Namanga: Growing bustling border post

Namanga: Growing bustling border post

In Tanzania Namanga is part of Longido District in Arusha region, being located 130 kilometres from the Arusha City and 20 kilometres from the District headquarters at Longido hamlet. Namanga lies within the pastoral savannah land which lies between North-East Tanzania and Southern Kenya.

The town’s original name is Oldonyo O’rok, a Maasai term describing the nearby rocky hills under which it was built. To some extent Namanga is also a tourist town, being the connecting hub of leisure visitors touring the nearby Amboseli National Park, on the Kenyan side.

Visitors who land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi are sometimes transferred to Tanzania. It is also a departure gate for visitors who have completed their tours of Tanzania’s Northern Zone Circuit on their way out of the country heading to catch their planes at JKIA located nearly 145 kilometres from the border.

The high landing fees at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) has diverted many international flights from the terminal in favour of Nairobi’s JKIA and Namanga finds itself handling frequent daily trips of airport shuttles commuting between Arusha and Nairobi and vice-versa.

The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport handles over six million passengers per annum, many being tourists coming into East Africa and a good number of them never go back without visiting either Mount Kilimanjaro or Ngorongoro Crater, these are therefore compelled to connect to Arusha and Moshi, from Nairobi via Namanga.

Kilimanjaro International Airport, located 170 kilometres from Namanga gets slightly over 300,000 travellers per year and even with its current projection to double the figure and attract 600,000 fliers, the terminal’s annual passenger traffic will only be 10 per cent of JKIA.

With Kenya’s JKIA getting a lion share of air passengers destined for East African countries, Namanga usually finds itself handling nearly 150,000 foreign visitors who come into Tanzania annually through Nairobi. The Julius Kambarage Nyerere International Airport (JKNIA) in Dar es Salaam handles over 1.5 million passengers per year accounts for just 110,000 tourists (40,000 less than Namanga) and even the 70,000 that land directly in Zanzibar are still a far-cry from Namanga’s tourist traffic.

Namanga is a trading centre, a busy one at that despite its size. Tanzanian goods are exchanged with those produced in Kenya either through barter trade or with money serving as medium of exchange. Before the East African Community lifted restriction on imports and exports from either side of the border, smuggling used to be rife at Namanga and many struck it rich through the racket.

Contraband trade is still endemic at Namanga, with Ethiopians and Somalis scrambling for a chance to get to South Africa via Kenya and Tanzania, Namanga has become a notorious hub for human trafficking cases,where some hoodlums earn fortunes in ferrying people from Kenya to Tanzania through the highly permeable 400 kilometres long, bushy borderline.

Built on a ridge, Namanga is essentially a residential town. Even before the booming border trades, both legal and illegal became rampant in the area, the location played a major role of being stop-over spot for cattle riders and raiders in pre-colonial times. The original area residents are of course the Maasai but people of Somali origin inhabited Namanga for years.

At the moment members of the police force, customs officials and immigration department staff, who get posted to work there, eventually choose to retire at Namanga, setting up permanent homes and helping to develop the area into a promising town. More promising is the proposed “one-stop border station” soon to be constructed at the crossing point and which is aimed at minimizing the delays when it comes to the clearance time at the border.

Already the tarmac road connecting the towns of Arusha (Tanzania) and Athi-River (Kenya), which was being constructed under the East African Community has been completed and with it an anticipated increase in road traffic flow. The two projects, as well as the ongoing efforts to survey the Longido Township located 20 kilometres from the border and then issue plots for construction to individuals, institutions and investors may further add value to Namanga as potential business and residential area.

Author: MARC NKWAME in Arusha

Post your comments



Recent Posts


more headlines in our related posts

latest # news