Rebuilding of Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam kicks off with $2bn road renewal

Tanzania has revealed plans to spend $2bn on improving traffic flow in its biggest city, Dar es Salaam.

The money will be used to build flyovers and bridges to take traffic above the city’s congested streets, and will also part-fund a rapid transit bus system.

The programme was announced to Tanzania’s parliament on 27 May by John Magufuli, the minister of works. The money for the projects will come from the government over the next fiscal year, beginning in July.

The state-owned Dar Rapid Transit Agency, which is sponsored by the World Bank, is to provide the bus service. This will be the first government-run mass transit system in the city’s history.

Dar es Salaam is a sprawling, low-rise city, which puts traffic pressure on the central business district, pictured here

Dar es Salaam has a population of about 4 million, making it the largest city in east Africa, and Tanzania’s principal economic centre and transport hub.

Despite undergoing rapid expansion in the past 20 years, it had no city master plan between 1999 and 2012.

Many of the roads in the city’s residential and commercial areas are poorly sited and unpaved, while public transport is almost entirely provided by private minibuses and motorcycles.

As a result, congestion has grown rapidly in the past 10 years.

A study by the Confederation of Tanzanian Industries in 2010 estimated that traffic congestion reduced the profit of the city’s businesses by 20%.

The government published a fresh master plan in 2013, which will include an urban rail system and five satellite towns to be constructed to the east and south of the existing city.

China’s role

Tanzania has developed a special relationship with China, and in October last year this led to pledges of $1.7bn in investment.

Jakaya Kikwete, the president of Tanzania, said at the time that the deals included infrastructure and power distribution, as well as a further satellite city on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.

He told Reuters [] that this would be "a self-contained urban zone equipped with water, electricity, roads, banks, schools and hospitals".

Caption: The plan for the future central business district (source: Dar es Salaam master plan)

Other schemes included a $500m financial centre for Dar es Salaam, as well as joint projects by the China Railway Jianchang Engineering Company and Tanzania’s state-run National Housing Corporation.

About 50km north of Dar es Salaam, the Chinese are helping to fund a major redevelopment of the port of Bagomoyo.

Earlier this month, Hu Jianhua, the deputy general manager of China Merchants Holdings, which is building the modern container terminal at the port, said the scheme would help Tanzania become the region’s leading shipping hub.

Bagamoyo will also be a hub for a number of road and rail schemes. One, east to the town of Msata, is reaching completion.

Another arterial road will run north to Malindi and the Kenyan border. This 412km route, which will be financed by the East African Community and the African Development Bank, will begin work early next year. 

Tanzania still lagging

The World Economic Forum’s 2014-15 World Competitiveness Report ranks Tanzania 130 out of 144 countries for infrastructure, and mentioned its poor roads and ports and unreliable electricity supply.

Tanzania is undergoing rapid economic growth, but is still lagging behind the wider region. GDP per capita has risen from $1,000 to $1,700 over the past 10 years, but is still below the Sub-Saharan average of $2,500.

The government’s probability of success with its plans has been affected by its history of delayed payment to the Tanzanian contractors who have carried out previous infrastructure programmes.

Juma Kapuya, a member of the parliament’s infrastructure committee, said the government presently owed building firms about $450m in unpaid fees.

In the future, a harbour bridge may replace the present ferry service (source: Dar es Salaam master plan)

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  1. Given the ongoing trend in the development of the city of Dar es Salaam, the country is heading in a good direction. Transportation within the city of dar es salaam has mostly been unsatisfactory. Should the present government really implement the plans as seen on the photos above, the city and the country at large will never be the same.

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