Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

The Alhazai of Maradi: Traditional Hausa Merchants in a Changing Sahelian City

Emmanuel Gregoire, translated by Benjamin H. Hardy
ISBN: 978-1-55587-278-6
1992/185 pages/LC: 91-35195

"Valuable and full of facts... and fun to read."—African History

"Plaudits to Benjamin Hardy and Lynne Rienner Publishers for making Emmanuel Gregoire's Les Alhazai de Maradi (Niger): Histoire d'un groupe de riches marchands saheliens available to the broader English-speaking audience. . . .Hardy has done us a great service in making this book available in English, and his sensible and restrained editorial contributions to the work are most useful."—The International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Gregoire deftly traces the links between the rising fortunes of the Alhazai and the development of Maradi. . . . Written in a concise, readable style. . . . A perceptive analysis of growth and change [deserving] a place in the library of any scholar interested in the social and economic consequences of Third World urbanization."—Journal of Cultural Geography


The West African town of Maradi, capital of a prestigious nineteenth century Hausa chiefdom, became a trading center during the colonial period, and after Niger's independence in 1960, its prosperity and growth accelerated. Maradi's population increase (from 9,000 inhabitants in 1954 to nearly 100,000 by 1986) was accompanied by rapid social change, including the emergence of a rich business class known as the Alhazai, men steeped in the values of Islam but skilled in merchant capitalism. (Alhazai is the plural of the Hausa honorific Alhaji, accorded to any Moslem who has made the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca.) Highly esteemed in Niger, the Alhazai proudly bear the title as a symbol of their economic success. This book traces the history of Maradi and the accession to power and prestige of the Alhazai: When and how did they acquire their wealth? Why do they hold such a privileged place in local society? How do they conduct their business and are they motivated solely by profit? How do they interact with other participants in the economy and society? Answers to these questions provide a glimpse of social change in the making, as traditional and modern influences merge.


Emmanuel Gregoire, a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, is a frequent visitor to Niger. He holds a masters degree in economics from the University of Paris I and a doctorate in tropical geography from the University of Bordeaux III. Benjamin Hardy holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. A former diplomat and banker, he is a consultant on economic development in French-speaking West Africa.


  • Introduction.
  • The City and Its Environment.
  • Maradi's Political and Economic Roles in the 19th Century.
  • Establishment of Colonial Power and Trade.
  • Growth of the Peanut Trade Under Colonialism.
  • Structural Reforms Following Independence.
  • Effects of Drought on Commerce in Agricultural and Pastoral Products.
  • Development of Large-Scale Commerce.
  • Other Urban Economic Activities.
  • Formation of a Bourgeoisie—the Alhazai.
  • Life of the Working Class.