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A city poised for change - a new chapter for Dar es Salaam
Monika Bik
3rd June 2019

Dar es Salaam is a vibrant and fast growing East African coastal city of 5.7 million people with a population expected to more than double over the next 15 years.

The city’s past has been heavily influenced by early Arab and German colonists before falling under British rule following the end of World War 1 until Tanzania secured its independence in December 1961.

Today, while state functions are being relocated to Tanzania’s new inland capital Dodoma, Dar es Salaam is expected to become East Africa’s main port and trading centre, supplying six inland countries and is ­­­well positioned to host imports from China, India and elsewhere.

The city is divided into a number of distinct quarters (shown on the map below) and at its core, the central business district (CBD) has a formal, managed structure and waterfront aspect.

The CBD contains Dar’s best hotels, downtown residences and international businesses, being serviced by legacy infrastructure dating from the 1960s and featuring elegant art deco and modernist buildings, competing with more recent interventions rising to 35 storeys on the foreshore.

The west side of the CBD is the consolidated city centre area - a dense, gridded, fine-grained streetscape of commercial and retail activities under crammed offices, hotels, and apartments in a bustling streetscape of competing shop and restaurant frontages.

Dar’s economic urban areas include its industrial port and airport – linked by the axis of Pugu Road and the Peninsula - Dar’s distinctive diplomatic enclave - sits to the north. Elsewhere, dense slum settlements cluster around the local markets and employment sub-centres that accommodate much of the city’s urban population.

The area beyond comprises an outer ring of peri-urban settlements - a creeping blanket of largely informal development that sprawls along Dar’s four key radial approach roads into the rural hinterland.

Dar es Salaam exemplifies the commercial and political realities of contemporary Africa – ever-poised for change but with challenges to overcome. Exponential growth is placing increasing strain on the city’s inadequate infrastructure networks and waste management systems. Its crowded buses, unpaved roads, over-burdened and discontinuous power networks, sparse health and education facilities means significant parts of the city remain poorly served.

Dar es Salaam has a significant informal economy where buying anything from DVDs to shower cabinets in the middle of the highway is not an unusual activity and it is this significant grey economy that is also undermining efforts to formalise and boost tax revenues to improve infrastructure and community facilities.

However, a dominant issue for urban life in Dar es Salaam, an issue that has constrained its ability to progress, is congestion - but Dar es Salaam is fighting back.

The first phase of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network is now in its second year of operation with a 20.9 km section of Morogoro Road, which boasts 32 passenger stops, now a vibrant and thriving artery, pulsing with movement and activity and in contrast with the long-jams characterising the city’s other radial roads.

“Dar es Salaam exemplifies the commercial and political realities of contemporary Africa – ever-poised for change but with challenges to overcome.”
Monika Bik, Director, Broadway Malyan

A holistic approach to development

The President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government, supported by The World Bank and Nordic Development Fund as part of the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project (DMDP), are undertaking a ground-breaking project.

For the first time in the context of an Africa city, the project seeks to integrate plans for the development along its BRT corridors and Broadway Malyan is leading a diverse consultancy team to establish a coherent strategy for the areas surrounding the first phase of the BRT line.

The strategy builds on the success of the BRT’s journey time improvements to stimulate substantial new urban connected redevelopment, attracting new inward investment and helping to improve living standards and related city infrastructure. Once completed, this framework will become a prototype approach for all future six phases of the BRT network.

Central to the project is the concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) that seeks to establish a higher-density, mixed-use development around transit nodes with a walkable and pedestrian-centred environment, encouraging soft mobility and public transit use.

To ensure the project properly understands the city’s issues and priorities, the project has taken an innovative approach to collecting and analysing data. Land use and transport models based on a series of data-rich base maps in Geographic Information System (GIS) were developed which can then be used for testing of different transport movement and real estate development.

The Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Matrix is a decision making tool that assimilates the data from the analysis work and outputs a series of scores for the performance and potential of each of the 32 stations found along the Phase 1 line of the BRT.

This interactive tool aimed at planners and decision makers scores each station area in terms of its readiness and development potential, as well as their compatibility with TOD principles. The indicators used, build on the vision and objectives of the city and corridor and are weighted by their importance in achieving the goals of the project.

It is a unique proposition for Tanzania, bringing together insight from socio-economics, real estate, urban planning, transport and infrastructure to form a joined-up and integrated design approach. Diverse indicators such as public transport catchment and travel times, population and employment densities, land value, access to utilities or even how easy it might be to assemble the land for development, can be combined and assessed to categorise the stations.

This will provide a foundation for planning and investment at the city, corridor and station level. It can stimulate priority investments and guide developments to achieve the TOD. The aim is to ensure the return on high public sector investment, benefiting the city and the entire community.

A project underpinned by engagement

A critical aspect of this project stakeholder, community and end-user engagement. Empowering the community, engaging the private sector and actively involving institutional agencies is an essential ingredient to successful city planning. Illustrating development possibilities through a range of engagement activities ensures the project reaches a variety of audiences and offers an increased level of feedback.

Four interactive workshops have taken place, engaging with a range of technical agencies who are involved in planning and implementation of the strategies within the city of Dar es Salaam. These have run in parallel with public exhibitions and detailed community and user-group surveys designed to incorporate the views of hard-to-reach local residents, while being shared through social media such as Facebook.

In the interactive workshops, role-play helped to debate and clarify some of the key issues while benchmarking visits to London’s transport hubs showed examples of best practice. A series of focus group sessions in Dar es Salaam offered fresh insights of city life and the testing of early ideas, while the public exhibition at a key BRT terminus attracted diverse interest, dialogue and exchange.

The combination of the anecdotal inputs from the consultation process and the hard data has all been crucial in informing the direction of the project while also raising the profile of the project. One of the major findings was that nearly 95% of all consulted participants said their life has changed for the better because of the BRT project with less congestion, significantly better connectivity and on-going changes in the range of uses and opportunities found along the corridor.

Africa has the youngest population in the world and this is a project for their future, a project that creates a better environment to live in and cleaner air to breathe, a project that means that children will not have to get up at 5am for a three-hour journey to school and will create the jobs they need when they reach adulthood.

The investment in the BRT is transforming Dar es Salaam and this project will ensure that every potential benefit is extracted from the initiative with the results already clear to see. It is no surprise that Dar es Salaam is winning sustainable transport awards and will become one of Africa’s best practice case studies.

*This article first appeared in Plan Magazine