Operating experience: Decline of the traditional bus company in Dar es Salaam between 1984-2017

In Tanzania, the long-standing bus company in the city of Dar es Salaam, called Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA), was nationalised in 1970, following the country’s declaration of independence in 1964. UDA then became a semi-public company, 51% of which was owned by the city, namely the Dar es Salaam City Council. But the political decisions that followed led to structural problems that still persist today. 

Indeed, the nationalisation of UDA resulted in periods of nepotism and a lack of investment in the renewal and modernisation of the bus system. Company officials were used to hiring extended family members and/or acquaintances regardless of their skills in running a transport company. What’s more, while UDA’s modal share continued to decline in the face of an increasingly widespread paratransit offer, the number of employees per bus in operation continued to grow. In 1984, the ratio of employees per bus was 11, rising to 18 in 1990. Such excessively high ratios underscore the inefficiency of the company. As a result, there was a significant need for subsidies and it was the Tanzanian state that covered the operating deficit each year. But given this level of performance, it was not possible to invest in renewing a fleet that was becoming ever more dilapidated.

The decline of UDA was precipitated by the growth of the paratransit offer, following the legalisation in 1983 of the minibuses known as “daladalas“. 6 years later, they were fulfilling 90% of the demand for public transport.

In 2015, the situation had not really changed: the rolling stock consisted of only 20 buses over 20 years old, of which only a few were in operation. Despite this, the company employed around 110 people, including 50 drivers, confirming that inefficient practices were ongoing.

Sources : WWF 2017 ; SSTAP 2015 ; Kumar & Barrett 200 ; Diaz Olvera et al. 2007