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Dawanau: The Story of Africa’s Largest Grain Market

The market which today is the hub of grains and seeds trading across the world ,was started by Alhaji Uba Ahmad in 1985 after he…

The market which today is the hub of grains and seeds trading across the world ,was started by Alhaji Uba Ahmad in 1985 after he lost  40 shops of grains in a fire incident at the Sabon Gari market. At take-off it had 50 traders, but today the grain market that is located at Dawanau in Dawakin Tofa local government area of Kano State ,has about 600 traders with 20,000 shops and several ware houses.
At Dawanau, goods are on daily basis transported to Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Ghana Central African Republic, South Africa, Libya and other African countries. Outside Africa, traders from Burma, Dubai, India, China, Britain, America, Saudi and other countries also patronize the grains/ seeds market for items like Moringa seed and leaf, Sesame seed, Hibiscus flower (Sobo)and other items such as Soya beans, Beans, Cassava, Millet, Guinea corn and other items.
Sometimes universities in Europe, America, China and India send researchers to Dawanau market to conduct research on some of the seeds and grains that have been discovered to have medicinal or health benefits or values  at the market.
Alhaji Ahmad whose determination and business sense was linked to the success story of Dawanau market, was one of the contractors of the late Sardauna, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello. The 96 year old Sarkin Kasuwa Dawanau (Head of Dawanau market) is also the Chairman of  the Grains Sellers Association in Kano State.  
Hamisu,one of the traders at the market ,who related his experience with some of the foreign customers said “Let me share this story with you, there is this man from Burma. He was here for the first time and we were discussing about Dawanau market and he paused for a while, looked into my eyes, shook his head and said: “Alhaji, dollar is flying here but you don’t know how to catch it”. He continued that another one came from India and said the same thing. “Anybody who has not been to Dawanau to see things for himself will not know what is going on here. But I tell you that there is no other foodstuff market in Africa like this one. It is the largest foodstuff market in Africa, and it serves not only Kano or Nigeria’s economic needs, but that of other countries across the world”.
Speaking on the market, the President Kano Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Alhaji Rabiu Dansuleka said “If you go to Dawanau market and you quantify the businesses that are going on there, you will agree with me that Kano is second to none in terms of economic activities in the country. Businesses are big here ,but the fact is  that they are not formally captured. Many of them are not going through the banks and the processes. We are now sensitizing them to do their businesses formally, so that the status of the market can be seen. People only say we are the second economy in Nigeria ,but when they see the volume of business activities that are going on at Dawanau market, Singer and Kantin Kwari in Kano, they will realize we are the  number one economy in Nigeria. Dawanau market is very popular  both in the country and outside Nigeria. It is not only serving the state’s economy, it is serving those of other states, countries in Africa and also global economy. From Dawanau they export to other countries of the world. Most of the agro-allied products that are being exported from Nigeria ,would have to come from different villages and towns of many states in the county to Dawanau market, and from there they would be taken to the sea ports for export.  There are also stations where goods and products are being taken by road to as far as the Central African Republic, South Africa, Libya, Chad, Togo, Cameroon and other countries in Africa, from where they will take the goods to other regions. From Dawanau in Kano products are being taken to countries like Sudan and other Sub-Saharan regions. Just take a Look at what is happening at Dawanau market in Kano you will agree that it is the largest in Africa”.
Speaking on behalf of his aged father, Alhaji Uba Ahmad who has been selling grains for nearly 70 years , Hamisu Ahmad said Dawanau market was founded sometimes in May, 1985. “We were pushed here from what is today known as Rimi market as a result of  a fire disaster. My father, Alhaji Ahmad who was the Chairman Grains Sellers Association at the Sabon Gari market, started this business at the railway station area during the late Sardauna’s period. He was one of the late Ahmadu Bello’s contractors in those days. He used to buy grains for government and as well keep it for them at that period. He has been doing this business for 70 years now, and he is well over 90 years. He had more than 40 shops of grains before fire destroyed them. When fire consumed their shops in 1985 traders in the market wanted to reconstruct the shops, but Hamza Abdullahi who was military administrator in Kano, stopped them and even refused to compensate them. My father was going up and down until he met Bappah Usman, sole administrator of Kano Municipal who took him to somewhere along Yankaba road. But  when they got there my father looked at it and rejected it. He later met the sole administrator of Tawakin Tofa local government area, late Alhaji Bashar Garko. He told him about his decision to establish a market. But he told my father that one person cannot make a market. My father said he had many people. He then asked him to give him a list of at least 40 people.  He was shocked when my father gave him list of over 500 people who were ready to trade in the market once approval is given. He took my father to Rimin Gado area along BUK road, and he asked him if he could build a market there but he again rejected it.  He was later brought to Dawanau in Dawakin Tofa local government area. When they got here my father looked at it and said we can make a market here. Since then this market has been growing ,and see what it has become today. It was difficult for him to pay compensation to farm owners here, still he didn’t give up. He used his personal money to offset the compensation before government paid him back. His effort and determination are what we are all benefiting at the market today.”
