As the airplane set down on the landing strip of Julius Nyerere airport I was taken aback by the sea of shacks surrounded by palm trees that unrolled before me. It is my first time in Tanzania or Africa, the heat and humidity and the tumultuousness at the visa application counter made a lasting impression on me. Nevertheless, from this first encounter on, I noticed that there are other parameters influencing processes in Dar es Salaam.
This is a rapid growing city with approx. 80% of its population living in informal settlements with limited basic urban infrastructure. Despite this, the unbending optimism of residents in the face of adversity is astounding. During my first attempts of moving around the city, I was welcomed and at times benevolently accompanied. I learned later from locals that this might have its roots in a ubiquitous feeling of community influenced by the concept of ‘Ujamaa’ introduced during the Nyerere’s period. Ujamaa was used to give this then young independent country a common identity, a feeling of cohesion. Perhaps it explains why still today everyone you meet in daily life threats you as part of a big Tanzanian family. Here, people call each other ‘mama’ (mother), ‘kaka’ (brother), ‘dada’ (sister) or at least ‘ndugu’ (brother/comrade).
Post by Thomas Adam Meyer zu Schwabedissen