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date: 26 June 2022

Transport in Tanzanialocked

Transport in Tanzanialocked

  • Katie Valliere StreitKatie Valliere StreitDepartment of History, Franklin College


Tanzanian men and women have embraced, adapted, and innovated various transportation technologies over the centuries as part of their survival and wealth accumulation strategies. During the precolonial era, dhows and porterage caravans helped to draw mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar into ever-widening trade networks with Central-East Africa, the western Indian Ocean, and the capitalist world economy during the 19th century. The onset of colonialism brought attempts by German and British administrations to replace these “traditional” forms of mobility with “modern” railways, steamships, and motor vehicles. Europeans expected to use these tools to conquer and subordinate African populations according to the demands of the colonial economy. Europeans also perceived these technologies as material manifestations of their alleged intellectual and moral superiority. Colonial administrations, however, continually lacked the necessary resources to construct and maintain new transportation infrastructure amid challenging climates and terrain. Dhows and porters successfully competed with railways, motor vehicles, and steamships throughout the colonial era and remained integral components of the colonial economy. As new transportation systems gradually became integrated into Tanzania’s physical and socioeconomic landscape, ordinary Tanzanians utilized the technologies of mobility to pursue their self-interests. Throughout the process of building transportation infrastructure and using automobiles, dhows, railways, and airplanes, ordinary Tanzanians created identities that challenged discriminatory racial and gender social orders constructed by colonial governments and the Tanzanian nation-state.


  • Colonial Conquest and Rule
  • East Africa and Indian Ocean
  • Social History

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