5 Biggest open-air markets in Nigeria (2024)

Nigeria is Africa’s largest population with over 200 million people at the end of the third quarter of 2021. The country is also Africa’s largest economy with 36 states and a federal capital that matches the economy of some African states. 

The biggest employer of labour in Nigeria’s services sector is retail. Indeed every country depends on its informal sector to thrive in its economic base. Nigeria’s informal retail sector is largely influenced by its open-air markets scattered across the country. Every state, and arguably every local government in Nigeria has an open-air market serving the basic needs of the people.

In August 2022, Nigerian open-air markets accounted for 97% of the country’s retail sales. Some open-air markets in Nigeria are very large and accommodate the sale of varying items. This article looks into the largest open-air markets in the country today.

Biggest open-air markets in Nigeria

1. Onitsha Main Market

Onitsha Main Market

Also known as the Onitsha market, the market is located in the commercial hub of Anambra State in southeast Nigeria’s Onitsha North Local Government Area. Based on its geographic scope and merchandise volume, Onitsha Market is Nigeria’s and entire West Africa’s biggest markets.

The city is situated on the Niger River’s east bank, where it empties into the Anambra River. The main market building in Onitsha was said to be the biggest in all of Nigeria. Despite being damaged during the Nigerian civil war, the structure was reconstructed in 1970.

The market deals in the trade of varying items including textiles, electronics, food items, footwear, and others. The market acts as a wholesale point to traders in the states of Delta, Edo, Ondo, Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Benue and Taraba. The market also serves traders from Benin Republic, Cameroon, Mali, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivore. The market opens at 8 am and closes at 6 pm, nonetheless, operations in the market extend far from 6 pm to 11 pm on busy days. 

2. Ariaria International Market

Ariaria International Market

The Ariaria International Market or the Ariaria market is the second largest market in Nigeria in terms of size. The market occupies three local governments of Aba North, Aba South and Osisoma. The market is the largest in Nigeria in terms of patronage with over 10 million shoppers visiting the market annually. 

The Ariaria market is located mainly in the Aba city area and was originally a market for the sale of locally made footwear, bags and other leather works. Today the market has grown to become a powerhouse selling a variety of imported and locally made items from fashion items, to food and electronics. The market is arguably Nigeria’s largest concentration where locally made goods are traded. 

The market serves the states of Cross Rivers, Rivers, Bayelsa, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi and Enugu. Traders from Cameroon, Benin republic, Ghana and parts of North Africa and the middle east patronize the market. The market operates from 8 am to 5 pm officially, nonetheless, trading activities have been known to begin as early as 4 am and end at 11 pm or more on busy days.

3. Alaba International Market

Alaba International Market

The Alaba market is the third largest market in Nigeria, the largest in southwest Nigeria and the largest in Lagos state. The market is located in the Ojo local government area of Lagos state. The market is the largest electronics market in Nigeria and arguably in Africa. The market deals in everything electronics, from home appliances to electrical connections and electrical fittings. The Alaba international market also deals with the repair of electronics on a larger scale. 

The Alaba International market is one of the most popular markets in Lagos with big names in the global electric appliance markets opening satellite offices at the market. The market serves the states of Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Kogi, Osun, Ekiti and the entire Lagos. Several items are exported from the market to different locations in the country every day. The opening hours of the Alaba market are 8:30 am and end at 9 pm, nonetheless, activities begin officially at the market after 9 am and can extend to after 9 pm on busy days.

4. Dawanau Food market

Dawanau Food market

The Dawanau market is the largest in Kano, the fourth largest market in Nigeria, the largest food market in West Africa and the largest market in Northern Nigeria. The market deals in a variety of agricultural products and is a meeting point for farmers to trade their items to purchasers from almost ten nations in Africa.

The market is a point of collection for agricultural produce from the states of Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, and Zamfara. Items ranging from livestock, crops like carrots, soya beans, moringa seeds, hibiscus flowers (Zobo), ginger, rice, legume, yams and others are sold in the market daily. The market is Africa’s largest trading point for ginger and the country’s largest for pepper, tomatoes and legume. 

The market exports goods to the entire country and the nations of Ghana, Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Libya, Egypt and South Africa.

5. Balogun Market

Balogun Market

The Balogun market is the 2nd largest market in Lagos and the 5th largest market in Nigeria. The market deals in a variety of commodities and is the largest variety market in Lagos. Balogun market deals in items ranging from textiles, electronics, home appliances, furniture, fashion and others. The market is located on Lagos Island and serves the entire state of Lagos.

The leverage of the Balogun market is its location, offering Nigeria’s commercial capital and Africa’s largest city. The market opens daily and is usually very busy from around 12 pm to 2 pm West African time. 


The economy of Nigeria is influenced by its retail services sector, with Nigeria being a consuming nation, retail offers a great employment opportunity to a variety of Nigerians. This article looked at the most significant open-air markets contributing a great deal to retail in Nigeria and the African continent as a whole. The market sizes, customer strengths and the overall export market that the open-air markets influenced the list above. 

Arguably, Onitsha is among the top three largest markets in Africa and one of the top twenty largest markets in the world. 

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Richard Okoroafor

Richard Okoroafor

Richard is a brilliant legal content writer who doubles as a finance lawyer. He brings his wealth of legal knowledge in corporate commercial transactions to bear, offering the best value that exceeds expectations.

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