Governance and the informal-formal transport divide

Gemma Todd, Dar es Salaam Community Manager
Dar es Salaam, 16 October 2014

A famous saying proclaims that "The City Never Sleeps." With urban development, the question is — who drives the city? Transportation solutions continue to be applied in Dar es Salaam, aimed at ensuring that people get to work on time, safely, and at a fair price. When we think of work and transport, there is a need to recognise the large majority surviving on informal wages and minimal rights, but who help keep the city running. Class distinctions and inequalities are prevalent, even though Dar es Salaam aims to be an efficient city. Focus turns to solutions ensuring the rights of workers supporting transportation systems — working on roads, as informal sellers, and in informal transport.

Work relies on transportation systems; and transportation depends on, and is, work. Within Dar es Salaam, traffic jams have become a business opportunity, tapped into by individuals who recognise consumption needs. Their spaces of work include dangerously manoeuvering through oncoming traffic; negotiating product prices on the street as they sell food, car equipment, drinks, and more; and servicing driver needs. However, the road street sellers are often employed by elites to sell their goods; therefore there remains little certainty of returns. Similarly, when looking at dala-dalas (buses), the main form of public transport, the system is privatised and unequal. Driving the actual public transport there are only a few who own the dala-dalas, while a large majority work as conductors and bus workers earning minimal wages, paying high taxes, working long-hours and at high risk. New buses continue to be shipped into Dar es Salaam with rising demand; and despite increasing competition from UDA (larger buses forming the Dar es Salaam Transport Company, a private-public transport company owned by shareholders), dala-dalas continue to monopolise the transport market. There is a need to identify the rights of those running transport systems on which the city depends on. Formal recognition, employment rights, and the ability for the poor to invest in their own businesses are required.

Surface and Maring Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) is responsible for regulation within transport — concerned with setting prices, ensuring quality, and ensuring that demands are met. The Consumer's Consultative Council (CCC) focuses on issues of supply experienced by customers, such as high prices. However, although both SUMATRA and CCC aim to ensure efficient transportation for urban consumers, challenges remain with respect to dala-dala operators. There is no public sector subsidy for transport; therefore dala-dala operators' profit margins remain low. Subsequently, low profit margins influence service quality — vehicle maintenance is minimal. Dala-dala operators have begun to organise and collectivise, such as in the Mzizima Dar es Salaam Express Company. This organisation provides a voice for informal transport workers to demand a share of profits, and access to routes which are being granted exclusively to the new Dar es Salaam Rapid Bus Transport System (DART).

The creation of Mzizima, whereby dala-dala drivers, workers, and owners have collectivised to create their own union company, showcases the power that unity holds. The establishment of Mzizima means that dala-dala workers have strengthened their bargaining power. As a company, they are being recognised as transport stakeholders and are being included in discussions for the new DART system. The Mzizima union is formally recognised and registered, and is able to compete for transport tenders by buying up to 30 percent of UDA shares: as transport remains privatised in Dar es Salaam, routes are often organised through 'tenders'; the dala-dala owner will ask for business tender over certain routes. UDA are granted the best routes in terms of roads and profits. Therefore Mzizima's ability to claim tenders ensures their inclusion in determining where dala-dalas go, the profits they make, and the level of vehicle maintenance.

The associations and unions arising in Dar es Salaam are enabling bargaining power in the changing transport systems as well as a chance for the informal service workers to capitalise from the transport market.

Permalink to this discussion:
Permalink to this post: