By Kelvin Matandiko
Dar es Salaam — The rate of youth rural-urban migration is astonishing in Tanzania.
Many energetic, young people have been flocking to urban areas mainly Dar es Salaam to look for jobs, only to be disappointed because employment is hard to come by.
Some indulge in crimes while others opt to hawking.
Agriculture, which accounts for a quarter of Tanzania’s gross domestic product, has become the work of the old.
Social scientists say poverty has been forcing the youth to leave rural areas.
Although Tanzania’s economy has been growing at an average of 7 per cent in the past 15 years, its benefits have not tricked down to the majority of the people.
The government recognises unemployment is a serious problem and set a target of reducing it from 10 per cent in 2008 to 5 per cent by 2015.
Young people are the most affected, making up 53.3 per cent of the unemployed population in Tanzania, and it is likely that this will rise as the youth population grows.
Unemployed women outnumber their males by 33 per cent.
President John Magufuli last week told munnicipal councils in Dar es Salaam not to chase petty traders off the streets.
Dr Magufuli directed municipalities to discuss with hawkers how their activities can be conducted well.
The President noted that petty traders play an important role in society and therefore should not be harassed, saying that he wants to build a government which does not bother low-income earners.
The directive is a relief to the machingas and makeshift food vendors whom Dr Magufuli promised to protect during the last year’s General Election campaigns.
He pledged to improve the environment for their operations.
He rebuked city, municipal and district councils for impose levies on smallholder farmers and petty traders.
Mr Obadia Mwansisi, a small-scale trader in Dar es Salaam, says a promise is one thing but fufilling it is a different issue.
He says hawkers keeping their fingers crossed. “The President promised that once elected auxilliary police who think their main occupation is to chase the machinga, should look for other employment. We are waiting to see if this will happen. We are following up keenly as our lives depend on hawking,” he told The Citizen.
Re locations that flopped
A few years ago, Dar es Salaam City Council attempted to remove the machinga from streets like Congo in Kariakoo and relocate them in designated markets.
But, they returned to the streets.
Recently authorities planned to relocate them to Jangwani grounds.
Plots were allocated to thems and some of them even started setting up stalls.
Within a week they were back in Kariakoo. The Machinga Complex was built to accommodate thousands of small-scale traders.
Opened almost six years ago the building offers over 4,000 trading spaces and less than a dozen storage rooms.
Since it was opened only a small part of the building has been used for business. Small-scale traders have been avoiding the building and preferred Kariakoo streets.
Some studies suggest that if small-scale traders are encouraged to stay in areas where they are allocated, customers would automatically have no option but to buy goods there.
Former Tanzania Investment Centre executive director Emmanuel ole Naiko says the notion of ‘forcing’ buyers to follow the traders might not work.
He says it all depends on conducive atmosphere for buyers. This involves accessibility and the quality of their goods they are selling.
Mr Naiko’s argument might hold water as the business complex has never been fully occupied.
Additionally, the lack of a user-friendly transport system does not motivate buyers to purchase items in select locations.
Above all the shopping habits of Tanzanians should also be taken into consideration.
Many people will buy items out of of convenience. Many people shop while seated in daladalas as they wait in traffic jams and others make purchases while enjoying a drink at their favourite watering hole.
Furthermore, the machinga are also worried that in case they leave Kariakoo streets, shop owners might take advantage and win over their customers.
Mr Naiko says petty traders are an important group in the coun try’s economic fabric. “What is needed is to ensure that areas which are dedicated for small traders are improved and their products as well should be of good quality, that will attract buyers.”
On how to resolve the problem of allocating space for these youthful traders, Mr Ole Naiko says the government could emulate the London City authorities.
He explained a schedule is planned ahead to determine which streets that are closed down to hold the weekend markets across the city.
Next door, in Uganda, the Kampala Capital City Authority has been conducting such type of business successfully.
It take place every Sunday and over 1,000 vendors have been registered.
The weekly market is a colourful affair that takes over certain streets in the commercial hub of Uganda’s capital.
These streets are closed so that traffic is blocked and business takes place between 8am and 6pm every Sunday. Entrance is free, although the vendors are charged a fee.
The use of loud speakers is not allowed.
