Tanzania`s White elephant – When will we ever learn?

30 July 2012

The Dar es Salaam city authorities built the Machinga Business Complex with a loan from an investment bank, reputably worth 71 million USD. It was designed as a centre for small businesses. It is a disastrous white elephant – 3 large 5 storey buildings with cage like stalls in narrow ranks. Apart from the outside stalls on the ground floor, with some suitcases and kanga cloth traders, it is virtually empty. It was inaugurated 2 years ago and is based on a Chinese design.

Machinga Business Complex Narrow unattactive spacing - No one will go there to buy our goods! Unoccupied stalls in Machinga

Across the football pitch on the other side stands the real market for local kanga cloths – there is a dirt floor, leaking corrugated iron roofing and the stalls are wooden self-constructed benches. There is no storage space so the traders rent places in nearby houses. Business is good and many cooperative members are able to pay for school fees for their children from the sales. The kanga cooperative has 200 members and democratically elects its council every year.

The co operative President and TUICO(Tanzanian Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers) Branch Secretary, Anton, commented that they were never consulted about the new market. “It is very expensive – they are charging Tz$ 60,000 per month and the stalls are much too small – it doesn`t suit our needs and no customer is going to climb up the stairs to buy cloth from us there.” he said

Others had commented that they need to change the design of the stalls and to get better public transport that goes to the building premises.

A bit further away is the ILala second-hand clothes market and vegetable market. The cooperative members there are also members of TUICO and give the same story – “We can`t move there because it is much too expensive – here we are charged $200 per day. People don`t want to carry heavy loads of clothing upstairs like that -and there is no transport. This market is here because it is near the out-of-town buses and the sellers can arrive easily and take their goods to the buses easily.”

Behind the second-hand clothes stall is an informal fruit and vegetable market. Representatives of TUICO and StreetNet met the Chawana coconut sellers cooperative, also a member of TUICO, and the vegetable sellers cooperative, who complained about being harassed by the officials. “We used to work around the main central market at Kariakoo. But then the police drove us away so we came here. We are only allowed to trade between 6am-10 am. When the police blow the whistle, it is time for us to leave. We try and push for longer, we want to trade all day. And the police are often not correct- they should charge us Tz$ 200 every day but sometimes they can ask for more- up to Tz$ 1000 or else they will take our goods. Here the police make things very hard for the street vendors,” one of the avocado sellers explained.

“It is sad to think what benefits there might have been for the over 50,000 street and market vendors in Dar if they had been consulted about their needs before investing in a building that no one wants nor uses. Would that the city authorities had listened, as StreetNet slogan says: “Nothing for us, without us!” commented Nora Wintour, Campaigns Coordinator of StreetNet.