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Addis Merkato (Amharic for "New Market", popularly just Merkato or Mercato, 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.

The Addis Merkato was instituted by segregationist policies of the Italian occupational government. 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. Source: wikipedia encyclopedia

Current Picture of Mercato:

See satelite image of Mercato:,38.742149&spn=0.010108,0.018926&t=h&z=16

Facts about Mercato
  • Located in the heart of Addis Ababa
  • For all consumer products it is the main market center in whole Ethiopia
  • Merkato's area is between 1-2 million meter square (1-2 km2) with very few buildings which has 1 floor (less than 25%)
  • There are more than 7,100 business entities in this market
  • It may look like a slam, but in terms of economic value per land area, incomparably it's number 1 in any part of Ethiopia, How? good question:
    • It's land lease value is the highest about 10,000 birr per square meter
    • shop rent is also the highest going as far as 500 birr per meter square per month
    • Total Daily transaction is in 10s of millions of birr
    • All kinds of merchandise products, services can be found in this market. There is nothing you cant find in this market

Now my question is: If Mercato has these economic values why not we dont see that much construction booming in this area? We all know most renown business men, richest men in Ethiopia bases their richness from this market for example: Yemiru Nega (Dembel city center), Yesu enterprise (owns half a billion birr steel factory), Getu commercial, Al-sam (B-29 soap and alsam chelelek building mexico square) Duguma Hunde (DH-Geda) Natran company and among others......

Obviously to develop mercato we need money in billions of birr which will be difficult to achieve by an individual. From other countries experience large constructions are made not by just individuals but by shares. Doing business in share is at empahancy level in Ethiopia. However, there are many Ethiopian Successful companies which managed to attract share valued in 10s of millions of birr. One recent good example is Habesha Cement factory, as of now which managed to get shares valued at 400 million birr. So if Habesha Cement factory can mange to attract that much money, there is no way Mercato's development cant get that much money, if it has some educated and renown business men in its organization.From the following simple calculation you can easily calculate Return on investment for Mercato development:

Why don't we Develop Mercato, us Ethiopians instead of foreigners?
Plan is to construct only shopping complex with a land area of 50,000 meter square, having 4 floors and total built up area of 50,000 x 6 floors (including ground and ground for parking) = 300,000 meter square

Therefore total built up area is 300,000 meter square

Land Cost
According to Addis Ababa city administration, last land lease auction in Mercato was auctioned as far as 10,000 birr per m2, so we will take 10,000 birr/m2 as land lease cost. For the 50,000 m2 land area first payment will be 10 million birr and the remainder to be paid over 20 years

Construction cost
Here is 2006 construction cost for Ethiopia:
  • Apartment G+4 & tower building with elevator facility: 2,300 birr-2,800 birr per m2 source:
  • Condominium G+4 : 1,110 birr per m2
  • Therefore lets take the maximum 2,800 birr per m2, if contruction cost increase by 15% per year then after 5 years (in 2011) it will be 5,630 birr/m2

Total cost
So for this project we need a total of 1.7 billion birr
  • land: 10 million birr
  • Construction cost: 5,630 birr x 300,000 m2 = 1.689 billion birr

Revenue and profit:
Total Annual revenue would be 628 million birr
  • Currently minimum rent in Mercato is 200 birr/m2
  • Total area to be rented for shops (250,000 m2 x 85%)= 212,000 m2. So if rent price increase by 10% each year by 2011 it will be 242 birr/m2
  • Total area for parking= 50,000 m2 (5,000 cars) parking fee will be 1 birr/hour
  • Revenue from rented shops: 212,000 x 242= 51.3 million birr/month
  • Revenu from parking: 1 million birr/month
  • Therefore total annual revenue will be 52.3 x 12 = 628 million birr

Pay back time: 1.689 billion birr/0.628 billion birr= 2.69 years

Financing the project
Financing this project should come 50% from loan and 50% from investors. Based on Habesha Cement factory's experience (so far collected 400 million birr) in my opinion it is also possible to attract as much as 845 million birr. If the project is launched the first share buyers will definitely be Mercato's business men, they are definitely the first beneficiaries (especially for those one who cant afford to build their own shops by comparing with the bigger investors)

Other useful informations can be found below:

Mutu ya Chuma.
43,873 Posts
Not every country on the continent want to have this kind of market. and why so big of these markets?

People want to have modern markets , not this last option style.

4,893 Posts
Mercato as an open market is a better attraction than a mall. Just improving on the the vendor stalls and shelters instead of turning it into a large typical mall. It's already a tourist spot people know of Mercato, but then you have that unpredictable rain in Addis. I hate enclosed malls they should keep it open air still just to keep that feel. But that is for the Ethiopians to decide but as a tourist cruising there how are you going to persuade all those vendors?

Open Mall

Aviation Expert
1,737 Posts
there are many places in africa that claim to having the largest market. bamako, onitsha, merkato, Ouagadougou, and now Luanda.

177 Posts
I actually love outdoor open market malls, shopping areas etc.

They are actually very trendy in the U.S. and Europe where I have traveled (it seems the developed world has sort of taken the idea from the 3rd world and took off with it). If you visit suburban areas in the U.S. for example- outdoor malls are basically the only place people shop.

Here is a good article about it:

Of course outdoor malls and outdoor food markets are not the same thing but Merkato if I am not mistaken is more like a mall (with clothing, tools, electronics...whatever you could want lol).

I think its a great idea threadstarter. Post more info on your ideas and I will comment further.

Mutu ya Chuma.
43,873 Posts

I love that one , really nice and chea to build.

The only thing is to enforce the rules about " sanitation". Making sure they are clean.

People will be paying a little tax to help maintain them clean.

Premium Member
33,246 Posts
The outdoor mall design would be pretty nice for many parts of Africa, especially in dry areas. As for open air markets, they have their "kitsch" factor, but personally, I would not shed a tear if one was replaced with a more modern looking shopping center.
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