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Urban governance as labour rights: The case of transport workers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

6th June 2011

CGHR Research Group

Urban governance as labour rights: The case of transport workers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dr. Matteo Rizzo (Smuts Researcher in African Studies, University of Cambridge)

Policy makers’ thinking and interventions to promote good governance in developing countries’ cities rest squarely on neoliberal thinking. Decentralization, the increased “voice” of (market-friendly) civil society in the policy process, and the promotion of family, neighbourhood, and other informal support mechanisms, are central to their strategies, whilst economic liberalization, deregulation and privatization are deemed to be the most efficient way to deliver economic growth in cities.

This paper will expose the inadequacy of this mainstream approach through the study of the politics of governance in the passenger transport system of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. It focuses in particular on the politics of its workforce. Dar es Salaam is a city with over 3 million people. Less than 20 public buses and over 7,000 private buses supply its passenger transport. About 30,000 informal, and highly exploited, wage workers operate these private buses. Having shown the causal link between workers’ “problems” and urban transport “problems”, the paper reflects on the efforts, dilemmas and partial achievements in claiming labour rights for the transport workforce. By contrasting these real attempts to address urban problems through better governance with the neoliberal fantasy of it, the paper underlines the mainstream’s failure to analyze urban capitalism, and the social and economic relations that cause urban problems. It therefore calls for a contextualized understanding of issues of power, authority, and exploitation when studying, or trying to bring about, (urban) good governance.

Discussant: Dr. Alastair Fraser (Trinity Hall, POLIS)