Dar is booming but what will the future have in store for this city? What gets “lost” in development?
Dar es Salaam, the city of peace. It is a well deserved name. The tranquility that this setting inspires is embracing. There are very few places like it that I’ve been to. Its coast is one of the most beautiful I am likely to encounter. The Indian ocean laps the shores of this city to the east, with Dar’s Peninsula being one of the more beautiful areas of the city. Coco Beach is a great spot that many people go to. Fun, exciting, cheap, and easily accessible, Coco hosts daily “sundowners” where locals (and a few expats) can enjoy a drink, some shisha and great tunes. Just last week, a few friends (a fellow Fellow, Nikki, from Kampala, my buddy living here in Dar and an old school friend, Al-Amin, from my days in London) all met up. It was, for me, a very surreal experience. Here we were, at night, our feet in the warm moist sand, the lights from the massive shipping containers dotting the horizon like artificial stars (we counted 12 ships), the full moon hanging over the ocean, its light reflected in iridescent shades off the slowly tumbling inky waves. Drink in one hand, shisha in the other, we sat talking and conversing, jumping from one conversation to another and enjoying each others company in surreal surroundings.
It got me thinking about what this city might look like 50 years down the road, what conversations a future Dar would inspire. A city like Dar, with its natural surroundings, won’t stay in this current shape for long. There will inevitably be changes to this city and to Tanzania more generally. This is inevitable. My curiosity however lies in the direction this change will take this beautiful place. As it stands, I haven’t felt like there’s been anything lacking in my daily life. We lose power infrequently, while the water may not be potable from the tap, it never seems to be lacking (washing cars and pavements with a hose is something you see often), locally sourced produce is plentiful, and the natural beauty of this place, in my mind, make up for any perceived or real deficiencies. Where improvement is necessary is in transportation infrastructure (those big boats need places to dock and offload and current ports are always busy, plus ground transportation is hindered by bad roads), health facilities (healthcare is an expensive thing here for most people) and a commitment to education. Of course, I realize that I speak from a place of great privilege. The daily reality for the average Tanzanian would look very different, but what I’m focusing on the potential that this place has.
With regards to education, working within a university that focuses on education (and specifically teacher training), it’s interesting to see that the government, in its rhetoric and on paper at least, has shown a commitment to securing better school systems for Tanzania’s youth. The funds are slowly following suite. Recently, we hosted a conference on early childhood care/education, an area where lots of resources are being diverted to. With research showing the importance of early years development, East Africa as a whole is interested in bolstering these systems.
Which brings me back to Coco Beach. With all these changes taking place in Dar what will this city look like in a not too distant future. Will Coco Beach still be around? What will it look like? Will its charm be lost to high rise buildings and massive resorts? This place has so much potential, not only in terms of the raw resources that are provided by the land, the scenic vistas or it’s perfect geographical placement as a port city, but through a population that is highly driven to improve their lot and their country. There is so much untapped potential here and what I’m learning is that people are honing in on areas of need and creating entirely new [service] sectors that will drive Tanzania forward. I am eternally optimistic about Dar’s future. I’m looking forward to coming back here one day at some point just to see what this country and city makes of themselves. One things for sure, I will definitely be making a stop at Coco Beach. What will greet me upon my return, only time will tell.