How an Emerging African Megacity Cut Commutes by Two Hours a Day

Could Dar es Salaam’s experiment with Africa’s first ‘gold standard’ bus rapid transit system offer an alternative to a future dependent on private cars?

Dusk falls in Dar es Salaam, and for hundreds of thousands of people in this African megacity-to-be the daily chaos and frustration of the journey home begins.

People cram themselves into dalla dalla minibuses, some even climbing through the windows once the entrance is blocked. Others hang out of the doors, but the Kilwa Road heading south towards Mbagala slum is jammed and these diesel-belchers are going nowhere fast.

On Bagamoyo Road to the wealthier areas in the north, solo drivers in blacked-out 4x4s sit stationary too – captive customers for the hawkers who trudge up and down the traffic jams selling charging cables and garish wall clocks, carved wooden animals and plastic skipping ropes. Their metal and glass boxes are expensive and air-conditioned, but they’re still boxes.

So far, so normal for a sprawling megalopolis of 6 million with virtually no public transport and only eight lanes of major road heading to and from the centre.

Dar es Salaam, the de facto capital of Tanzania, is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. Its population has increased eightfold since 1980 and swells by half a million people every year. The latest UN projections anticipate it will become a megacity within seven years as its population passes 10 million, reaching 13.4 million by 2035. A paper by Daniel Hoornweg for the Global Cities Institute forecasts the city could be home to an incredible 73.7 million people by 2100.

In 2018, four out of five of its people live in single-storey informal settlements on the sprawling fringes, where the journey to and from the centre regularly takes over two hours. It can be longer if rain turns dirt roads to mud.

But Dar es Salaam is pinning its hopes on a solution that could offer a different model for Africa’s megacities, giving them an alternative to a future in thrall to the private car. Unlike many cities on the continent, Dar es Salaam isn’t trying to build a metro. It has chosen a less sexy but cheaper and more achievable route: the bus.

A dalla dalla bus on the flooded Bagamoyo Road.

Even in the middle of the day, traffic frequently grinds to a halt without warning. It is not unusual for cars and minibuses to queue for 20 minutes at a single pinch-point intersection. A lone suburban rail line serves residents in a few areas to the south but is tiny in the context of the wider city. Outside the centre many rely on boda boda motorbike taxis to navigate the narrow side alleys and potholed mud roads that make up much of the metropolis. Their safety record is notorious.

Dar es Salaam’s reliance on four arterial roads – two lanes each way for the most part, one lane in places – is a legacy of the colonial government that planned the city at the start of the 20th century for a population of 35,000. Most of the growth is made up of young people arriving from the countryside to find work, and as the population has exploded Dar es Salaam has grown around those four highways. Nearly all the expansion is happening on the periphery, and nearly all is informal and unplanned.

Until recently, Morogoro Road, the arterial serving the north-west, was one of the most congested and polluted. “It was just dalla dallas,” remembers Ulisses Navarro, a consultant on the city’s original Dart bus rapid transit design in 2005, as we squeeze on to a packed bus for the long trip out towards the edge of the city. “That was the only way for people living out here. It was one of the worst.”

The Dart system boasts bus lanes separated from other traffic, mostly in the middle of the road to reduce stoppages. Ticket payment and control takes place at stations rather than on board, while step-free stations and boarding mean the entire route is accessible to people in wheelchairs or with buggies.

We get on the first bus fine, but for the return journey have to wait for three buses before there is space to board. You should have seen how bad it was before, says Navarro.

The average journey time from the centre to the terminus at Kimara has been slashed from two hours each way to just 45 minutes, according to sustainable transport group the ITDP. That adds up to a saving of around 50 hours a month for the average bus passenger making the full trip. The ITDP awarded the system Africa’s only “gold standard” bus rapid transit (BRT) rating.

“The new buses are much, much better,” says Paulas George, a young IT worker waiting at Manzese station. He takes the bus every day and it has cut his journey time by two-thirds. He says it is not perfect though, complaining drivers sometimes turn off the air conditioning to save fuel.

That is not the only teething problem. A shortage of buses after the main depot flooded during the 2017 rainy season means the system is carrying 200,000 people a day – half the expected capacity. Smartcard readers at station entrances aren’t working either, forcing passengers to buy individual paper tickets for every journey. Each is printed with a scannable QR code, but there are no scanners. Station staff stand by the gates and tear tickets as people enter. Lines are long at peak times.

Morogoro Road was phase I of the BRT project. Phases II and III will install bus lanes along Nyerere Road to the south-west and Kilwa Road to the south. Construction on both routes is due to start imminently. Phase IV, towards Bagamoyo in the north, is in the preliminary design stage.

“Much of the city will have access to a world-class transport system within the space of a few years,” says Chris Kost, the ITDP’s Africa director. All phases are being planned to gold standards and, once complete, a third of city residents will be within a 10-minute walk of the BRT network.

