Ever wondered what it’s like to shop at one of the largest open electronics markets in West Africa? Then you need to visit Alaba International Market in Ojo, Lagos State, Nigeria. This sprawling market is a hustling, bustling hub of activity with traders and customers from all over Africa and beyond. As you wander the narrow lanes between shops overflowing with phones, laptops, TVs and just about any electronic device you can imagine, the energy is palpable.
People are making deals, exchanging cash and goods at a frenzied pace. With over 30,000 shops, you could spend days exploring all this market has to offer.
A Brief History of Alaba International Market
Alaba International Market is one of the largest markets in West Africa. Since its establishment in 1978 in Ojo Alaba, it has grown into a major commercial hub for trade and commerce.
Alaba International Market started as a small open-air market with just a few traders selling electronics and home appliances. Over time, as more traders joined and the variety of goods expanded, it gained popularity and patronage across Nigeria and beyond.
Today, Alaba International Market sprawls over 200 hectares with tens of thousands of shops and traders dealing in a wide range of products, from textiles and shoes to cosmetics and automotive parts. It’s a bustling marketplace open 7 days a week, attracting over 50,000 visitors daily seeking good deals and the latest goods.
Alaba International Market is a major importer and distributor of goods in Nigeria, bringing in containers of products from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Many traders travel abroad to source high-demand and affordable goods to sell locally. This commercial activity and flow of trade has made Alaba International Market a pivotal hub for business and commerce, generating billions in revenue and employing hundreds of thousands of Nigerians.
Love it or hate it, Alaba International Market is an iconic symbol of Nigeria’s enterprising spirit. For better or worse, it’s a place where you can find almost anything under the sun. An extraordinary market like no other!
Layout and Structure of Alaba International Market
The massive Alaba International Market is a sprawling maze of shops and traders that can be a bit overwhelming at first.
Once you get your bearings, though, you’ll find the market is laid out in numbered sections that make navigation easier. Each section contains hundreds of shops selling similar goods, whether it’s electronics, fabrics, or homewares.
Within each section, shop stalls are crammed along narrow walkways, with goods spilling out into the aisles. Be prepared to haggle for the best deals, as initial asking prices are usually inflated. The crowds and chaos just add to the experience, though.
Venturing deeper into the market, you’ll find more specialized areas for auto parts, as well as the plank and timber market. There are also designated areas for second-hand clothes, shoes, bags and more.
With over 30,000 shops and stalls to explore, set aside at least a full day to browse Alaba International Market. Pace yourself, be polite yet assertive, and you’ll be rewarded with many unique finds at bargain prices in this quintessential Lagos shopping district.
How to Get to Alaba International Market
Getting to Alaba International Market is pretty straightforward. Here are the main ways to access this popular market:
The easiest way to get to Alaba Market is by public transit. From most areas of Lagos, you can take a bus or shared taxi to the market. Fares will range from ₦200 to ₦5,000 depending on how far you’re traveling and traffic conditions. Ask the driver to drop you off at “Alaba International Market” or “Ojo Alaba”, and they will take you right to the main entrance.
Enter the Mile 2 bus at Bolade bus stop in Oshodi; it costs about 250 to get to Mile 2. When you get to mile 2, drop and ask for the Iyana-Iba bus; I heard there is a direct Alaba bus from mile 2 but haven’t tried it yet. When you arrive in Iyana-Iba, cross the express to the other side and inquire about Alaba Kekenapep (Maruwa).
From iyana Ipaja
- If you want to go through Iyana-Ipaja, from Iyana-Ipaja, go toward the flyover (under the bridge); a little after the flyover, you will find a road on your right-hand side, follow the road and ask people for the bus going to Iyana-Iba. When you get to Iyana-Iba, proceed to the express and cross over to the other side, then request for keke napep (Maruwa) going to Alaba.
- From Iyana-Ipaja, take the bus to Iyana-Iba, alight at the last bus/stop, and join the bus to Ojo; inform the conductor you want to alight at Alaba, then take a bike inside the market.
Charter a Ride
You can also hire an Uber, Taxify or local taxi to take you directly to Alaba International Market. Fares for a chartered ride will likely range from ₦3,000 to ₦5,000 each way, depending on where you’re coming from. Be sure to tell the driver you want to go to “Ojo Alaba Market” or the specific product section you’re interested in, such as “Alaba Electronic Market” or “Alaba Scrap Materials Market”. Your driver should be familiar with the different areas of this massive market.
