Informal Housing in Dar es Salaam: A Tale of Three Cities – Monday 20 November 2017

Dar es Salaam – A Tale of Many Cities

At Independence in 1961, Dar es Salaam was a sleepy little port and administrative centre. Today it is home to upwards of 5 million people, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, projected to reach 10 million in the 2030s and perhaps 20 million in the 2050s. It is a city of contrasts – skyscraper offices and luxury flats, luxurious detached houses in large plots, planned housing and commercial developments, but the majority of the people live in unplanned and overcrowded housing areas, increasingly distant from the original centre, and lacking piped water, solid waste collection and reliable drainage. The average income is the higher than elsewhere in the country. But only a small fraction have jobs in the formal sector. Most have insecure, unreliable, and often minimal incomes. Many rooms in the poorer areas are individually let, and many families live in just one room.

The Development Planning Unit, now part of the Bartlett School at University College London, have been sending masters students on study visits to Dar es Salaam for the last four years, where they have been hosted by local NGOs struggling to improve the conditions. Stephanie  Butcher and Tim Wickson, the speakers at the Seminar on 20 November, have been part of this. The students met local people, and identified the challenges facing them and  the NGOs who work with them.

The housing team focussed on three contrasting locations. Kombo, in the Vingunguti area, is about three miles from the harbour, and very convenient for jobs and services. The area has been settled for many years, but water and is a problem most houses use pit latrines, not good in a densely settled area. But CCI, the Centre for Community Initiatives, the Dar es Salaam branch of the international Federation of Urban Poor, have a solution. Working with small local savings groups, for £30 per house they can install drainage and flush toilets in a group of houses – though for many the water for the toilet will have to be lifted by hand to a tank on the roof.

Suma, about the same distance out, is on the floodplain of the Msimbazi River, which flows out under Selander Bridge. In 2011 nearly all the houses were flooded, and the Government decided to demolish most of the remaining houses and move the residents to new settlements to be constructed 20 miles North.  But this meant moving away from employment and friends. So many have returned, living where they can, often in lofts or roof spaces, or moving out each year in the rainy season.  It is very hard to see a basis for long term improvement here.

Chamazi is a rapidly growing “town”, about 12 miles South and a bit West of the Centre. Here CCI were able to access 30 acres, which they divided into plots of 144 m2 on which, for £2,000, a family can build its own four-room house to a standard design. They can take out a loan, and replay £25 per month over 7 years. It shows what can be done physically; but is there the financial discipline to make it work? Already there are problems collecting the repayments, and those who live this far out have to pay for bus fares to commute in to Dar es Salaam. The Jury is still out.

Meanwhile the practical problems of life in Dar es Salaam continue, and as yet there is little sign that the authorities are able to keep even one step ahead of the rapid expansion of the city.

For more information on these schemes, in the first instance contact Stephanie Butcher [] Or Tim Wickson []


Date: 20th  November 2017 Time : 5pm – 7pm Location :  School of Oriental and African Studies, Russell Square, London  WC1H 0XG.

The speakers will be Stephanie Butcher and Tim Wickson, both of the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL.

Now home to a diverse population of over five million people, Dar es Salaam is a vibrant and expanding hub in East Africa. However, the rapid pace of growth has vastly outstripped the capacity of the planning system and housing market to respond, leaving 80 percent of the population living in largely unplanned, informal neighbourhoods.

For many, this housing crisis manifests itself in a lack of access to basic infrastructure, including water and drainage, substandard living conditions, and high levels of urban risk, with vulnerable residents increasingly confined to hazardous land in order to remain within reach of city-centre economic opportunities.

This seminar will discuss the everyday realities and challenges faced by residents of different types of low-income neighborhoods in Dar es Salaam, as well as the opportunities for action already being undertaken by the residents themselves. It will close with a discussion on the role of progressive urban planning in approaching some of these issues, and supporting the growth of a more equitable city.

All welcome

Scroll to top