Can Dar es Salaam Grow Equitably? A town planner responds.

Jonston Weston, Dar es Salaam Community Manager
Dar es Salaam, 21 June 2016

Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania and one of the fastest-growing cities in East Africa. It has an annual population growth rate of 5.6, which is much higher than any other city in Tanzania. Despite this growth, urban planning lags woefully behind. Some of the infrastructure is grossly inadequate to support the city’s expanding population.

I spoke with Dr. Joel Msamy, a senior town planner and lecturer at Ardhi University in the school of urban and regional planning. He is a registered town planner in the Town Planning Registration Board of Tanzania. He also works as the consultant in the preparation of master plans, interim land use planning and neighborhood development. His views on the equitability growth of the city were based on the legalization of informal settlements together with the provision of services to the urban poor of Dar es Salaam.

What is your view on urban planning in Dar es Salaam?

Urban planning in Dar es Salaam is facing a big challenge, especially on the equitable supply of planned and serviced plots to the people. The demand of the serviced plots is higher than the capacity of the authority (municipal council) to supply them. Almost 80% of residents live in informal settlements. These settlements lack important infrastructure, such as water supply, sanitation system, drainage systems and solid waste management. They are also the ones that are vulnerable to flood hazards.

In order to be able to have equitable growth in a city, the planning authority should prepare a new urban master plan that will guide all kinds of development in the city. The existing one expired in 1999 and since then, the city has been operating without an urban master plan. Therefore, I think a new master plan should address the existing changes facing the city, such as youth unemployment, sanitation, solid waste management, water supply and schools.

What has the city authority done to ensure the city will grow more equitably?

I think the two running projects in Dar es Salaam that are geared towards equitable growth of the city are the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the creation of the satellite town in Mabwepande. The BRT is the long-term mass transit solution aimed at improving the quality of the public service as well as accessible and affordable transport in the city. The BRT will improve the quality of life for city residents through improved mobility options and cleaner technologies. It is expected that socio-economic activities and the standard of living of citizens will also improve.

Another project is the development of satellite town in Mabwepande, an area which will act as an extension of the city of Dar es Salaam. Some of the economic activities will be shifted from the city center to the satellite town, which will increase the efficiency of the services as well as create more employment opportunities for community members.

What is the future for Dar es Salaam as a city?

Dar es Salaam has developed with dramatic sprawl. Much of this is due to the expansion of informal housing in unplanned areas. Only 20% of the residents in Dar es Salaam live in formal settlements. I think that until 2050, Dar es Salaam will be developed informally if there are no interventions of planning and development control. However, the informal settlement upgrading initiatives, such as MKURABITA (Property and Business Formalization Program), need to be sustained.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I think Dar es Salaam will have a consistent environment conducive to investment and growth of the city for years to come. Many jobs for young people and a better life are also expected to be found in the city. Dar es Salaam will, therefore, become the leading developing city in East Africa and why not in Africa as a whole, thereby acting as an example for other African nations.

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