1. bookVolume 16 (2022): Issue 1 (June 2022)
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
1646-7752
First Published
16 Jun 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
access type Open Access

Resilience from Below: Technicians, Repair and Maintenance Works in Post-socialist Dar es Salaam, 1985-2020

Published Online: 24 Jun 2022
Volume & Issue: Volume 16 (2022) - Issue 1 (June 2022)
Page range: 73 - 98
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
1646-7752
First Published
16 Jun 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

Since its establishment by the German East Africa Railway Company in 1906, Dar es Salaam’s electricity infrastructure has been functioning precariously. Tanzania’s national power company (Tanesco) collaborated with donors to ameliorate these problems, but to no avail. Tanzania’s cities continued to experience both cascading and rolling blackouts, and such breakdowns of infrastructure became critical, especially from the 1980s onward, making electricity consumers vulnerable. This article illustrates that the failure of Tanesco’s systems does not mean that inhabitants in the city have remained passively exposed to the consequences of power breakdowns. Based on interviews, a literature review, and archival material, it demonstrates that electricians have become part and parcel of a socio-technical landscape that has enhanced household resilience—the ability to survive in a country partly plagued by failing critical infrastructure. The article reveals the active role played by formally and informally trained electricians (mafundi) in forging alternative solutions, increasing electricity users’ ability to cope with power outages. Employing innovative skills to repair electrical appliances and tinker with Tanesco’s infrastructure, street electricians increased the resilience of residential electricity users in the face of recurrent power failures. The author argues that urban resilience studies in African cities like Dar es Salaam need to consider street technicians to gain a full understanding of households’ responses to vulnerable electric infrastructure.

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