The world’s largest weekend market is Chatuchak Market in Thailand. It opens from Friday to Sunday, and operates betwen 9am and 6pm and from 6pm to midnight on Fridays.
In Africa, the largest weekend market is the Jemaa El Fnaa in Morocco.
Other weekend markets include the Chandni Chowk Market in Delhi, India, the Camden Lock Market in London, the England and Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia.
Mr Naiko strongly believes similar arrangements can be established in Dar es Salaam and other cities and towns in the country. “What is needed is to ensure that these areas are well maintained and customers can reach them easily,” he stresses.
Shaky working relations
While it is evident that other countries are working on how to accommodate hawkers Tanzanian municipal authorities should regard petty traders as stakeholders and not trouble-makers.
Take for example last year, a transportation officer, who also served as Cleanliness Campaign manager in Ilala Municipality, Mr Charles Wambura, was quoted as saying between April 2013 and May 2014, municipal militias confiscated enough goods to fill 10 seven-tonne lorries from machinga.
On top of that more than 700 street vendors were arrested, charged and fined.
During the same period, at least 1,200 bicycles and carts were impounded.
Authorities are quick to point fingers at traders making the already shaky working relationship more fragile.
Kariakoo Market manager Florence Seiya says in July 2014, at least 700 vendors who operated around the market were evicted on grounds of insecurity.
“Sometimes these vendors threatens the peace. You might remember that last year a driver was beaten to death by some of these vendors after he accidentally ran over tomatoes,” Seiya said.
Speaking in Parliament in the past, Ilala MP Mussa Azzan Zungu criticised the government for not taking care of the machingas. He said Dar es Salaam was losing out in levy collections for not embracing hawkers in formal businesses.
Competing for space on the streets of Dar es Salaam while dodging municipal authorities are food vendors.
According to the chairman of the Food Vendors Association in Dar es Salaam, Mr Ramadhani Muhonzu, members are worried that their concerns are not taken into consideration.
“Just like the machinga, we face serious problems. We are always on the run as we are constantly being chased by city askaris. The promise made by the President sounds good to the ears good but we are tired of rhetoric. We are wait and see see what will happen,” he says.
He notes that Dar es Salaam has 6,310 registered food vendors in 48 markets. Ninety per cent of them are women.
At least 19,000 more food vendors are not registered with the association in the city.
“We registered our association in 2009 and we have been fighting for recognition in locations we would like to conduct our businesses. We know that if we do so it will be easier for financial institutions to advance financial assistance including loans,” he said.
Currently the food vendors operating like fugitives as they are chased everywhere they try to establish themselves.
He says more than 100 women food vendors over the years have lost their belongings in so called operations by city authorities.
Despite harrasment from the city authorities food vendors pay Sh6.31 million in levies collected by the three Dar es Salaam municipalities.
“This is collected from the 6,300 registered food vendors. We are sure the authorities get much more from those who have not been registered. This is a lot of money and if our activities are formalised, the municipals will get more money,” he says noting that dues collected from food vendors in Dar es Salaam could top Sh25 million monthly should the authorities provide them with conducive working environments. We could help the authorities collect this money as we know where members operate,” he says.
The deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Parliament, Labour, Youth and the Disabled), Mr Anthony Mavunde, told The Citizen recently that councils had been directed to mobilise youth to establish savings and credit cooperative societies (Saccos).
He said at least of 59 councils had done so.
“We have set aside Sh1 billion this financial year for loans which will be issued through these Sacoss. We have learnt though similar programmes including the billions issued by President Jakaya Kikwete,” he said.
As the government is preparing plans to accommodate street vendors, President Magufuli has warned them against being used by large-scale businesspeople.
In speeches, he has warned them about influential businesspeople who use the machinga to peddle their merchandise in a bid to evade taxes.
“These businessmen know that the machinga do not pay taxes so they use them to sell their wares and as a result they earn profits without paying a single cent to the government. Any street vendor who will be identified as working for such businessmen will be held accountable,” he warned.
All councils in the country are supposed to set aside 10 per cent of collections for the youth and women. This money is to be used as revolving fund and loaned out to the intended groups.
While efforts are being taken to put these young men and women in groups so as to make it easy to manage them, councils, on the other hand, have been reaping from them by charging the levies. Nevertheless, these councils do seldom prepare conducive environments for the small traders to operate.