The ITDP bemoans Africa’s obsession with metros. Lagos in Nigeria – the largest city in the world without a functioning mass transit system – has been trying to build a metro since the 1980s. In the latest of many incarnations, the project was supposed to begin operations in 2012 at a cost of $2.4bn (£1.9bn). Six years after the supposed start date, construction is “nowhere near complete”, says Kost.

Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, began construction of a metro last year. The French-financed and -built line is projected to carry 500,000 passengers a day at a cost of $1.7bn. Dar es Salaam’s bus system, by contrast, has capacity for 400,000 people and cost less than a 10th of that – about $150m.

Addis Ababa in Ethiopia opened a Chinese-built and -operated light rail line last year at a cost of $475m. Shenzhen Metro Group has a deal to run it for the first five years.

“With a metro, an international firm will often just parachute in its own system,” says Kost. “Bus rapid transit allows existing stakeholders to get involved. That’s what we did in Dar es Salaam and what we’re planning in Nairobi, where the bus bodies will be built in the city and local operators will look after tickets, fare collection and IT. It’s good for the development of the local economy.”

So why are these cities choosing the metro over the bus? Karol Zemek, the editor of Metro Report International, says trains can carry far more passengers than buses, have higher speeds, reduce emissions – and deliver a status boost buses cannot match. “Metro is the top end of mass transit,” he says. “If you want to carry large numbers of people you cannot beat it, and moving large numbers of people around the city is crucial for economic growth.”

Kost, though, sees it more as political expediency. “Because metro systems don’t take up road space and don’t take away from cars then they are politically easier,” he says. “Politicians see it as a big project with no sacrifices. But what if it never gets built? What if what is built is too expensive and so limited in size it leaves the majority of city residents no better off?

“It can be tempting for those in power, but is it really addressing the needs of people of the city? Bus rapid transit has been transformational for Dar es Salaam. For millions of people in African cities, this is their best hope of ever being connected.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

From The Hippo’s Ears: Tanzania

Contributions by Joyceline.

Facts you may not have know about Tanzania:

Tanzania, officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a sovereign state in eastern Africa, within the African Great Lakes region. The country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1961, becoming Tanganyika, and has a population of over 55 million people.

Since 1996, its official capital city has been Dodoma, where the President’s office, the National Assembly, and some government ministries are located. Dar es Salaam, the former capital, retains most government offices, and is the country’s largest city, principal port, and leading commercial center.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania, and is a popular destination for explorers.

 

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

When meeting someone, common greetings are “Mambo!” or “Jambo!” Alternatively, out of respect for younger or elderly people, a greeting of “Shikamoo” is also common.

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

While there are no official languages, Kiswahili is the national language. Swahili is used in parliamentary debate, in the lower courts, and as a medium of instruction in primary school. English is used in foreign trade, in diplomacy, in higher courts, and as a medium of instruction in secondary and higher education.

More than 100 languages are spoken in Tanzania, making it the most linguistically diverse country in East Africa. Among the languages spoken are all four of Africa’s language families: Bantu, Cushitic, Nilotic, and Khoisan.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 12-hour clock.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the left side of the road. Roads are generally in poor conditions. Most transport in Tanzania is by road, with road transport constituting over 75 percent of the country’s freight traffic, and 80 percent of its passenger traffic.

5. How important is punctuality?

Punctuality is not of utmost importance in Tanzania, with many people often running late. Despite this, productivity is high.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Hip hop and gospel music are both popular. With a fusion of local and foreign music traditions, Tanzanian musicians have grown in prominence within the African Great Lakes region. Popular musicians include Dionys Mbilinyi, Sabinus Komba, John Lisu, Paul Clement, and Christina Shusho.

For a taste of Tanzanian music, listen to Christina Shusho’s Ninanga’ra, and Paul Clement’s Namba Moja.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

In many areas in Tanzania, dance and drums are used as part of celebrations, and is seen by some as a way to preserve important parts of the country’s history and traditions.

For an example of Tanzanian Haya dancing, click here. The Haya area group of people residing in northwestern Tanzania.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Bagamoyo Festival of Arts and Culture is a seven-day event that is held in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. It features music, dance, drama, acrobatics and many other arts related activities. It takes place every year at the end of September.

First run in 2003, the legendary East African Safari Classic Rally is a nine-day rally covering up to 5,000 kilometres through Kenya and Tanzania. Safari Classic rekindles the spirit of the original Safari Rally, which put East Africa on the motorsport map and earned an unassailable reputation as the world’s toughest rally.

The Wanyambo Festival is one of the best opportunities to check out the local culture of Tanzania in early January. The event is staged in the northern area of Dar es Salaam known as Makumbusho, with lots of traditional music, dance, costumes, and food.

The Marahaba Swahili Music Festival is a festival which happens annually in the city of Dar es Salaam since 2012. It offers a platform for local unknown and popular musicians/bands and cultural troupes to showcase their musicianship, artistry and the rich cultural music of Tanzania.

9. What are the seasons like?

Climate varies greatly within Tanzania. In the highlands, temperatures range between 10 and 20 °C (50 and 68 °F) during cold and hot seasons respectively. The rest of the country has temperatures rarely falling lower than 20 °C (68 °F).

The north and east of Tanzania experience two distinct wet periods – the short rains (Vuli) in October to December, and the long rains (Masika) from March to May. The southern, western, and central parts of the country experience one wet season that continues October through to April or May.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

Dr John Joseph Magufuli has been Tanzania’s President since 2015. He is the Chairman of the center-left Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, and previously served as a member of the Tanzanian Cabinet, since 1995. Before politics, he taught chemistry and mathematics at The Sengerema Secondary School, and was subsequently an industrial chemist at The Nyanza Cooperative Union Limited.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

The Tanzanian economy is heavily based on agriculture, which in 2013 accounted for just under a quarter of the country’s GDP.

Industry and construction is a major and growing component of the Tanzanian economy. This component includes mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity and natural gas, water supply, and construction.

Tourism, banking, and telecommunications sectors are also strong components of the Tanzanian economy.

12. How do people spend their free time?

Many Tanzanians are social, enjoying spending time with their family and friends, and may come to visit without notice.

13. What do people drink?

Mbenge, Kibuku, and Mulamba are popular among Tanzanians.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Ugali (maize meal) – a type of porridge – is very popular. It can be served with fish, beans, or fruit, as well as plain yogurt.

Tanzanian cuisine is both unique and widely varied. Along the coastal regions (Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, and Pemba), spicy foods are common, and there is also much use of coconut milk. Regions in Tanzania’s mainland also have their own unique foods. Some typical mainland Tanzanian foods include wali (rice), ugali (maize porridge), chapati (a kind of bread), nyama choma (grilled meat), mshikaki (marinated beef), samaki (fish), pilau, biriyani, and ndizi-nyama (plantains with meat).

Vegetables commonly used in Tanzania include bamia (okra), mchicha (a kind of spinach), njegere (green peas), maharage (beans), and kisamvu (cassava leaves). Tanzania grows at least 17 different types of bananas which is used for soup, stew, and chips.

Famous Tanzanian snack foods include maandazi (fried dough), isheti, kashata (coconut bars), kabaab (kebab), sambusa (samosa), mkate wa kumimina (Zanzibari rice bread), vileja, vitumbua (rice patties), bagia, and many others.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. TZS 2,284)

Milk (1 liter): TZS 9,000
Coca cola (330 ml): TZS 1,100
Cup of coffee: TZS 4,000
3 Course meal: TZS 34,000
Domestic beer: TZS 2,500
Loaf of bread: TZS 1,300
Apples (1 kg): 6,000

16. Any general safety tips?

Don’t walk around alone late at night, and maintain awareness even during the day.
If possible, use a more concealed, smaller bag, rather than a large backpack.
Keep a means of contact, such as a cell phone, on you at all times.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

Filbert Bayi, a former Tanzanian middle-distance runner of the 1970s who set the world records for 1500 metres in 1974 and the mile in 1975. He is still the 1500 m Commonwealth Games record holder.

Julius Nyerere, a Tanzanian anti-colonial activist, politician, and political theorist. He governed Tanganyika as its Prime Minister from 1961 to 1963 and then as its President from 1963 to 1964, after which he led its successor state, Tanzania, as its President from 1964 until 1985. He was a founding member of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) party and later a member of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. Ideologically an African nationalist and African socialist, he promoted a political philosophy known as Ujamaa.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14], [15]. Image sources: Antônio Soletti (Unsplash) [1].

Immigration changes in Tanzania

The Tanzanian Immigration Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs has recently imposed significant additional company document requirements on foreign employees applying for residence permits. Applicants for Class A and B residence permits should take note that the Immigration Department is now requiring the following corporate documents from their sponsoring employers:

  • Letter stating the current status of shareholders from the Registrar of Companies of the Business Registration and Licensing Authority (BRELA), including immigration status if shareholder is a foreign national;
  • Tax Clearance Certificate from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA); and
  • Certified copies of the employer’s tax payment slips from the TRA.

Sponsoring companies should take note that these new documents should be obtained early in their foreign employees’ immigration processes in order to avoid delays in obtaining their residence permits once the work permit is issued by the Ministry of Labor.

While still one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of per capita income, Tanzania’s economy has grown at an impressive average of 6+ percent over the last five years, making it one of Africa’s five fastest growing economies. However, much of that growth is still being propped-up by some ongoing government investment in infrastructure construction projects, and foreign investors are still leery of the frequent government policy changes of President John Magufuli’s administration.