Skyscraper City

Dar es Salaam is a city on the rise. In the past few years high-rise buildings have mushroomed in the city, transforming the skyline and showing it to be among the fastest growing cities on the continent.

The ongoing construction of high-rises in Tanzania’s largest city promises to result in a beautiful, modern city. But the uncontrolled eruption of supertalls has put pressure on the city’s drainage system and resulted in terrible incidents — the most tragic being the collapse of a multi-storey building in 2013, which killed 36 people.

Developers fail to follow correct procedures

According to experts, the collapse of some buildings comes down to the failure to follow proper architectural procedures.

A lot of building owners have being violating construction procedures, said Ilala Municipal Council Mayor Jerry Slaa, adding that his office is addressing the matter.

Slaa’s office has information that some owners of the high-rises have been increasing the heights of their buildings contrary to the Municipal Engineers office’s directives, he disclosed. “The growth of high-rises is a good thing, but some of the owners have been going against the directives issued by our engineers and this makes some buildings unsafe,” he said.

Civil Engineer Jovitus Kato told UrbanAfrica.Net that some buildings are being constructed below the required standard because of corruption and use of unqualified experts.

“If the Municipal [office] approves the construction of a five-storey building but the owner decides to erect ten storeys, it’s obvious the foundation will fail to support the load,” he said.

Kato added that other issues facing the construction of such buildings are the use of sub-standard materials and poor inspection.

A view of old and new buildings in Dar es Salaam’s Posta Mpya area, Azikiwe Street. Emmanuel Herman.

City not equipped for high-rises

Apart from the safety issues, the skyscrapers, which are mushrooming in Dar es Salaam’s central business district (CBD), are said to be the source of traffic congestion and failure of the drainage system, which leads to floods and outbreaks of disease.

University of Ardhi Professor, Sultan Mndeme, who is an expert in real estate, told UrbanAfrica.Net that the ongoing construction of the high-rises in the city centre is dangerous for the city.

Most plots in the city centre were designed for between one- and four-storey buildings. But on the same plots 35-storey buildings are being situated at the moment, he said.

“If you construct a 35-storey building on the plot that was designed for a two-storey building, it means there will not be enough parking, the drainage system will be disturbed, and the number of people will be increased at that particular building contrary to the earlier design,” he said.

Mndeme said the government must come up with a strategy that will stop investors from constructing new buildings in the city centre. He said there must be a new Dar es Salaam city, with old buildings in the ‘old city’ being preserved for historical purposes and serving as tourist attractions. “Most countries have old cities and new cities, for example there is Old and New London. We can do this in Dar es Salaam,” he said.

Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, Said Meck Sadick said the growth of the buildings does not correlate with the available infrastructure. Such buildings were supposed to be situated on the outskirts of the city to ease traffic and enable the drainage system to operate effectively, he explained.

The city has been facing floods because construction activities have blocked natural free flow of water and there is no space for authorities to expand the drainage system, according to Sadick.

Far too many buildings are vacant in the city centre, said Lazaro Mwakibete, an expert in real estate who works as a consultant for various companies in the city. “The majority of tenants scramble for ground floors. It is difficult to find a company renting 35 floors, therefore many of these buildings you see in the city are empty,” he said.

According to Mwakibete, traffic jams, lack of parking yards, the poor drainage system, and insecurity are among major factors that make tenants shun city centre buildings.

Most of the skyscrapers are owned by pension funds such as national Social Security Fund (NSSF), Public Service Pensions Fund (PSPF), Parastatal Pensions Fund (PPF) and The Local Authorities Pensions Fund (LAPF). Mndeme, the professor, said pension fund organisations were likely to a face financial crisis in future if tenants choose not to rent in skyscrapers.

However, Mustafa Suleimani, country manager of Lamudi, Tanzania’s largest real estate marketplace, argues that the mushrooming of skyscrapers is a positive sign that the country’s economy is growing.

It is important to initiate and create big businesses within the city centre rather than moving outside the city, he said.


Florence Mugarula is an editor for the The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (BAJ-Hons) from the University of Dar es Salaam. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam. He can be contacted at

Main photo: The PSPF building in Stesheni area is one of several skyscrapers being built with pension funds in Dar es Salaam. Florence Mugarula.

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