BY Stephen Nartey, 12:00pm December 12, 2022,

How Nigeria’s city Kano became an economic powerhouse in the mid-1800s exporting sandals

Photo source: Brookings Institute

The state of Kano is considered the industrial hub of Northern Nigeria and arguably the second biggest city in the economic powerhouse of the sub-region. Historically, it has been a major trading center since the 19th century during the reign of Emirs Ibrahim Dado and Sulaimanu.

It is not surprising that the region today is home to some 400 small-scale and medium enterprises which trade in goods ranging from tanned leather, dairy products, pharmaceutical products, textile materials and agricultural implements, according to Nigeria Galleria.

Since the pre-colonial period, emirs and governments have provided favorable economic weather for businesses to thrive and expand. For instance, the Kano government allocated industrial zones like Challawa, Sharada, and Tokarawa industrial sites for businesses to operate and manufacture goods to serve the needs of the people.

In the 16th century, Emir Muhammad Rumfa put up the Kurmi market to stimulate the growth of local businesses and trade. Successive leaders who followed him further strengthened the business architecture to make Kano the major business hub it is today.

When the Maradi raid was affecting business at Katsina in the 19th century, Emirs Ibrahim Dado and Sulaimanu encouraged local traders to move to Kano to continue their business giving the state a further boost to the region’s economic importance within the Sokoto Caliphate.

Kolanut trade was enhanced during the period which enabled merchants in Kano to earn as much as $30 million annually. The ingenuity of the merchants in integrating craft into their local business also improved commerce during the pre-colonial era.

During this period in Kano’s history, local businesses were producing an estimated 10 million pairs of sandals. The Bompai Industrial estate also flourished during the reign of Emir Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi between 1953 and 1963.

In Northern Nigeria, Kano state is regarded as the most influential business center with a population of an estimated 10 million. The state continues to support people with grants for the growth of semi-processed and manufactured products. This has facilitated the emergence of new business districts such as Kurmi, Kwari, Kwanar Singer, Muhammadu Abubakan Rami and Dawanau markets that manufactures diverse goods for different consumers.

Infrastructures such as the Malam Aminu International Airport road, railway lines for hard-to-reach areas within Kano and good road networks have given a major boost to the business community. It is not surprising Kano State boasts of an expansive financial sector made of brokerage firms, banks and insurance companies that provide financial support to small-scale businesses in Northern Nigeria.

There is no gainsaying that this economic success has come about largely due to the priority placed on the agriculture sector by the federal government. A sizable portion of the population has businesses related to agriculture.

The main crops farmers in Kano grow are maize, millet, rice, cowpea, and sorghum. For the industrial sector, the farmers cultivate cotton and groundnuts on a large scale to feed the factories and export. Kano is also one of the key exporters of skins and hides in Nigeria. Data on the agric sector shows many homes in Kano earn their income from growing groundnuts.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 12, 2022


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