Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A little rain, a little traffic, a little meeting in the 'hood.

I can't be the only one chuckling at this: Nairobi hosted East Africa's World Social Forum (WSF) 2007 where all the lefties, greens, civil society beasts and other fringe types come together to wag a collective finger at Evil Corporations and Bad Governments. This year Dar gets to host the World Economic Forum on Africa where Governments and CEOs come together to make big economic plans, preferably without the drippy intrusions of the fringy folks. Nairobi got the Lefties. Dar got the Corporates. What is the world coming to?

Whatever. My real beef here is congestion- something that has been bothering Bongolanders of all vehicular stripes since the masika rains decided to go for broke. I wasn't going to say anything- lord knows there's been enough yakking about drainage systems and urban planning to satisfy the bitterest grouser. However the combination of flooding, road damage and totally insane road closures because of the WEF has tipped us over the edge of RIDICULOUS commuting times. Oh, you should hear the pathetic stories from people who live in the Outer Reaches of Beyond, like Kimara. Waking up at 4:00 or earlier to wade through backed up sewage/drainage pipes and being forced to push their stalled daladalas. It is inhumane.

So while it is nice to hold this Big Important Meeting to which Watus Are Not Really Invited right here in Dar es Salaam, my beloved center of the universe, I must admit regretfully that we don't seem to have the infrastructure for it. Mister Popularity was cracking jokes amidst his thinly veiled threats to TUCTA about not striking tomorrow, but if they do and lock up the city center we're going to end up killing each other at gridlocked intersections.

Likelihood is that tommorow is the endtimes anyways. They are closing Ali Hassan Mwinyi for four hours per day! Decades of Tanzanian civilization will be wiped out in one day. We should have traded in a couple of State House Taxis for helicopters so that your people could fly these Very Important Nuisances hither and yon and leave us alone. Because life is already plenty hard enough. Just sayin', Jay Kay. You'll be that president, know what I mean? The Weffers might go home with fond memories of how fresh the fish was from the buffet and how gorgeous the view from Level 8, but we the Watus will remember it a little differently.


  1. "The Outer Reaches of Beyond, like Kimara."

    LOL! What about people in Kunduchi or Tegeta ;-)

    In all seriousness, I have been hearing all these horror stories and they bring back unpleasant memories of driving through "urban lakes" back in the day :-)

    The only solution I can see is if they built a subway. Just start with a station at Mwenge, another at Ubungo and another one downtown. I guess they could also encourage more offices to relocate out of the city or maybe try to build more houses on the other side in Kigamboni.

    Because otherwise I can only see it getting worse as more people get cars.


  2. Nice piece! I feel people's pain. Dar es Salaam with its infrastructural challenges was not the ideal place to host a meeting of this magnitude. But I hope we will learn from this experience. Flyovers, bridges and subway are not the solution to the current woes. We got here due to poor urban planning practices. It is time we seriously think of strategies to disperse workers, mama ntilie, wachuuzi wa samaki, wafanyabiashara, wamachinga etc who all converge to the city to meet their various needs. These groups need to move in different directions in the morning and in the evening.

    The investment to improve traffic congestion in the choked up city can be better used to set up a satellite city, a new Dar es Salaam in Bagamoyo or Kibaha.

  3. @ dr. bob: a subway? in dar? wow. how could you? the potential for public transportation disaster is unlimited...
    @faustine: the city has already moved most of the petty traders out. question is: how do you get rid of all the car-driving, middle class people working in city center at the banks, the corporate headquarters, the embassies and government offices? and of course, all the support services that cater to them...

  4. Faustine, as Elsie suggests, the vendors and service providers in town are not only meeting their own various needs but also providing services for which there is a need. Did the last operation to 'clean' them off the streets make any significant positive difference to anything?

    The planning mess that is Dar es Salaam was not caused by street vendors - lets get that straight. It is the responsibility of inept and often corrupt civil servants and political leaders. Leave the hawkers alone! It's easy to blame the little guy.

  5. Gosh Faustine, shemeji umechemsha...where do you think people will make a living if you take out the mama ntiilies and the like. not everyone working or living in the city can afford to be shopping at the malls or even has the time to get to the shops in kariakoo. with all the construction going up, where will be people eat. you know those guys have to buy their own food, its not provided for by the construction companies.

    who do you think takes care of our bourgeois lifestyle...

  6. We have enough architects and Engineers to put to work!

    Loved it E, especially "you'll be THAT president"

  7. Ha, hadn't thought about that. The heartless capitalists hosted the bleeding-heart liberalist function, and the we're-all-equal socialists hosted the how-much-can-i-make-i-mean-invest-in-your-wonderful-country bottom-line capitalist! Nice one, life.

    The road closures turned out to be not-so-much. But I wonder about the effects of yesterday's downpour - I didn't venture out...

    Reliable, clean public transport would go a long way to minimising congestion, for a while anyway, I believe. If I knew I wouldn't have to fight to get on an overstuffed bus, and had some indication of timings between arrivals/departures from stops, I would definitely use public transport. Ooh, is my bourgie-ness showing? Kweli Yataka Moyo

  8. When dealing with congestion, I'm an advocate of painting white lines on the road! When the AU was launched in Addis,the town was spruced up (and all the homeless rounded up and detained..) and white lines were painted on the roads. The impact on people's driving was phenomenal. Now it could be clearly seen who was being an A hole and who was not. And less judgementally, drivers knew where they were meant to be. And driving improved, and congestion decreased. Just a few pots of paint.

    Unfortunately, they used a cheap paint so after a couple of months they faded away and we were back to the same old same old.....


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