The city of Kano is known for its many sprawling markets. For centuries, it has attracted traders and buyers from across Nigeria and West Africa’s Sahel region, and still holds its place as the north’s leading commercial hub.
One of Kano’s more widely recognized trade spots is the Kantin Kwari, or Kwari Market.
It’s reputed to be West Africa’s largest textile market, and one of the biggest on the continent as a whole.
It’s situated in the heart of the city, and draws in numerous visitors from within the metropolis and beyond on a daily basis. And they’re there for a good reason.
Kanti’s International Textile Trade
Kantin Kwari’s shops have an impressive array of textiles on display, including variously coloured ankara, African George fabrics, and English laces. You’d find these materials folded up on tables in basic looking sheds, or stacked up in the more decent looking stores. Because there are literally thousands of vendors selling at the market, you’ll almost certainly find whatever fabric you’re hunting for.
The textile trade in Kantin Kwari has a global feel to it. The materials on offer are a mixture of local products and imports from elsewhere in West Africa, the Arab world, Europe, and China. The narrow and crowdy pathways cutting through this packed market is perennially filled with buyers who have come in from other northern states, as well as Cameroun, Chad, Niger and Mali.
Besides plain textiles, Kwari’s shops also sell jewelry (including ones crafted from gold and silver), veils, clothes and the Zanna Bukar, the traditional cap worn by the Hausa.
If you’re visiting Kantin Kwari for the first time, it would be wise to go in the company of someone who knows the market well. While there’s a lot on offer at the stalls, you’ll want to avoid paying considerable sums for low grade material. Hanging around the outer edges of Kwari might not yield you much quality fabric; local wisdom posits that you’d be better off going farther into the market if you want its best wares.
The Worries of A Market
Kantin Kwari does have its challenges. Perhaps the biggest of these is the fact that local producers are struggling to match cheap textile imports. The artisans who have produced traditional fabrics for centuries are having it tough; buyers have switched to the less expensive Chinese manufactured materials, and left the local craftspeople in dire straits.
The security problems in Nigeria’s North East have also shrunk patronge from that area and the surrounding countries. While customers continue to stream in from other regions, the loss of safe direct passage through the Chad basin area to Kano state has forced a dip in the revenues of some traders.
But Kanti Kwari still thrives. Its shops are ever vibrant, its streets always teeming with the noise of commerce. As the menace of the North East’s terrorist insurgency recedes, the opportunities for this enclave will expand even further. It’s come through many trying times, and it’s standing as strong and proud as ever.
In December 2017, the Kano State government commissioned the Yentebura mall at the Kantin Kwari. The mall, which is reported to have cost ₦5 billion, has space enough for 4,000 traders, and should help improve the conditions for businesses in the market.