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Urban Rurality and Rural Urbanity, marked by formalization of marketplaces and transport strategies in Mwanza context, Tanzania

Daan VAN TASSEL student laureate
daanvantassel@hotmail.com

°1980 Belgium
Architectural Civil Engineer, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, 2004

Urban Rurality and Rural Urbanity, marked by formalization of marketplaces and transport strategies in Mwanza context, Tanzania

This award-winning dissertation is the final degree project of Daan Van Tassel, presented at the end of the 2002-2003 academic year towards his Degree in Architectural Civil Engineering from the Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Regional Planning at KUL. It is particularly original because it stems from continual dialectic exchanges between theory and practice based on a prolonged immersion in the field. The author has to some extent – and this should be stressed and applauded – reversed the perspective from which the South is generally explored in research conducted by Westerners.
The region under examination is Mwanza, a medium-sized town in Tanzania by Lake Victoria, in an area that is urbanized, certainly, but is also marked at its centre by elements of rurality and in the surrounding market-gardening area by elements of urbanity. Like everywhere else in Africa, the markets – several of which are examined – are where exchanges and life in general take place. The location of the markets and access to them take on a fundamental importance within a context where transport is rare and expensive, both for the small traders and their customers. Furthermore the marketplaces and the bus stations overlap, which is both practical and problematic as this causes congestion. The way these complex places work, some currently in operation and others in the planning stage, is explored here within the context of Mwanza and its surrounding area and operational proposals are put forward. The study, which is extremely relevant in terms of development, teaches us that it is vital when planning such sites not to make them finite spaces, offering no possibility of further development, but that instead they need to be open so that they can easily expand in line with sustained demographic growth.
Excellently written, this dissertation is richly illustrated with many of the photographs taken by the author himself during an extended stay in Mwanza. Let us hope that this dissertation has a sequel, giving an account of the recent developments in this Tanzanian town as well as drawing a comparison with similar urban settings in central Africa and more generally in intertropical Africa where they have a similar problem with the relationship between the markets and transport.
 

Report by Prof. J. Charlier, Institute of Geography, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium