Hawkers reject Machinga Park



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Jul 30, 2008


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The half empty Machinga Complex at Karume area in Dar es Salaam as caught by our roving photographer yesterday.

The Machinga Complex, a huge facility put up ostensibly to give city hawkers a central shopping mall of their own now stands virtually empty and could remain deserted if city authorities do not make strategic plans to attract small traders, The Guardian on Sunday can report.

For starters, the small traders commonly referred to as the “machinga” remain unimpressed for the simple reason that the facility lies off the mainstream human and commuter traffic. Instead, they prefer the open-air roadside stall lined along major arteries such as Uhuru and Msimbazi Streets.

The city’s rentals are also at issue. While the hawkers have to fork out a monthly Sh20,000 in rents, the roadside stalls at Mchikichini sitting under 400 metres charge just about a quarter of that, making them more attractive than the secure concrete complex -- come rain.

Ilala mayor Jerry Slaa (pictured) told The Guardian on Sunday that the hawkers had engaged his municipal authorities in running battles as the petty traders weigh the opportunity cost of moving into a centralized business spot in the complex or stay out in the open and mingle with their customers, most of whom happen to stop there as they wait for the ‘daladala’ commuter buses.

A number of hawkers said during random interviews that “people don’t come there (complex) to shop” and suggested that things could possibly improve if the authorities could construct a taxi park or commuter bus terminal next to the complex.

The mayor admits that it doesn’t make economic sense for the small-scale entrepreneurs to move into the complex, saying: “We cannot possibly force people with small businesses to move into the complex without first coming up with strategic plans for both the profitability and security of their business,”

Machinga complex manager Nyamsukura Masondore admitted had faced a host of many challenges right from the inauguration of the complex which can house up to 4,206 small entrepreneur. But now only 1,500 remain.

“Our rates at only Sh20,000 per month are the lowest on the market across the entire city,” he said, a refrain most of the hawkers seem to ignore.

The law must take its place proper if we want to archive our goal, without doing so we will be wasting our time for nothing.

“The government spent Sh31bn in tax payers money to put up this building … so we need to ensure that it works properly,” the manager observed, without elaborating how he would possibly achieve that feat.

He added running such a huge complex under capacity was the biggest challenge facing the complex staff a daily routine in their vain attempts to coax unwilling hawkers.

In a radical departure, many within the management now think the project was ‘politically’ motivated, saying: “We need to start doing business, not politics … we are destroying our economic future.”
But the question remains: how to manage the city fast growing army of small entrepreneurs citing such.

Challenges as workable policies, legal and institutional frameworks to manage the industry more effectively with adequately trained human resources equipped with requisite skills and knowledge in the field.

The manager says that in order to attract more people to the business park, the authorities plan to introduce ‘flea’ market promotions over the weekends -- every Saturday and Sunday beginning December 14.

However, Sabri Mabrouk, Chair man of the Dar es salaam Commuter bus owner Association (Darcoboa) remains unconvinced, noting that construction of the Machinga Complex was politically motivated, and that there wasn’t visibility study to ascertain its viability.

“The city authorities must first tell us why they did come up with such a project on their own …they have no one except themselves to blame … they will never succeed even if they force all the buses in the city to come to this complex,” he said.

The city fathers now intend on an aggressive promotion drive -- more adverts on radio, television and the print media . “By doing so, we hope peoples will begin to acknowledge the importance of the park,” an official said.

In putting up the complex, the government sought to bring the growing number of small businesspeople together at a daily meeting place where they could share insights on how to solve daily challenges in business.

The complex argues that city authorities need to administer and enforce acts and regulations, to prepare guidelines for corporate social responsibility within their localities.

Many traders complain of ‘unfair’ treatment by city authorities which is why the park remains almost empty at times.

“Those people out there are not paying any taxes to boost governments revenues … so they can afford to sell their goods at (relatively) lower prices without feeling the pinch,” one Salum Juma observed.

Mwajuma Mohamed, a retailer at complex, she once sold only 25 pieces of boutique wear, but now things had changed “a lot better for us.” However, she complained that, “our government has abandoned us inside the park … our competitors at roadside stalls are marking a lot of money.”



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