The journey may take some time due to Lagos traffic, so give yourself at least an hour or two for travel to ensure you have enough time to explore the market and make any purchases or business deals. With some patience and the right mindset, you’ll soon find yourself immersed in the bustling aisles of Alaba International Market.
Safety Tips for Shopping at Alaba International Market
When shopping at Alaba International Market, your safety should be a top priority. This sprawling market can be chaotic, with narrow aisles and crowded shops, so keep the following tips in mind:
Don’t display valuables
Leave expensive phones, watches, jewelry and bags at home or in your locked vehicle. Pickpockets target distracted shoppers, so don’t make yourself an easy mark.
Beware of your surroundings
Be alert in crowded areas like shop entrances or checkout lines. Keep bags closed and secure, and watch for people trying to reach into your pockets or bags. Stay near main walkways, avoiding isolated sections of the market.
Negotiate prices outside shops
Discuss prices with vendors outside their shops. This allows you to walk away easily, if needed, without feeling trapped inside. It also lets you compare offers from different vendors to get the best deal.
Shop with others
There is safety in numbers, so shop with friends or family when possible. Having others with you, especially if you plan to make expensive purchases or need help carrying bags, deters thieves and provides support in case of an incident.
Trust your instincts
If anything feels off or makes you uncomfortable, leave the area immediately. Don’t hesitate to ask security guards or police officers for help if you feel threatened or sense danger. Your safety is the top priority, so get out of any situation that worries you.
Following these common-sense tips will help ensure you have an enjoyable shopping experience at Alaba International Market. Staying alert and avoiding risky behaviors can prevent problems, allowing you to focus on finding great deals in this bustling marketplace.
Latest news about Alaba International Market
The Alaba International Market in Lagos is always buzzing with activity. As the largest market in West Africa, there’s never a dull moment. Here are the latest happenings at this massive emporium:
The Lagos State Government has invested in several infrastructure projects to improve conditions at Alaba. New roads are being built to ease congestion, while drainage and waste management systems are being upgraded. Permanent shops are also under construction to replace temporary stalls. These enhancements will make it easier and more pleasant to shop at the market.
Between an influx of new vendors, infrastructure improvements, and ramped-up security, Alaba International Market looks to remain the bustling heart of commerce in Lagos.
In June 2023, it was announced that a number of structurally defective buildings would be demolished. The Lagos State Building Control Agency identified 17 buildings as “beyond redemption” after inspecting more than 500 buildings in the market.
The Lagos State government demolished 17 mega plazas at the famed Alaba International Market after officials from the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) invaded the market in the state’s Ojo district. G80 Alaba Rago Road, Good Season retail Complex, the building on 840 Ojo Igbede, and the structure behind Oba Oseni Plaza are among the retail plazas that have been demolished.
Gbolahan Oki, the General Manager of LASBCA, stated that LASBCA had been on top of the situation, telling owners of affected properties to do the right thing.
He said, “We have officers in the area who have served them notice several times.” People ignore the notices even after they have been served. We have been serving them notifications since 2016, and when we joined the team, we also served them. When we travel there, they deploy local boys to disrupt our services.
The agency demolished the unsafe buildings to avoid collapse and loss of life. While necessary for safety, the demolition will displace many traders who have done business in Alaba for decades.
The demolition is a sobering reminder of the importance of building standards and safety. Alaba International Market has been in operation since the 1970s, so many of the buildings are quite old and were constructed before modern building codes were established in Lagos State. Regular inspections help identify unsafe structures before tragedy strikes, but for some buildings, the damage is too extensive to remedy.
You’ve reached the end of our tour through the bustling Alaba International Market. After learning about the sprawling size, array of goods, and bartering culture, you likely have a sense of the vibrant atmosphere and entrepreneurial spirit. Though the market faces challenges like infrastructure needs, security issues, and lack of organization, the sheer volume of activity is a testament to the determination of the many traders and shopkeepers.
When you visit Lagos, be sure to make your way to this iconic trading hub to experience a slice of commerce that fuels the city. Take your time exploring each section, try some local cuisine, and don’t be afraid to negotiate – you’ll walk away with unique goods and a memory of the lively marketplace that is the heartbeat of Alaba.