Who’s Waterfront? Developing Dar es Salaam’s Gateway to Eastern Africa

Cross-posted from CIDA’s website.

It’s never too late to improve! Some three years of work did not stop the Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) from reviewing and changing its approach to developing the Dar es Salaam waterfront.

With the support of Sustainable Cities, a Vancouver-based non-governmental organization, the TPA decided to take the time required to be certain that the needs of local people were being incorporated into their planning process.

© Patrick Santoro

It all started with a young Canadian intern …. In June 2008, Patrick Santoro, a community planner from Vancouver, B.C. was on a CIDA-funded International Youth Internship with Sustainable Cities, in Dar es Salaam. His job was to help the city council develop a land use master plan for the future. “When the project got delayed,” says Patrick, “I had to find something new to do. Every day on my way to work, I would walk past the waterfront. There was so much garbage. A broken wire fence blocked off the waterfront from the city and people weren’t allowed on the waterfront park area. It really upset me that the space wasn’t being used to benefit the local residents. It’s a unique and special asset of the city.”

Patrick talked to the city council and the Tourism Executive Board about what could be done to this one-kilometre stretch of land between the old post office bus stop and the National Bureau of Statistics building; and they gave him their full support to look at innovative ways to use this portion of the waterfront. “It’s the front porch of the city,” explains Patrick. “When people come to Dar from Zanzibar on the ferry, it’s the first thing they see!”

Organizing a ‘Waterfront Cleanup Day’ took several months, but it succeeded beyond expectations. “We had to get sponsors to help with the event,” says Patrick,” local businesses such as hotels and restaurants. One sponsor donated t-shirts, another provided a free lunch for all the volunteers, another protective gloves and cleaning supplies.” Staff from City Council, the TPA (responsible for the land), the Tanzanian Domestic Tourism Organization, Marine Police, and Mama Lishe restaurant became part of a Waterfront Cleanup Day Task Force. The Task Force created and distributed promotional materials such as fliers and banners and even issued news releases.

© Patrick Santoro

Volunteers hard at work on ‘Waterfront Cleanup Day’ in Dar es Salaam.

“It was amazing. We were expecting about 150 people and 400 showed up!” says Patrick. The Mayor and the City Director were official guests of honour and spoke about the importance of a clean and vibrant city waterfront to a prosperous tourism industry. Four six-ton trucks hauled away garbage all day. Volunteers included staff from the Task Force organizations as well as a wide range of residents including women, students, low-income individuals, business owners and street artists. Some even showed up the next day to continue cleaning! “We wanted to keep the momentum going,” adds Patrick.

Fortunately, at the same time, Sustainable Cities was organizing a peer exchange workshop through its CIDA-funded PLUS Network program, on sustainable tourism and coastal management. In February 2009, representatives from two other African cities ― Durban, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal ― came to Dar es Salaam to learn from each others’ experiences.

As a result of its involvement in the Clean-up Day, TPA asked Sustainable Cities if they could participate in the workshop. TPA wanted to get feedback on its multimillion dollar plan to develop 44 hectares of waterfront into a world-class international tourist destination with spaces for living, working and playing.

© Patrick Santoro

According to participants, the workshop highlighted the need for consultations with small business owners, local residents and local government. Afterward, TPA asked Sustainable Cities to organize and facilitate a second workshop in May 2009 to inform key stakeholders about the waterfront plan and get feedback on next steps. Workshop facilitator Dr Chris Bottrill, Chair of Tourism Management at Capilano University in British Columbia, says: “A new approach featuring multiple stakeholders is now underway to find a solution that brings economic benefits to local people, integrates local planning and helps protect some unique natural and heritage features of this fascinating and dynamic city.”

Concludes Patrick: “One thing I learned from the clean-up is how a simple project can get a really big turnout and generate a lot of buzz. Getting the right stakeholders in the room and discussing the vision ― it’s a good model.”

An eye-opening experience
“I was eager to go abroad and get international experience,” says Patrick Santoro. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Ryerson University, and working for a few years, Patrick applied to CIDA’s International Youth Internship Program through Sustainable Cities and was sent to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for a year. He worked with the City Council to develop a land use master plan; spearheaded a successful clean the waterfront campaign; and coordinated a long-term waterfront planning process with government officials and local stakeholders. Patrick is enthusiastic about his time in Africa: “It was eye-opening. Everything was new and fascinating to experience ― the food, culture, language and environment. We found a really neat neighbourhood ― completely local ― to live in. We learned Swahili. We tried to understand the community. I worked there for a bit over a year, and then travelled through east and southern Africa. This experience has been the highlight of my life.”

About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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