He said business is flourishing in the market because it is being patronized by both local and foreign customers. “If you know the volume of business that takes place here every day ,you will be surprised. People who are not aware of what is happening, would say people are only coming to Dawanau market from African countries. This is not true because they actually  come from different parts of the world. People come here from Asia, Africa, Europe and America. People on daily basis come here from China, America, Britain, Saudi, Dubai, India, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and other countries, to buy Sesame seed, Hibiscus flower and other items. From Asia people now come to Dawanau market to buy Moringa leaf and seed. If you see the way they are coming here it is wonderful.  Anybody who has not been to Dawanau to see things for himself, will not know what is going on here. But I tell you that there is no other foodstuff market in Africa like this. It is the largest foodstuff market in Africa, and it serves not only Kano or Nigeria economic needs but that of other countries across the world.
If you have the strength to go round the market you will see many ware houses and over 20, 000 shops. We are only waiting for government to partner with us. We want them to send their representatives here to formalize our business activities. You can see that people from different parts of the world are coming here every day. If government comes in it  could standardize business here. In the days of the groundnut pyramid government was involved. We learnt that in the days of our forefathers government also aided the operation of their agricultural activities. I deal in Hibiscus flower, sesame seed and grains.
When foreigners come here they usually buy our seeds and grains for little price. If government can come in they won’t buy these items cheaply like that. We know what is going on in respect of the market situation, but we cannot do anything except government comes in. There are times that the sesame seed is sold at N200,000 per ton. If government has ware houses where these could be  stored ,when these Europeans  come we can sell to them for as high as N700,000 to N800,000 per ton. With this our farmers would be encouraged ,and there would be more money to produce and do more business”.
On his own, Malam Saminu Ahmad a trader who sells Hibiscus flower (Sobo)said many foodstuff items are brought to Dawanau from different states of the Northern region. “Grains and other items are brought here from Maiduguri, Bauchi, Jigawa, Niger, Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Katsina.  Neighbouring countries like Niger and Cameroon bring coffee, beans and other items to the market ,and also on daily basis take  other products from here back home.
University researchers from different countries are always coming here to get information on some of the seeds and grains that are available here. If government can come forward to partner us, we can give them the secrets that we know about this business and it will help both of us. I can assure them that within two years they won’t be able to equate what they are getting from crude oil to what they will be getting here, if they partner with us”.
Saminu added that the market is divided into two parts. “The first section is for retail sales, while the second section is for whole sales. Some of the items that we sell here are: Sesame seed, Groundnut, Hibiscus flower, Millet, Guinea corn, Maize, Yam, Moringa seed and leaf, Irish Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, local rice, Beans, Gari, Cassava, Soya beans and  Wheat. It is open from Monday to Sunday. Most of the products we sell here are bought from states in the northern part of the country. We don’t have a particular day as market day here,for every day is a market day at Dawanau. 
On daily basis people come here from Lagos, Benin, Port-Harcourt, Ibadan and other big cities in the country. We sell with scale. A bag of grain or seed here is 100 kilos. 10 bags of grains or seeds is a ton which is 1,000 kilos. A bag of local rice here is sold at N18,000, a bag of Beans sells for N16,000, Hibiscus flower N5,500, Maize, N7,500 and a bag of Soya beans is sold at N14,000. A trailer load of grains or seeds is 600 bags which are 30 tons of grains or seeds. A trader in this market has the capacity to load three trailers with grains or seeds for export in a day.
You can see there are many banks in the market. They are here because they realize the volume of business transaction that takes place here daily. When our foreign customers come ,it is the banks that we often use to do business with them. The transfer of funds and payment are made through the banks. When they buy goods from us they transfer or make payment through them.
We have up to 50 traders who deal only on whole sales and they handle the exportation of goods to many of the big buyers in Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Saudi. There are over 20,000 shops in this market excluding the ware houses. We have the capacity to stock thousands of bags of grains and seeds for export. People from Jigawa, Funtua, Daura, Sokoto , Taraba, Niger and others bring in maize, Sesame seed, Hibiscus flower and others here for sale. This market by what we know is not only the largest in West Africa ,there is no other market that is as large as Dawanau foodstuff market in Africa.
In this market you can be connected to any part of Africa. Vehicles leave here daily with goods to many parts of African countries like Guinea, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Togo, Mali, Niger, Libya, Ghana and others. Business transactions worth several billions of naira are done on daily basis at Dawanau market,because of the influx of both local and international buyers to the market.”

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