Foleni is Kiswahili for traffic, and it is a word that you will know well if you live in or visit Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. The majority of Dar’s 5 million residents travel by public transit or on foot, but car use is on the rise and traffic rules often seem like just a suggestion. If you think biking in Montreal or Toronto is a challenge, you should come to Dar where its not just taxis or streetcar tracks you have to deal with but dala dalas (minibuses), bajajs (auto rickshaws), cars, various street vendors, and pedestrians.
One way in which Sustainable Cities International is promoting non-motorized transportation in Dar es Salaam by supporting Fasta Cycle Messengers. Fasta is a co-op of cyclists who deliver packages and letters around Dar es Salaam by bicycle. All Fasta members also members of Umma Wa Wapenda Baisikeli (UWABA), an organization that promotes cycling in Dar es Salaam and advocates for increased safety and awareness of cyclists. UWABA is involved in a number of events and activities in Dar es Salaam, including the annual Cycling Caravan. Last year’s Cycling Caravan attracted more than 400 participants. UWABA also provides safety education to Dar es Salaam cyclists.
Fasta currently has twelve customers and is hoping to increase these numbers in the coming months through additional promotion and marketing. There is definitely a market for a bicycle messenger service in Dar es Salaam. The current postal system does not deliver door-to-door, so anyone who wants to send packages to specific locations has to use a courier service. Most courier services in Dar are internationally-owned and motorized, where as Fasta is local and only operates with bicycles. Fasta cycle messengers can avoid traffic jams, so packages are delivered on time. If you are a cyclist you know that foleni is rarely a problem on a bike. Fasta is also a socially responsible choice – customers who choose to send packages with Fasta are decreasing their carbon footprint and supporting non-motorized transportation. Finally, Fasta is a co-op so all revenue goes directly to operating costs and salaries for the previously under-employed members.
Fasta is an energetic and organized group of young people who are building their capacity and gaining the skills needed to run an effective and sustainable business. Over the last two years, members of Fasta have improved their English language skills, computer processing skills, accounting abilities, and their ability to engage government institutions and secure quotations for training. I am writing this blog post from Fasta’s marketing training course, where they are currently undertaking a two-day training course that will give them the skills and understanding needed to generate an effective and realistic strategic marketing plan.
It is our hope that with increased promotion and marketing, Fasta will soon be a trusted name in package delivery in Dar es Salaam. This Valentine’s Day someone even sent flowers to their special someone with Fasta, so who knows what’s next. That’s all for now from Dar, take your bike for a spin for me and avoid the foleni.