Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Traffic Jams in Dar es Salaam city: Blowing away benefits of agglomeration

Traffic Jams in Dar es Salaam city: Blowing away benefits of agglomeration

By Elly Chuma

Dar es Salaam, the nucleus of Tanzanian economy, is the fastest growing city in East Africa. Prospect of good life beckons and attracts all classes and types of people in Tanzania; at the same time becomes the famous for traffic jams which are eating up the benefits of agglomeration economies.
Like other cities Dar es Salaam agglomeration is not an accident episode, since the city located on a natural harbour on the Indian Ocean which serves almost 90 percent of all imports. This harbour is the heart of the Tanzanian transportation system as all of the country's main railways Tanzania and Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) and Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL), and several highways originate in the city. Presence of more than 15 universities, good hospitals, schools has attracted many firms to locate their businesses in the city and workers to find jobs. Firms and workers locate in Dar es Salaam because this city offers a bunch of benefit, varying from product varieties, availability of workers, jobs, and so many amenities which are very difficult to get at low prices in other cities.

The city is the main engine of economic growth and serves as a major administrative, commercial, and industrial centre in Tanzania compared to other 29 regions. It is really surprising that this city contributes of 80 percent of the total GDP and home of one half of total manufacturing employees of the country. Dar es Salaam has invariably been an attractive, persuading centripetal centre, making its population one among of the most fast-growing in Africa. The city population has been double in last decades from 2.5 million in 2002 to approximately 5 million in 2012. The rural-urban migration into Dar es Salaam has involved different groups of people but young people are dominating. This group is looking for employment, with neither capital nor skills to undertake gainful business.

Transport problem in Dar es Salaam is a recent disease. Thanks to the government who did not make significant initiative to build new roads or rehabilitation of the existing ones. The fact that this city does not have rapid mass system, small buses do not offer enough services, consequently ownership of private cheap used cars especially from Japan has been increasing geometrically in Dar es Salaam and cause traffic jams more problematic

In past, commuters were able to move 30 kms only for 20 minutes which is quite difficult these days, now it takes more than 2 to 3 hours in the pick time. Minister of Works in 2011 lamented, "Dar es Salaam contributes nearly 80% of the national income, at the same time people are wasting a lot of time in the traffic jams. The latest study shows the jams cost the economy more than 4 billion Tanzanian shillings a day (equivalent to US dollar 2.5 million)."

“Do you want to be on time in your office”? Here is the deal; you have to wake up at 4:00 am to prepare yourself and make sure you get to the road around 5:00 am so that you can avoid traffic jams in the morning. Working hours starts from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, but you have to wait until 8.00 pm when majority of people in the city center have already left. This is the innovative way used by some people to avoid using too much oil in the traffic jam.

Traffic jam in Dar es Salaam has influenced the location of the firms significantly. Traffic jam has increased cost of production for firms, and workers also are using a lot of time to commune and use a lot of oil in the queue. Some big companies like Heritage Insurance Company Limited, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, and large cellular network companies (Airtel Tanzania Limited, Vodaphone Tanzania Limited), and Stanbic Bank Tanzania Limited have relocated to the periphery of the commercial capital to escape overhead costs caused by traffic jams, parking fees and other related problems.
It has been estimated by the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) that traffic jams costs up to 20 per cent of annual profits losses of most businesses in the city. Those companies that deal with the supply of fast moving consumer goods such as beverages, edible oil, bread and soap are the most affected since it is very hard to make timely deliveries of their products to customers.
Furthermore, traffic jam contributes to the increase level of crimes. Thieves used to walk along the cars’ queues and steal citizens’ belongs like handsets, jewelries. Also impatient drivers particularly dala dala drivers (famous public transport buses) in usually violate regulations cause killings of pedestrians. Traffic jam has led to significantly increase use of motorcycle (famous name boda boda) which has boomed the numbers of accidents in Tanzania killing hundreds of people.
The future of Dar es Salaam city is still uncertain, regardless of current attempt of government to curb this problem. Introducing train transport and a new plan to replace small buses with a government-managed rapid mass transit system are difficult to assess yet.


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