Small-scale Traders Hit Hardest By Ongoing Water, Power Rationing in Tanzania

Traders complain that water and power rationing is taking a heavy toll on their small capital.
Hadija Said and Rahma Salum17 November 20225 min

Dar es Salaam/Mwanza. The ongoing water and power rationing in various parts of Tanzania adversely impact small-scale traders across the country, according to a mini survey by The Chanzo conducted in two major cities of Dar es Salaam and Mwanza.

Tanzanians are facing the unprecedented double rationing of the two essential services.

This inconvenience is taking a high toll on the people of the East African nation who have continued to seek state intervention to save them from the difficulties, The Chanzo has learnt.

Voices have been raised, particularly on social media platforms, by residents of a number of cities and towns across the country, decrying the difficulties they are forced to go through following the frequent, most of the time unannounced, power and water cuts.

In Mwanza, for example, the second largest city in Tanzania after Dar es Salaam, with a population of 3.6 million people, small-scale traders are demanding authorities fix power issues so that they can be able to do their businesses profitably.

Mwanza City view from Kiseke, Ilemela

The port city on the shore of Lake Victoria has been facing severe blackouts to the chagrin of its residents who have been demanding better service from the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO).

TANESCO is a state-owned company with a monopoly on power generation and distribution in Tanzania.

READ MORE: Is Public Relations Team Scapegoat for Tanesco’s Underperformance?

While power cuts in Mwanza have been going on since as early as May this year, the frequency and prolongation of such cuts recently have been respectively more common and longer than they were in the past.

The Chanzo visited Kiloleli, an area in Ilemela, Mwanza’s bustling business district, to speak with some small-scale traders on how they view the ongoing power cut.

Loss-making

Denis Godfrey is a butcher who heavily depends on electricity to preserve his meat. He tells The Chanzo that frequent power cuts are affecting his small business “beyond any estimates.”

“On more than one occasion, I’ve had to dispose of the spoiled meat which was previously stored in my fridges,” the 29-year-old father of one complains.

“Sometimes I sell the meat to those who buy it for their dogs. But even with that, you already have made a loss,” he added.

Denis in his butchery there was no electricity since morning when he opened his business

If Godfrey sells fresh meat for human use, the price tends to be Sh8,000 per kilogramme. But if it is half-spoiled meat, sold for dog use, the price is just Sh2,000.

“Sometimes you don’t sell the [spoiled] meat at all, because not many people feed their dogs with bought meat anyway,” says Godfrey.

“Just this past week,” he went on explaining, “I had to dispose 12 kilograms of spoiled meat because there was nowhere to take them. That’s worth Sh96,000. That’s a lot of money, really.”

Kurwa Boniface runs a men’s salon that is currently almost not working because when the power goes off in the morning it usually comes back in the evening when no business is available.

“Sometimes, when evening comes and it’s time to go back home, you wonder how are you going to face your family, because you have no money at all,” explains the 25-year-old father of three.

“Surely you’re expected to come back home with something, right?” asks Boniface rhetorically. “But how can I while there is no business?”

TANESCO has not officially announced power rationing in Mwanza.

The Chanzo contacted the company’s Mwanza office to ask why the city is experiencing blackouts but received no reply as their phones weren’t picking up.

“If there is a power rationing, why doesn’t TANESCO announce so?” wonders Boniface, frustrated.

“They should state so and give us a clear, understandable timetable,” he urges. “Enforcing power rationing secretly isn’t fair and comes at a huge cost to our small businesses.”

Kurwa Boniface in his barbershop

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital with a population of 5.5 million people, residents have been without sufficient water for almost a month now, a situation authorities have attributed to the shrinking water level at the Ruvu River, Dar’s main water source.

READ MORE: Samia Blames Dar Water Woes on ‘Irresponsible’ Human Activities

ALSO READ: Samia Now Blames Tanzania Water Woes on Large Number of Livestock

The Chanzo recently visited Tandale, a working-class neighbourhood in Dar es Salaam’s district of Kinondoni, to find out how small-scale traders there are coping with the much-criticised water rationing in the city.

Long queues of people waiting to buy water could be observed, with the 20-litre gallon selling at between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500.

A number of carts of water sellers could also be observed in a number of spots, waiting for prospective customers.

Dar es Salaam resident at the water selling point

Dwindling income

Stamiri Mwishehe, a food vendor working in the area, complains that the price at which they are being forced to buy the water dwindles her already low earnings she gets from selling food.

“I used to make between Sh70,000 and Sh80,000 a day,” the thirty-nine-year-old Mwishe tells The Chanzo immediately after serving her customer a plate of food. “But nowadays, I make as less as Sh50,000.”

What irks Mwishehe most is that the price of water itself is not stable, it changes on a daily basis.

“Today you pay Sh1,000 for a 20-litre gallon, tomorrow you are required to pay Sh1,500,” she laments. “It is a big challenge, really, especially given the nature of my business, which demands much use of water.”

Another trader, Leah Kialula, sells packaged water, commonly known as maji ya kandoro and admits that her income has been decreasing because she has been using much of her earnings to buy water.

“Before the present rationing, I used to pay Sh200 for a 20-litre gallon of water at the pump,” Kialula, 42, tells The Chanzo. “Now? Well, I have to pay Sh1,500 for the same. There are charges for ice too. So, you can imagine the impact.”

In an attempt to address water woes in Dar es Salaam, on November 11, 2022, President Samia Suluhu Hassan launched an Sh24 billion water project in Kigamboni.

Authorities hope that the project will help alleviate water-induced difficulties as it is expected to pump about 70 million litres of water into the streets of Dar es Salaam per day.

Hadija Said reported this story from Dar es Salaam and Rahma Salum reported from Mwanza.

Hadija Said and Rahma Salum

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