Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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6/1/13: eating coconuts on Ocean Road

A very happy new year to you!  Or, 'Kheri ya mwaka mpya' as we locals say.  May you find peace and prosperity in the year ahead.
One of the many pleasures of being in Dar Es Salaam, and more specifically having my flat, is that I am walking distance from work in one direction and the Indian Ocean in the other.  Alongside the ocean is, somewhat understandably, Ocean Road, which goes down to the centre of town, firstly getting to the fish market and then to ferry terminals.  The following pictures were taken in the fish markets in Bagamoyo and Zanzibar Town, but give a sense of what fish markets look like here:
But the first thing you get to heading down Ocean Road are the coconut stands.  Being able to eat coconuts where they're grown is an experience several orders of magnitude better than the imported variety in the UK.  The coconut is younger, full almost to the brim with coconut water which is more delicately flavoured, with less flesh which is softer and, again, more delicately flavoured.  When bought from a vendor from a stand something like this:
the vendor firstly chops a hole about 2 cm in radius and hands it over so that you can drink the water.  After this, you hand the coconut back and the vendor then cuts out the flesh for you to eat.  This costs 1000 shillings which is 40p - or probably less if I haggled!  It makes for a pleasant interlude at the weekend to walk across and indulge in this wonderful little treat.
But there's a but - and a big but.  A couple of weeks ago I counted no fewer than 14 cococnut vendors along Ocean Road about 4 metres apart from each other.  I cannot believe that there is sufficient demand to keep more than 2 people fully occupied.  Presumably the end points must be in great demand.  And, at risk of allowing my imagination to do overtime, presumably there was a time when there were 13 vendors, and somebody said, "I know what I'll do, I'll sell coconuts on Ocean Road alongside the 13 already here."  And there are a number of other instances I've seen when a large number of people are trying to do exactly the same thing right on top of each other, for example, I stopped to do some shopping at a small row of shops recently to be besieged by 6 guys all trying to sell me DVDs, with many repeats in the titles they were offering.  This may sound like a recipe for huge acrimony amongst the vendors, but it says a great deal for the Tanzanian spirit that those whose goods are not bought seem to acept their competitors' good fortune without rancour.
So, an idea.  What is needed are what I will provisionally call, "Street business advisers", people with excellent local understanding and strong business acumen to go out and speak to people selling on the streets to discuss their options with them and see if there are ways of harnessing their entrepreneurial spirit more effectively.  Of course, this is outside my expertise, there may be any number of reasons why this is not possible or helpful.  Comments gratefully accepted!

2 Comments to 6/1/13: eating coconuts on Ocean Road:

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Geneve Henry on 10 January 2013 20:31
Hi Dr Tennant, Happy New Year. Hope you are enjoying your stay in Tanzania.
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Geoff on 06 February 2013 23:32
Hi Geneve, great to hear from you. There is a part of my heart still with you all in Jamaica, I trust the year brings peace and happiness, Geoff

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