The Market to Be

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This is Kigogo Fresh, not so much a market as a market in the making. The municipality promised the community a market four years ago but getting it up and going has been a struggle. Just a few weeks ago they finally "officially opened" the market, a success that has come about in the last few months due, in large part, to the persistent campaigning and lobbying of the Kigogo Fresh women's association.
You wouldn't even think that Kigogo Fresh was in Dar es Salaam. It looked nothing like the packed city that I'm living in. I would have described it as a small village or town, not part of the largest city in Tanzania. The market is located next to a small community and up to this point traders were located along the roadside or wandered the community carrying their goods on their head. The promise of a large market was an exciting opportunity for the community, though many people had started to loose hope in the project.
The creation of a women's association under EfG's guidance had a big role in turning this situation around. When EfG first came to the area to organize, it seems like one of the hardest markets to work with since traders were spread out all over the community. But thanks largely to the woman standing in red, Nema Komba, the secretary for the women's association, the group has 90 members despite the fact the market isn't operational. She is a force of nature, who insists that I greet all the women with "shikamoo" and expression used to greet your elders, which literally means "I kiss your feet". So it comes as no surprise to me, that these women, under her leadership, were able to successfully lobby the municipal officials over the last 6 months to: finish cleaning and building the market, open it for the allocation of stalls, guarantee all women traders a market stall, and give the women the rights to run the toilets for the market.
We were at the market last week for the market officer's approval of allocation of stalls (the man standing above with the microphone). The municipality reinforced its commitment that stalls would be “one for one”. In most markets, the stalls have ended up in a the hands of a few richer community members, most of whom don't even trade anymore. Market traders are forced to pay high prices for rent which seriously impact their profits. The market officer promised that Kigogo Fresh would be different. Anyone found to be owning more than one stall would have all their spaces taken away. This commitment is an important step in the right direction and if it is kept will greatly reduce the cost of doing business for women traders.
Before we left, I asked the secretary what her dream was of the market. She told me that she dreamed of a large and prosperous market. There is a railroad running beside the market. It is part of the major rail line into Dar es Salaam. If the railway company would guarantee a stop at the market, then the market would become a major trading centre for wholesale as well as retail vendors. This would make this little market on the edge of the city a huge success. So even as the traders work to get the stalls and market governing structures organized, Nema Komba has her eye on the future and lobbying the railway company to make her dream a reality.


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