By Marc Nkwame
Arusha — THOSE who think that a single Tanzanian shilling no longer buys anything should spend a day in Unga-Limited, the densely populated section of Arusha City, where the local currency is still valued down to the last cent.
Retail outlets operating in Unga-Limited, as well as similar suburbs of Ngarenaro, Sombetini, Kijenge and Sokon-One, know their trade; why not slice stock into tiny servings so that even a guy with a single shilling could afford a measure?
Eventually, it becomes rather convenient; for instance, if an unannounced visitor pops in, no need to panic; the small shop next door will sell you two spoon servings of sugar at about 20/- just enough to sweeten a cup of tea for the guest without tearing your pocket.
One can also get a snuff of tea leaves, a pinch of salt, a handful of grain flour, few drops of cooking oil and trickles of paraffin (fuel) to make a meal for one or two within a budget of less than 500/-.
In order to stay afloat therefore, retail outfits here must be flexible enough to measure such commodities at whichever size or amount so as to accommodate even the thriftiest spender.
But spending as little as possible does not necessarily mean that people do not have money or they are as stingy as Uncle Ebenezer, sometimes it is just a matter of ‘Waste not, want not!”
With many of Arusha residents still living in single rooms, thus few can afford to buy groceries in advance due to lack of storage space and therefore choose to shop when the situation arises then consume whatever was bought on spot.
A child will be sent to buy things like sugar, rice, cooking oil and charcoal for fuel three times a day; for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the shopping trend will again be repeated on daily basis.
As the result, the city is now dotted with hundreds of small grocery stores capable of breaking their stock down to the last grain in order to accommodate the economy and space conscious customers.
Boasting a population of 500,000 residents and additional 100,000 daily visitors, it comes as surprise that ever since it was made a township in 1948, Arusha has had only one supermarket to date.
Even worse, the oneand- only supermarket ,which opened here in 2002 courtesy of South Africa’s Shoprite- Checkers, has just fled from the city citing the lack of supermarket culture among Tanzanians but especially those living in Arusha.
Shoprite recently handed over its premises to the Nakumatt stores of Kenya which also want to try its supermarket luck here while its South African predecessor makes hasty exit.
Photos: Arusha Central Market via Google