World Economic Forum Comes to Town

Since being back from Tucson, we have avoided the roads of Dar es Salaam like the plague. Besides the fact that we don’t have a car, the traffic has multiplied exponentially in the past few weeks, due to the rains and we just have no desire or need to be driving around.

We measured it and it takes us 10km, more or less 8 miles, to get to the major city crossing from our side of town. This trip takes a half an hour with no traffic, and can take over 2 hours in standard rush hour traffic. After coming back from the States, this seems so ridiculous but this is life in Africa and you have to learn to live with it. We have realized how grateful we are for smoothly paved, well kept roads, stop lights that mean something and drivers who follow the rules.

Typical dead stopped traffic, while vendors attempt to sell you all kinds of random things.

Buses that stop every few 100 meters, that add to the traffic mess.

I love this one. A bride who is stuck in traffic gets out on a hot, sticky day so that she can make it to her groom to be in time.

Anyways, during the first week of May there was a World Economic Forum held here in Dar es Salaam. Leaders from all over the world came to discuss the many economies of Africa. The ironic thing is that in order for them to have this fancy forum, they shut down many of the local economies here in the city.

They closed most of the major roads during the peak hours of driving in order to get the forum participants to and from their meeting location. This had a huge impact on all of Dar es Salaam. As it is the infrastructure here is only capable of supporting a town of maybe 10,000, and we have 4 million people here with thousands of new cars being brought in all of the time. These road closures have caused the already horrendous traffic to be up to 3 or 4 hours, dead stopped traffic. This loses business for many places that would normally be getting business from those who were sitting in traffic. Along with that they closed the major mall of the city, which I still don’t understand.

I am glad that there are people meeting to help move the many economies of Africa, I just wish they would take into account the effect they have on the cities they meet in even just for a meeting. They spend millions of dollars on flights, and wining and dining but don’t realize the direct negative effect they are having now. The government in Tanzania, spent some serious bucks too securing the roads, making sure the power was running during this time and even planting new palm trees down the main road to show a good face.  This is yet another thing I do not understand about culture here. Even you don’t have money, or the ability to really get something done, you do it anyways just to put on a good face. The palm trees they have planted are already looking like they are dying, which just proves so much that this “good face” is so temporary.

Rumor had it that Bill Gates was even in town. I looked online and did not find this information to be true, but he is one of the major backers of the forum. Either way, I hope in the future these leaders can really make a difference to help the economies of Africa succeed.


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