Marketing in Kano after Covid-19, by MA Iliasu


In another enigmatic dissection, the economists believe that market can easily be separated from marketplace, the same way white can be separated from black.

The two concepts have never been the same, only that they have been meeting at equilibrium points many times across the history they begin being mistaken for each other.

Market they say, is an economic concept, associated with any activity that brings buyers and sellers into economic contact that may breeds exchange agreement.

While marketplace, they say, is a geographical concept, exogenously borrowed to define any place reserved for the exchange of commodities, and to make better clarity of the dissection, marketing can take place in the absence of marketplace, due to the advent of science and modern technology, and absence of organized marketplaces a very longtime ago.

The two concepts were very relevant for each other during the era when one of them can’t do without the other – the medieval and middle-aged times when there’s absence of technology and organized marketplaces, and still have been currently, when most of the trading is taking place in marketplaces.

But that is bound to change in the future. Especially in the geography of our interest, modern day Kano state.

To be candid, marketplace is barely half a millennium old phenomenon looking back to the history of the revered commercial city.

For surely marketing took place before the organization of marketplaces, only that it was facilitated by them.

And marketing would take place after marketplaces, because the future signifies their inevitable death by the perpetrators that’ll arrive in the form of modern technology, which would prove to be a reliable force and avenue that’ll take over the marketing facilitating capacity.

This essay is aimed at tracing the origin of marketplace in Kano, it’s impacts on modern day Kano state, the admonishing it receives by phenomenal lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the threat it faces from the ever growing modern technology.

More than six centuries ago, Sarki Muhammadu Rumfa created the first marketplace in Kano city – Kasuwar Kurmi – which is widely considered as the first marketplace in the history of Kano.

Rumfa, who was recorded in the history books as a king blessed with immense vision, developmental leadership, remarkable patriotism and unreal vigilance towards securing the economy and infrastructural development of his kingdom, created other marketplaces at the gates that lead through the historic, millennium old city walls, to complement trade and allow marketing to take place in Kano with greater accommodation, easiness and convenience.

And it’s therefore the courtesy of such economic exertion that Kano stamped it’s name as the finest economic city in Africa after Cairo and Fazzan, according to Yugoslav, by Anania (1578).

Muhammadu Rumfa transformed Kano into an organized economic arena; alluring to all, attractive to whole and seductive to many.

Market places in Kano back then, had attracted diverse traders not only from Hausa-Land, but from central Sahara, Gonja, Mauritania, East Africa and the land of Tamashek. After Sarki Rumfa, the economics of Kano was put at the mercy of political events,

However, none formidable enough to cancel the impact of markets.

Today, markets in Kano have incredible pulling power upon traders that trade not only in Nigeria, but West Africa in general. Niger, Chad, Mali, Ghana and Benin have all been defending on Kano as one of the sources of importation.

And the city has equally defend upon the consistent flow of those traders to arrive and buy both it’s imported and locally-produced commodities, in employment and revenue generation, resource and potentials utilization.

The modern day Kano state breath markets as human being breath air, making the state function dependent at the mercy of markets as bicycle is at the mercy of movement; if markets stop the state will fell.

Marketplaces have been functions of the psychological, social and economic behaviour of Kano people. And it has manifested upon the lifestyle, leadership, behavior and the general function of Kano state populace.

As co-founding name, Kasuwar Kurmi has maintained it’s traditional charisma as the oldest marketplace in Kano, which has also been serving as considerable employer of people, and the recommended arena for the exchange of unique commodities.

Other marketplaces which Sarki Rumfa had created at the city gates have riped to economically salvaged the city and it’s populace from the wrath of mediocrity, and have bolstered their stake in the contest of competitive advantage.

Ƙofar Mata is now what developed and became known as Kantin Kwari market – ” the biggest textiles marketplace in Africa” – Bature Abdul’aziz (2009), and the biggest employer of youths of all the existing marketplaces in northern Nigeria.

Ƙofar Ruwa is now a marketplace for metallic commodities and it’s varying families ranging from car, motorcycle and bicycle spare parts, motorcycle and bicycles, etc.

Ƙofar Mazugal encapsulates the biggest Abattoir in sub-Saharan Africa. Ƙofar Na’isa accommodates gigantic trading of fine livestock.

Ƙofar Kansakali, though fading through the wariness of time, is a home for the trade of locally imported sugarcane, Etcetera.

But to cut the long history, narration and romanticism between Kano and Marketplace short, it’s a very verifiable argument that marketing was still taking place long before the advent of Muhammadu Rumfa, who was the co-founder of organized marketplaces.

Where trade had been recorded to have taken place in Kano, with most of the exchange deals taking place at the houses of the traders or on the medieval streets of the city.

Most of the practices of marketing away from marketplace has been proved to have been retained even during the reign of Rumfa, though in small instances, and have been a cogent phenomenon today, with many traders operating away from marketplaces.

But the remarkable admonishing of the centuries old practice, and the possible turn around to the long period before Rumfa, even if in an upgraded modern manner, is what is most likely to happen after the catastrophe of Covid-19 pandemic.

How has lockdown, as a regent and deputy commander to the pandemic’s invading army, affected the view of Kano traders upon their marketplaces?

