The Sunday Mail
Shamiso Yikoniko recently in Dar es Salaam
Kariakoo market sounds like an ordinary market and similar to most markets across Africa, but this particular one is unique.
Exceptional not only for its extensive market that spans several city blocks but also for being a market where Africa meets.
Traders from East Africa and some parts of Southern Africa converge at Kariakoo Market to buy wares for resale back home. Though originally designed to feature active wholesale, retail, agricultural produce and farm equipment to cater for the local market, literally anything and everything worth trading is found at the market.
From agricultural crops, fresh and dried fish, vegetables, electronic gadgets, Tanzanian handcrafts, Ankara material, second-hand clothes, house and office furniture, kitchenware, shoes, handbags, jewellery to butcheries, among many other wares – all these are found at Kariakoo market.
A trader, Ms Womba Mwale from Zambia, said for her and other traders, there is no other marketplace she would rather go except Kariakoo.
“I have been trading for the past five years and Kariakoo is the place where I get wares that satisfy my customers back home,” she said.
“I come here after every two months and I’m making a comfortable living with this business.”
Mwale added that she sells ladies’ shoes and clothes, handbags and kitchenware.
Kariakoo Market is located in the city at the intersection of Mkunguni and Nyamwezi streets. Until recently, Kariakoo was one of the main dala dala (bus) stations in Dar es Salaam, although this function has since been moved to Ubungo.
Dala dala get their name from the slang for five Tanzanian shillings (dala for dollar), the fare in the 1970s and 1980s when the buses started operating.
Dar es Salaam has few obvious attractions and can get hot and sticky. The city is often ignored by travellers heading to Tanzania’s big tourist destinations – it is not hard to see why. Its streets are filled with traffic, exhaust fumes and dust.
But traders from across Africa do not mind the scorching heat, crazy traffic and pollution, for as long as they get what they want.
Before the market expanded to other streets, the original Kariakoo market was completed in 1974, and it was designed by Mr Beda Amuli, the first East African to start private architectural practice in 1969. According to architectuul.com, Mr Amuli was commissioned by the city council to design a new market in the heart of Kariakoo in early 1970.
Mr Amuli wanted to design a real African market, so the concept was developed from traditional African markets. “An African market is normally under trees, so we made trees out of concrete,” Amuli is quoted as having said.
The market is rectangular in shape with a hyperbola roof structure made of concrete, with the roof of the building creating the illusion of trees. The concrete is seen clearly from inside and outside. The roof structure helps in air circulation since it allows air to flow in and out easily through cross ventilation. The structure has no finishing to its concrete roof, so the building is real and pure.
The market has two storeys and one basement, for which all are used for market activities. The building has one main entrance and other two alternative entrances at the back side. The delivery entrance to the basement is located in another street. The market is managed by the Kariakoo Market Corporation which has experienced tremendous growth since its establishment in 1974, becoming the central regulator of agricultural trade in Dar es Salaam.
Through the wholesale and retail markets, the corporation provides a bridge between farmers and consumers, allowing the market’s customers to meet all of their domestic needs in one place at a low price and bringing stability to the country’s agricultural sector.
Today, the corporation faces several challenges, primarily driven by a shortage of infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of traders in the Kariakoo Market.
Mr Johnson Minja, the general manager of the corporation, bemoaned the poor state of the market.
“With the growing number of traders on a daily basis, it’s clear that the market wasn’t well planned for the such big numbers,” he said.
“The corporation finds it hard to control traders coming in because they position themselves on a spot they see fit to trade within the market. Ablution services are a challenge because they are few and you find that most of the time they are overwhelmed.”
Mr Minja added that they have approached the responsible authorities on the sticking issues several times without any joy. In order to address these problems and improve service to the market’s customers, the corporation hopes to remodel the market complex and develop the other wholesale markets in Dar es Salaam.
The corporation also made an appeal to the Tanzanian government to improve on the infrastructure and ablution services in the market since Kariakoo is a sensitive area which brings in a lot of revenue.
Currently, the outdoor market lacks a safe parking system, modern shops, offices and a lounge for meetings and other social gatherings. A remodelling of the market would address some or all of these problems. Mr Minja also hinted that traders in Kariakoo lack capital injection to boost their businesses.
“The corporation requires an initial capital investment to achieve these goals. In the spirit of the government’s support for public-private partnerships, it will offer the opportunity for private partners to invest in these projects,” he said.
Mr James Mbungu, a trader in food stuffs, complained of the lack of capital.
“I started my food stuff business from my savings but despite the fact that business is brisk here, I haven’t been to grow my business due to lack of capital,” he mourned.
Traders at Kariakoo Market were earlier this year up in arms over grievances over the use of Electronic Fiscal Devices which they say have adverse impacts on their businesses.
In protest over Tanzania Revenue Authority’s directive that demands all traders in Kariakoo Market use EFDs that currently apply in other business areas in the country, activities at the market were temporarily paralysed as traders closed shop.
“The introduction of EFDs is unfair to us small-scale traders because you will find that at the end of the day almost all the money that I render as my profit will be taxed,” angrily said Mr Mbungu.
Mr Minja also shares the same sentiments about EFDs.
“The problem is that the tax regime for taxing those in the informal sector and small business doesn’t take into consideration some operating expenditures which leaves the trader without anything,” he said.
According to TRA, any business that has an annual turnover of TZS 20 million is mandatorily supposed to register for Value Added Tax (VAT), and use EFDs machines.
Efforts to get a comment from TRA were fruitless.
Kariakoo is a ward of the Ilala District of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The name derives from a corruption of that of the British ‘Carrier Corps’ that used to be based in this area.
According to architectuul.com, in pre-colonial times there was a large village in the area now known as Kariakoo. This village was frequently raided by slave traders. In the latter half of the 19th century, the area became a shamba (farm) belonging to the Sultan of Zanzibar. During German rule, 200 hectares of the shamba were bought by a German businessman named Schoeller, who rented the land to the Africans.
At the same time, Dar es Salaam began to grow, while Europeans built their houses in exclusive areas such as Oyster Bay, Kariakoo became Dar’s main African settlement. In 1913, 15 000 out of the total 24 000 African inhabitants of Dar lived in Kariakoo.
In 1914, the German administration bought Kariakoo from Schoeller, with the intent of creating a formal African township according to the general segregationist strategy being applied in German East Africa. Concrete houses were built to accommodate the African population, and at that same time the market was established; yet, the advent of First World War delayed its actual opening.
In 1916 the British conquered Dar es Salaam and Kariakoo was used as a base for the Carrier Corps. In 1923 the market built by the Germans finally began to function. In the 1970s it was restructured.
The International Women’s Media Foundation supported Shamiso Yikoniko’s reporting from Tanzania as part of its African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative.