Nigeria is considered the largest African economy. In the same vein, Nigeria is where you’ll find some of the biggest markets in Africa too. The biggest market in West Africa is also located in Nigeria. The funny thing about these facts is that foreigners seem to be more aware of these facts than Nigerian citizens. A lot of Nigerians may not even be able to tell the largest market in the country.

The biggest market in Nigeria is the one located in Onitsha, Anambra state. It is known as the Onitsha Main Market or Onitsha Marine Market. It is also officially referred to as the International Marine Market, Onitsha. The market is located at the Harbour Industrial layout, Onitsha, which is very close to the shores of the River Niger. The market extends to a major food stuff market known as Ose Okwuodu, which is commonly considered part of the Onitsha market.

Trade and Traders in the Onitsha Market

This market is also known to be the largest and busiest open market in the whole of West Africa. It can rightfully be described as the commercial power house of West Africa. All kinds of goods you could ever think of are available at this market and at affordable prices. The average traders in the area are known to bring in at least six consignments of 40 tonnes (40-feet containers) of goods annually. That Onitsha is considered the commercial centre of the eastern Nigeria, (if not of the entire country), is as a result of the impact of this market in the city. Majority of the male population in Onitsha and neighboring towns earn their living as traders in the Onitsha main Market.


The market attracts people from different parts of the country who would always visit this market for their business transactions. It is also massively patronized by merchants in the ECOWAS sub-region including Accra, Abidjan, Douala, Niamey and Cotonou to mention a few. For a particular kind of goods, there are usually innumerable shops where you could get it in this market. The richest men in Anambra state are always discovered to be major traders in the market, having lots of shops and numerous sales boys who assist them with the trade. Some of them are major importers and they do more than 20 consignments of 40 tonnes of goods per year. These include jewelry, clothing, household, consumer goods, industrial and office equipment.

The traders of the Onitsha International Market are registered under a trade union known as the Onitsha Market Amalgamated Traders Association, (OMATA).

Onitsha Market and Fire Disasters

Since the inception of this market from time immemorial, there has been innumerable series of disasters which has befallen it, claiming goods worth billions of naira. These include fire outbreaks and cases of shop lifting, rendering many traders hopeless. It has been reported on several occasions of such occurrences that some affected traders committed suicide, especially by drowning themselves in the River Niger. However, the incumbent governor of Anambra state is really doing a lot to see to putting in place advanced security in the market against fire and theft. He has provided fire-fighting equipment and also installed the Metro Digital Mobile Camera Television, CCTV to help in tracking criminal activities inside the market, especially at night.

Some of the unique characteristics of this market is the way it is tightly constructed to accommodate as many shops as possible. This makes movement inside the market, especially during festive periods to be very difficult. On occasions of stampede for one reason or the other, a lot of people have been trampled to death inside the market. However, the good side of the physical attributes of the market is that majority of the streets and passages are well roofed and shielded from the sun’s scorching noonday heat. Ceiling fans, televisions and video players are also installed along these passages for the comfort and entertainment of both the buyers and sellers.

If you haven’t been to this famous International Onitsha Main Market, it’ll be a nice experience for you to find time and visit it because it is not enough to read about it as you have just done now.