side with western perfumery.

The market also boasts an array of fabric and carpet shops in addition to antique shops and vendors offering timeless Middle Eastern pieces. Local tour guides insist no trip to Cairo is complete without a visit to Khan El-Khalili.

Located along a tributary of the River Niger, the Onitsha open-air market also known as the Onitsha International Marine Market and prides itself as the biggest market in all of West Africa.

The market attracts people from all over Nigeria and neighboring countries, with merchants pouring in from the ECOWAS sub-region including Accra, Abidjan, Douala, Niamey, and Cotonou to mention a few.


At the Onitsha market, nearly every kind of consumer goods are available at affordable prices, including jewelry, clothing, electronics, foodstuff, household, and industrial and office equipment.

To maximize space, stalls in the Onitsha market are tightly constructed to accommodate as many shops as possible, which can make movement inside the market difficult or nearly impossible during peak business hours or festive periods.


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