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Abidjan: Street markets on the rise

There used to be dozens of outdoor markets and hawkers’ stalls on the streets of the popular districs of Abobo, Koumassi and Adjamé in the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, but these days, these stalls have gained ground in many other districts in Abidjan, even in the cosy suburb of Cocody, home to local elite and expats.

Mobile Vendor standing before makeshift roadside stalls. Credit: Peter DiCampo.
Mobile Vendor standing before makeshift roadside stalls. Credit: Peter DiCampo.
The vicinity of the road that connects the ‘Saint Jean Square’ and Deux-Plateau neighborhood, in the Cocody district of eastern Abidjan, has been turned into a vibrant place by hawkers who operate from plastic tarps set on the ground, on the pavement.
These makeshift stalls set up on the pavement draw both neighborhood residents and people from across Cocody, who come for clothes, shoes, carpets, watches, mobile phones, soft drinks, vehicle accessories and home appliances.

Even the Charles de Gaulle Bridge that links the southern Abidjan over the Ebrié Lagoon to Plateau is not spare from this new trend of business. As soon as night falls, roaming traders edge their way through the rows of cars, trying to sell items and bargaining at lightning speed, as faster as the sprinter Usain Bolt, are desperate to make more money.

The high unemployment rate among young people and the failure to reintegrate former combatants after the 2010 post-election violence has fuelled ‘street businesses in Abidjan, Many youth say they cannot sit at home and wait for better job opportunities and those who have had the chance to own a store acknowledge they sell their merchandises more quickly and efficiently in the streets rather than in the shops.

Roadside hawkers blame their activities on poor accessibility or high rental costs of shops, and also on high taxes. Some store owners as many suppliers accused Roadside hawkers of being unfair competitors. Many passers-by and motorists blame them for traffic jams while other think they are useful since they supply the population at large with low priced goods. Whether one is for or against roadside hawkers, they contribute to a lively atmosphere on the road.

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