Kikoy, Kanga and Kitenge at Kariakoo. 

Kikoy, Kanga and Kitenge are the African names for colorful wax print garments and fabrics. As a volunteer working for PUM (Netherlands senior expert’s organization) I was send to a project in Dar es Salaam in June 2017. My most favorite part of such a mission is a visit to the local fabric market. It is like a candy-store to me. And might you think local is small, not at all! This fabric market is situated in the huge market area of Kariakoo. Tens of thousands of people shop around, stalls largely sell the same and I’m about the only European. I’m tall here so I can look over the crowd. It is rainy season and we walk bravely through the peaks and mud. After the impressive amounts of juicy tomatoes, green bananas, mega melons, special underpants and cheerful colored toilet brushes, we enter an ugly concrete building through a narrow entrance (the concrete is actually not visible because every square centimeter is covered with merchandise). And there it is: the fabric market !! My heart makes a jump! In hundreds of stalls, no more than 4 square meters, thousands of coupons of the most colorful fabrics have been piled up. Kikoy,Kanga, Kitenge, batik, silk, lace, in all colors and patterns. The corridors are narrow, not more than 1 meter and in that meter you have to pass each other, men take orders and bring new supplies. I suspect these men sometimes carry 100 kilos on their shoulders. The fabrics are mostly from China and sold for less than 50% of the price from the original African wax fabrics. The patterns and even trademarks and logos on the stickers are copied from African mills. So hardly no Tanzanian fabrics will be found here. And that’s a pity. There are some cotton fields in Tanzania, but most of it is sold on the world market (to be bought back by the few Tanzanian fabric manufacturers). The fabric and garment industry is under much pressure and many SME’s struggle to keep in business and are forced to use these cheap fabrics. 

There are some initiatives that urge the government to take protective measurements and support companies that produce these fabrics and garments in Tanzania. I found some producers and help them to regain their business. For that purpose, Kariakoo is not the place to be. 


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