Dala dala are minibus share taxis in Tanzania. Often overcrowded and operated at unsafe speeds, these minibuses developed as a response to an insufficient public transport system in the country. While the name may be a corruption of the English word "dollar", they are also referred to as thumni.
History in Dar es Salaam
The dala dala developed as illegal taxis in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, due to a deteriorating system of government-run public transport in an environment of rising demand for such services. Between 1975 and 1983, the year dala dala were legalized, the number of buses operating in Dar es Salaam declined by 36% while the population increased by around 80%. In 1983, the government transport company was allowed to sub-contract to private entities, but due to high tariffs, this did little to substantially increase the numbers of licensed dala dala.
Further reforms in the late 1990s caused the amount of legal minibuses to swell, and between 1991 and 1998 their numbers rose by 450%. Large amounts of pirate minibuses continued to exist, however, and in 1998 it was estimated that these comprised nearly half of all dala dala in operation. By 1998 dala dala had almost completely superseded government run public transport; in that year a total of 12 government operated buses plied the streets. Around that time there were somewhere between 7,650 and 6,300 dala dala in operation.
Dala dala are often operated by both a driver and a conductor. Called a mpigadebe, the name for dala dala conductors literally means "a person who hits a debe" (a 4 gallon tin container used for transporting gasoline or water) in reference to the fact that conductors will hit the roof and side of the van to attract customers and notify the driver when to leave a station.
These vehicles for hire have their routes allocated by a Tanzanian transport regulator, Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA),[AICD 2] but syndicates (informal groups that fix fares, collect dues, and manage stations) also exist.[AICD 1] Prior to 1983, all forms of privately owned public transport were illegal in Tanzania, and as of 1991 and 1998 at least half of all dala dala continued to operate without a license.
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