Taken for a Ride: Grounding Neoliberalism, Precarious Labour, and Public Transport in an African Metropolis

ISBN : 9780198794240

Matteo Rizzo
240 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jun 2017
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How does public transport work in an African city under neoliberalism? Who owns what in it? Who has the power to influence its shape and changes in it over time? What does it mean to be a precarious and informal worker in the private minibuses that provide public transport in Dar es Salaam? These are the main questions that inform this in-depth case study of Dar es Salaam's public transport system over more than forty years. The growth of cities and informal economies are two central manifestations of globalization in the developing world. Taken for a Ride addresses both, drawing on long-term fieldwork in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and charting its public transport system's journey from public to private provision. This new addition to the Critical Frontiers of Theory, Research and Practice in International Development Studies series investigates this shift alongside the increasing deregulation of the sector and the resulting chaotic modality of public transport. It reviews state attempts to regain control over public transport and documents how informal wage relations prevailed in the sector. The changing political attitude of workers towards employers and the state is investigated: from an initial incapacity to respond to exploitation, to the political organisation and unionisation which won workers concessions on labour rights. A longitudinal study of workers throws light on patterns of occupational mobility in the sector, and the political and economic interests that shaped the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit in Dar es Salaam, and local resistance to it are analysed. Taken for a Ride reveals the political economy of public transport, exposing the limitations of market fundamentalist and post-colonial scholarship on economic informality, the urban experience in developing countries, and the failure to locate the agency of the urban poor within their economic and political structures. It is both a contribution and a call for the contextualised study of 'actually existing neoliberalism'.


1 Taken for a ride: rethinking neoliberalism, precarious labour and public transport from an African metropolis
2 Public transport in Dar es Salaam: from state monopoly to neoliberalism, 1970-2015
3 'Life is war': capital and informal labour in bus public transport
4 The politics of labour 1: the quiescent period (up to 1997)
5 The politics of labour 2: struggling for rights at work
6 Tracing occupational mobility/immobility among informal transport workers
7 The new face of neoliberalism: the Bus Rapid Transport project in Tanzania (2002-2016)
8 Conclusion: taken for a ride

About the author: 

Matteo Rizzo is a political economist who lives and works in London, where he is a senior lecturer across the Departments of Economics and Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, UK. He previously worked at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford and at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cambridge. His work has been published by leading African studies and development studies journals, including the Journal of Development Studies, Development and Change, the Journal of Agrarian Change, African Affairs, the Journal of Modern African Studies and the Review of African Political Economy, of which he is also a member of the Editorial Working Group.

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