Addis Merkato (Amharic: መርካቶ for "New Market", popularly just Merkato, from the Italian for "market") is the name for the large open-air marketplace in the Addis Ketema district of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and for the neighborhood in which it is located.
Merkato is the largest open air market in Africa, covering several square miles and employing an estimated 13,000 people in 7,100 business entities. The primary merchandise passing through the Merkato is locally-grown agricultural products — most notably coffee.
Prior to the current Merkato, there was a famous open market place in Addis Ababa near St. George Church at the site where the City Hall stands now but it lasted only until the invading Italian forces of the 1930s and moved it further west to the area around the premises of Fitawrari Habte Georgis. The centre was moved because the occupying fascist forces wanted to keep the local people and their pack animals away from the areas where they resided and ran businesses. Then the Italians built Piazza separately and opened some European style shops that displayed commodities through glass windows, a practice which was not welcome by natives at that time. Thus, the Addis Merkato was instituted by segregationist policies of the Italian occupational government. The Italians called new place Merkato Indigino which means market of the indigenous. They restricted the historic St. George Merkato to Europeans, causing the mostly Arab tradesmen to relocate a half mile to the west. Over time, local shopkeepers displaced the Arab merchants and, since the 1960s, the Addis Merkato has had a mostly local flavor. The Mercato Dijino did not have any plan and gradually grew in width and breadth taking different categorical stocks called “terras”.
- Zewde, Bahru. (1991) A History of Modern Ethiopia. London: James Currey.
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