OPEN ALL HOURS

Tanzania 2018 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: 24-HOUR SERVICES

Shape up or ship out: Tanzania's answer to edging regional competitors is to improve efficiencies in its transport network with 24-hour services.

In 2017, Hong Kong opened the world's first ever 24-hour library; in London, the world's first ever 24-hour vegan drive-thru opened its windows. With time waiting for no man, and the 21st century individual reluctant to wait any time at all, services must work round the clock to keep up. Operations at prominent Tanzanian transport hubs, it seems, are no exception.

The first half of 2017 saw Tanzanian President HE John Magufuli announcing two of the country's most significant transport centers—the port of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma Airport—would begin 24-hour services in a bid to capture more of the region's business opportunities.
Following the President's orders, all governmental institutions operating at the port of Dar es Salaam, including the Tanzanian Bureau of Standards (TBS), the Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA), and the Tanzanian Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), will be operational through the night.
The Dar es Salaam port accommodates over 95% of Tanzania's yearly cargo throughput, which has been increasing 10% YoY since 2005. It is the fourth major port in the eastern Sub-Saharan African region, after Durban, Mombasa, and Maputo. However, in aspirations for a higher accolade, plans were laid to construct Bagamoyo Port, a major development that was set to become the third-most important facility in the wider Indian Ocean region, after the ports of Salalah and Durban.
However, a much-quoted World Bank report released in 2015 cast doubt over proposals to construct new facilities while existing ones were left in disrepair. Findings revealed that inefficiencies at the port of Dar es Salaam were costing Tanzania USD2.6 billion per year, and the country stood to gain USD1.8 billion if facilities were modernized.
These figures prompted the President to put a halt on developments at Bagamoyo in 2016 and, instead, turn his attention to upgrading Dar es Salaam. In line with this strategy, the Tanzanian Ports Authority (TPA) channeled USD6 million into streamlining operations at the port.
However, just a few kilometers up the coast at rival port of Mombasa, seaborne activity increased by 2.4% in 2016, with Ugandan trade accounting for 81.9% of the total. Currently, dwell time at Mombasa port is just three to four days, compared to Dar es Salaam's 10-13, making Mombasa an obvious choice for businesses shipping to and from the region.
In neighboring Kenya, the Lamu port project is set to increase the country's GDP by 1.5%, and is already attracting investment from China and South Africa, further causing concern for Tanzania's shipping industry.
The recent decision to open the port of Dar es Salaam 24 hours a day, seven days a week is part and parcel of President Magufuli's planned improvements to the harbor as well as an attempt to counter recent criticism that the port is not regionally competitive and to challenge Kenya's growing maritime domination.
Beyond the maritime industry, the President has made a happy marriage of two of his pet projects: aviation and Dodoma. At present, USD12 billion of renovations are currently underway at Dodoma Airport as it readies to serve increased traffic as a result of moving Tanzania's administrative center from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.
Following the installation of 150 airfield ground lights by Chinese-based Shanghai Chiko Solar Technology Company, Dodoma Airport can now accommodate flight operations 24 hours a day. With a lifespan of 100,000 hours, the lights are 10 times more powerful than those installed at Julius Nyerere airport in Dar es Salaam, a testament to the government's ambition for the facility to become a hotspot for an aviation industry about to take off.
In this context, President Magufuli's resolution to stay open all hours sends a strong message to competitors and potential partners alike: Tanzania is raising its game, aiming to meet international standards and practices to capture more of the region's lucrative trade.