Make sure you make a profit, JPM tells DART

26Jan 2017
Henry Mwangonde
The Guardian
Make sure you make a profit, JPM tells DART

PRESIDENT John Magufuli yesterday pressed Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit (DART) project authorities to ensure the project, which has already cost at least $290 million, eventually begins to make a profit to reflect the money and effort invested so far and still to be invested.

A visibly elated President Magufuli symbolically drives a Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) bus shortly after gracing the project’s formal inauguration yesterday.

Speaking at the formal inauguration of the project’s already-functioning first phase in the city, the president also directed local governments minister George Simbachawene to brief him on how much income the project has actually generated since starting operations last year. “In my outlook, there is no definition for making a loss. So if this project makes a loss, it is your loss, not my government’s loss.

And be informed that it will cost you your jobs,” Magufuli bluntly told DART officials gathered for the occasion. According to the president, DART is a unique project of its kind in Africa, and therefore a close eye needs to be kept on its operations to ensure it remains viable.

He said he has information of some officials within UDA-RT - the half-public, half-private company operating the project - opening up their own small firms with the aim of enriching themselves through various aspects of the project.

They should stop with this mentality immediately, he warned. Phase One of the DART project officially began operations in May last year with a fleet of 39 trunk buses with 160-passenger capacity each and 101 feeder buses of 80-passenger capacity each.

The buses ply a total 21 kilometers of dedicated DART bus lanes on three trunk routes with a total of 29 stations. Minister Simbachawene reported that since the project started, at least 962 jobs have been created and more than 200,000 commuters are using the transport on a daily basis.

He told the president a major reason why the project took a long time to start was a debt wrangle between the government and UDA-RT’s main shareholders, the privately-owned Simon Group company.

The matter has since been resolved after Simon Group paid the outstanding debt for purchasing the state-owned Usafiri Dar es Salaam (UDA) public transport company, Simbachawene said.

He further confirmed that currently, Simon Group still has a majority (51 per cent) stake in UDA-RT, while the government holds the remaining 49 per cent shares in the company entrusted with running the DART project.

The grand plan is to build a 130km bus rapid transit system covering over 90% of the city's population, and the project was split into six phases due to the large investment required.

The second phase of the project is to run for approximately 19 km from Kilwa Road to Kawawa Road, south via Kivukoni, at a cost of around $160 million and for which funds have reportedly already been secured.

Phase Three will cover 23.6km from Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) to Uhuru Street along Nyerere Road; Phase Four 16.1km along Bagamoyo Road and Sam Nujoma Road; Phase Five 22.8km along Mandela Road; and Phase Six 27.6km along Old Bagamoyo Road.

The project, which was first put on the government drawing board in 2003, seeks the creation of a quick, clean and cost-effective solution to Dar es Salaam’s traffic congestion problems which are seen as costing the entire national economy dearly.

Yesterday’s formal DART project launch was also attended by the visiting World Bank vice president for Africa, Dr Makhtar Diop, who described the project as the “envy” of the continent.

Diop noted that African cities are growing at a fast speed and Dar es Salaam is not spared, saying the expansion of infrastructure will not only ease life in the city but provision of services which will help in transforming the economy.

He confirmed that the World Bank is currently negotiating with the government over the provision of funding for the construction of an inter-change fly-over at Ubungo in the city that, according to President Magufuli, is a key priority requirement in order to allow the entire DART project to eventually begin making a profit.

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