One week before the imposition of the lockdown by the Kano state government, as a budding economic analyst, I predicted that majority of Kano traders would be made worse off, simply because they were mostly small and medium scale traders who so much defend upon the marketing boom that takes place during that time of the year, to make up for the dry marketing season inflicted by recession.

Coincidentally, the lockdown arrived at a time when the Holy month of Ramadan was few days away, signifying Eid celebration was little more than a month away – which declared the beginning of a marketing season which every trading man and woman eagerly awaits, to accumulate what will usually secure people economically for most of the year.

The pre-Eid market Kano is the greatest marketing event that take place in Kano, and the single most effective economic event that shape the entire attitude of majority of the populace, with no other time being revered by the traders closer to how much they pre-Eid is.

But that prediction has not accurately hit the target the way I expected it to, even though hundreds of thousands of people who did not own businesses, who have been earning living by facilitating the exchange process through moving of the commodities for buyers and sellers and serving as commissioners, were significantly made worse off.

Which would inevitably interrogate their convenience during the entire marketing year.

The business owners meanwhile have defied the prediction solely by refusing to allow the movement restriction enforced through lockdown, and the complete closure of marketplaces to massacre their activities or dictate the coordinates of their fiscal year.

The way they did it, as mentioned below, is very common, only that it took the most conscious of them to think of it earlier.

It has been learnt that an average business owner in Kano had utilized his or her presence on the internet, by advertising commodities to the buyers who wouldn’t be able to travel due to the restrictions enforced by the lockdown through online platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

And even to the buyers who can travel alike, these practice has been in sight many years before the advent of COVID-19, what is called online marketing.

But it was reserved mostly for modern marketers who fantasized large advertisement, with majority of the old-school ones having no belief in the marketing process.

However the lockdown has changed the face of that activity, for both modern and old-school marketers embraced the online media platforms to salvage the trading activities from the atrocities of COVID-19.

And judging from the convenience it brought, mostly upon the buyers, surely the practice would not be abandoned after the pandemic passed on, in a turning point that may mark the beginning of complete shift from physical marketplaces to online marketplaces.

Today, it becomes easier that I would simply send samples to my customer in Niger through his WhatsApp handle, who would then select the ones he preferred and send for the payment through wire transfer, after what I would prepare the commodities in bundles and put them on transit through a trusted Niger-travelling driver, the exchange is wrapped!

Through acquisition of consent, significant number of marketers inquired that they were allowed to shift their stock of commodities to their living houses, which would enable them to deliver the orders placed online, and supply the traders that became able to travel amidst the lockdown, without breaking the social distancing rules.

The living houses of traders in Kano turned into semi markets, or rather disorganized marketplaces, as it was often the case before the reign of Muhammadu Rumfa.

The wealthy of them who had big backyards that would accommodate buyers stop bothering to advertise on the streets. While the poor of them take their marketing to the streets.

And both of them became wowed by the response of buyers. After all, Kano is an inescapable commercial arena where what ever is put on sale would someday be inquired by a buyer.

Especially in a time like pre-Eid market. And such necessary measure of shifting storage facilities from marketplaces to living houses would possibly not be abandoned due to the unpredictable nature of government’s policy.

Rational traders would learn to store their commodities at a disposal of close proximity, for even if marketplaces were to be trusted again, an adequate alternative should be put in place to store significant quantity of commodities to counter it’s weaknesses as learnt during the pandemic.

Any agreement with that experience would ensure that marketing in Kano has take the effect of trading long before the organization of marketplaces, though in a technologically facilitated manner.

Welcome to the future, which obviously screams the death of marketplaces, as mercilessly dictated by Covid-19!

Many traders that feared for the impact of the lockdown upon their businesses returned to their respective marketplaces after the lock was lifted only to meet empty stores and shops. All the good were conveniently sold.

The miracle of modernity has turned their puzzling fears into a sound innovative strategy, along the line transmogrifying their marketing attitude away from conservative-ness of old school marketing, to a modernized method of trading.

Necessity is the mother of innovation, a wise man once said.

The equilibrium of the mentioned sociopolitical an economic events are slowly changing the face of Kano from a centuries old traditional and geographical marketplace, to a modern economic city that facilitate marketing beyond the restrictions of geography that comes in weaknesses of marketplaces, in a purely economic manner.

After all, the economists are being proved correct; market surely is economically broader concept beyond the description of geographical term borrowed to exogenously serve as a makeweight definition.

Kano; a market society that was, the marketplace avenue that had been, and a slowly transmogrifying into technologically-upgraded economic entity, is a very relevant instance.

All thanks to Covid-19. And many other commercial states would follow suits after the dust has suppressed.

Such economic transition would however cost many people their way of earning living, most of them the commissioners and non-business owner that offer their physical services for sale.

How they should be efficiently blended into market dynamics should be a relevant problem that calls for decisive solutions.

Surely amidst our resistance to abide by, or contribute to the fluid rendition of the dynamics and higher tendency to allow the changes in our environments go unnoticed and unmentioned, the rule stays the same: “change is inevitable as society exist” – Karl Henrik Marx.

MA Iliasu is an economic analyst, and he writes from Kano.


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