Dar es Salaam, Tanzania has been an outlier amongst the mega-cities of Africa for years. Decades of socialist rural-first development policy after independence meant that cities like Nairobi, a close neighbor, grew much faster, much quicker. Dar was seen for years as a modest second-tier port town, rather than a powerhouse.
That all began to change in the mid-1980s as people began flocking to Dar in vast numbers. Although it was late to the race, today it is Africa's fastest growing city, projected to reach a population of 6.2 million by 2025. That's an increase of 85% since 2010.
This vast growth has led to sprawling informal areas spidering outward from the city centre. Above, Masaki still retains its exclusive, wealthy character, while the poorer suburb of Msasani exists in a dense jumble across the road. Most expats and wealthy residents live in the enclaves of Masaki and Oyster Bay, formerly "European areas" reserved for the British and German colonial overlords and clearly represented in maps from the period.
Like many cities in the Global South, Dar is plagued by standstill traffic, vast inequalities of wealth, and extreme poverty. However there are reasons to celebrate: a new Chinese-funded bus rapid transit service recently opened, and several construction mega-projects are underway to alleviate traffic. The city centre is crowned with yellow construction cranes, building the next generation of Tanzanian office blocks. And the city is home to Africa's fastest growing emerging middle class.
Kunduchi Wet-n-Wild water park is a playground for Dar's wealthy residents to relax in the oppressive heat and humidity. Across the fence however, a modest fishing village exists in a simple and altogether separate reality of poverty. The day I was there, the fishermen dismissed the resort with a wave of their hand. "It doesn't matter to us", they told me.
Revealing these juxtapositions is an important part of understanding the full story. Pictures on the Kunduchi Facebook page, for example, crop out the village entirely.
Dar's city centre is a stunning mixture of the old and new, order and chaos. Above, the new Bus Rapid Transit line cuts through the colonial centre of town with a graceful arc. The tall buildings, themselves a hodgepodge of styles and order, encircle one of the many dense slums in the Kariakoo neighborhood.
The Jangwani river separates Masaki, Oyster Bay, and the city centre from the rest of the sprawling city. Inevitably perhaps, informal settlements have sprouted up within the flood plain of the river. This relentless encroachment into the polluted Jangwani occasionally has dire consequences. The river ecosystem is beginning to take back these structures from the owners who were forced out for reasons of safety.
Zanzibar island is rich with history and culture that beckons to tourists from around the world. On the far northern tip of the island lies the village of Nungwi, a name synonymous with relaxation, crystal clear water and white sand beaches, "full moon" parties, and if you care to dig a little deeper, water scarcity and poverty.
The beachfront in Nungwi is colonized with expensive multinational hotel chains, some of which cater to the super-rich and cost upwards of $7,000 per night (like the Essque Zalu, pictured below). The strain that these hotels put on the service delivery system in this region (for electricity and water) is massive. On the other hand, most residents of Nungwi support the tourism industry and report it has had a positive effect on their lives. Hotels bring jobs, and tourists bring money. Is this a balance that we can hope to continue as sustainable?
Mikocheni, Dar es Salaam