The Ancient Practice of Bartering Continues to Thrive in Esuk Mba

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Traders in the village of Esuk Mba in Akpabuyo, a local government area, located in Southern Nigeria, usually don’t receive any money for their goods. Built upon the practice of bartering and founded in 1956, a local market sees villagers exchanging one item for the next. 

With origins in Mesopotamia, according to MintLife, the age-old practice of bartering was adopted by multiple cultures over time.

Phonecians sent goods to cities across the sea. Babylonians traded food, tea, weapons and seasonings like salt. Europeans bartered furs and more for fineries such as silk. Additionally, the idea of trading goods or bartering had a substantial impact on the history of Africa and its views on societal status in terms of both “wealth and power.”

“Whatever they give me, I collect. If it’s not good, I leave it. It’s helping us mothers and our children,” said trader Arit Ekpo about the Esuk Mba Market, which a sign captured by Africanews lists as the “Home of Trade By Barter.”

Many grew up coming to the market with their families and are aware of its importance to the community. 

“It reminds us and reminds our children that there was a time that money did not answer all the problems,” said Commissioner for Commerce, Cross River State, Rosemary Archibong in an interview with BBC.

The overall structure of the market does come with a few issues some locals would like to resolve. Despite being a weekly market, it only operates on Saturdays between 7 a.m and 12 p.m, which trader Merit Akon wants to change. 

“I want the market to last longer, from morning ‘til evening,” said Akon in an interview with BBC.

Offiong Etim Okon, a fellow trader, said she has been coming to the market since she was young and listed yam, cassava, fish and crayfish as examples of exchangeable items.

“Because we are here, there’s no money to buy things. We are always exchanging by trade through barter,” Okon told the news outlet.

However, traders sometimes do receive money from tourists or from selling goods outside of the local market, which goes towards paying bills such as school fees.

Overall, it looks like the bartering system which helps to combat inflation is here to stay.

“Trade by barter can never be abolished here in Cross Rivers State, in as much as Akpabuyo is concerned and Esuk Mba in general. We cannot abolish the system,” said Akapabuyo’s traditional leader, Chief Edem Duke.

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