What is causing the growing pains being experienced by Dar es Salaam and other rapidly expanding African cities?
According to a World Bank report, the answer is largely a lack of foresight.
The report does not paint a pretty picture of Dar, especially for low income and impoverished city-dwellers, many of whom came to the city in search of employment opportunities.
Poor infrastructure, inadequate city planning, a focus on non-tradable goods and services, and regulatory constraints are among the issues restricting investment and hampering the economic growth of rapidly expanding cities.
At the same time, urban centres are becoming increasingly expensive, unhealthy and overcrowded.
Housing costs and availability in Dar have become so restrictive that 28 percent of residents are now living at least three people to a single room, says the report.
More and more urban residents are forced to live in informal housing communities like the Tandale shanty community, built upon a garbage heap in Kinondoni.
According to the report, Dar has the second highest transportation costs of the major African cities noted in the report: about 10 percent of household budgets in Dar are spent on inefficient and unaffordable transportation from the outskirts to the city centre.
But it gets worse: the poorest fifth of Dar’s population spends 50 percent of its household budget for the return trip to and from the city centre.
And worse: nearly 60 percent of households in Dar share toilet facilities and over half of Dar’s residents use unimproved pit latrines; only one percent have access to a flush toilet and piped sewer system.
Residents’ access to water is equally unimpressive: just 15 percent have piped water, 17 percent rely on water vendors and bottled water, and 43 percent use water from a neighbour.
The silver lining: in the last decade or so, Dar has doubled its road length and area devoted to roads.
This increase in infrastructure should help support industry through reduced transportation costs, greater access to new markets and increased investment in the tradable goods and services sectors.
Given that Dar is expected to become a ‘megacity’ of 10 million people by 2030, the report recommends that these challenges be addressed unless Dar wants to remain ‘closed to the world.’