KofI Annan, Jeffrey Sachs, Bob Geldof and many other famous names are attending the IMF African economy conference in Dar-es-Salaam tomorrow – but none of the locals I spoke to today seemed to care. Most did not even know such a high profile event was even taking place on their doorstep.
Poverty isn’t obvious acute in Dar, but it exists. I was speaking to some relatives today who told me that no matter how poor an African woman may be, she will ensure her hair is perfectly braided and that she has a touch of make up on – appearance is important and just because you are poor, doesn’t mean you should look poor. We had a chat with Agnes, a mother of four who said she was sleeping rough with her children. She looked immaculate in her traditional outfit and tattooed skin. But many warned us here not to fall for the sob stories some might feed us. It’s hard to know who to believe.
The day has been full of insightful conversation and observation about the African economy. We stopped off to watch a local basketball match – youth versus the veterans. Turns out these top players were all lawyers, accountants and businessmen having some time out on a Sunday. They were divided about how much they had been affected by the economic downturn. Eke from the veterans believed things were going downhill for him whilst Saleem from the youth felt things were just fine as they were.
I had an interesting conversation with a group of Zimbabwean women in a local market too. They were busy stitching embroidery to be sold. They were mothers of young children who they had left behind in Harare in order to find work across the border. These women spent their days travelling back and forth between Tanzania and Zimbabwe to keep renewing their work permit. It was the only way to make money right now they said. Yet they also expressed a genuine optimism that things can only get better in Zimbabwe now. And they are waiting for that day. Their stories were touching, they expressed their views with a real honesty but were too afraid for me to take pictures of them or record their views.
I’ve noticed that the Asian and Arab populations are still thriving in Dar – as they were in my parents’ days. A local cafe owner Alfonse told me he was concerned at the fact that Indians were not mixing with Africans. “It will only work against them in the long run” he said. Angela, one of the few playing basketball agreed, “Things have changed in the past few years,” she said. “Indians and Africans are working together and since properties were nationalised they have been forced to live in the same areas. But there isn’t much social integration despite the fact that Indians have been here for so many years.” I’d love to hear how Indians feel about this as the days go on.
Tanzanians are very warm people, always willing to share their views. Tuesday is a national holiday here in Dar-es-salaam and the beach front will be full of people. We are hoping to broadcast the programme from a small bar/restaurant on the beachfront called Oyster Bay. Pictures of Oyster bay are on the WHYS flickr page.
Many locals hang out there, it is the only beachfront hang out in Dar-es-salaam. We went there this evening and it felt like the whole of Dar-es-Salaam had gathered to sit on the bonnets of their cars to eat corn on the cob and cassava. We’ll also have guests up in Zambia, speaking to us from a shopping centre built on the profits made from copper industry that is currently in decline there.
if you have any questions for our guests in Dar-es-Salaam or Zambia do get in touch.