The great Dantokpa market in Cotonou, the end of an era

Throughout this week, Africa Economy invites you to explore the systemic transformations of the Beninese economy The renovation of the Beninese markets is one of the government’s major projects. The large Dantokpa market in Cotonou will be closed. A real revolution for the inhabitants of Cotonou, since this market, more than a century old, is emblematic of the country.

“I was born here, in Dantokpa. “For half a century, Paulette Loko has lived and worked in the Dantokpa market, where she sells jewelry. “I like the crowd. When I’m sitting here, even if I’m not selling anything, it’s my show,” she says.

A few stalls away, Razack, a fabric seller, does not imagine the state could close this market, famous throughout West Africa. “Dantokpa market has already existed for a century. Me, I am over fifty years old and the market was already there in the time of my father and mother. Me, what I am asking our rulers is to think carefully because the day they close the market, the country will be a bit knocked out,’ he warns.

25 hectares, at least 35,000 traders, Dantokpa is a city within a city. The decision to close it is in accordance with a health requirement, explains José Tonato, the minister responsible for the residential environment and urban development: “There is a total mix of genres and commercial activities, from retail to wholesale, mixing all types of products, agricultural products, manufactured products, precious products, textiles, jewelry, cosmetics, etc. And it had become a real black spot in the heart of the city of Cotonou.A critical point from an environmental point of view that had to be tackled at all costs.

Read also: Benin: in the markets of Cotonou, customers and traders face sky-high prices

Max is a fabric wholesaler, in the business for 28 years. The closure of Dantokpa and the announced relocation of traders to other markets worries him. He fears that customers, especially those from neighboring countries, will not follow suit. For him, the authorities should better explain their choice. “There was no trip from the authorities to the traders to explain to them. They make their decision and we suffer.”

An argument that Minister José Tonato sweeps away. While Dantokpa is closing, nine other markets in Cotonou are being renovated and expanded to accommodate Dantokpa traders. “It is the association of market users with the presidents of the offices of each market who have visited the construction sites to assess the products that will be made available to them and above all to realize that we have fully taken their concerns taken into account,” assured the minister.

A total of 20 Beninese markets, including nine in Cotonou, are being renovated and expanded. A wholesale market is emerging in Calavi, a suburb of Cotonou. An entire urban renewal policy. As for the Dantokpa site, it will be redeveloped into a riviera with an office area. And faced with the feelings of the residents of Cotonou, Minister Tonato is considering leaving a memorial there. “Perhaps in the form of a small symbolic market, occupying one hectare out of the 25 available, it is not out of the question. I understand your concern, it will be done.

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