I knew Morogoro, a small city 200 km from Dar, was a popular conference venue. But I’d no idea of the business this has spawned till this week. During the first hour and a half on day one of our workshop, word had apparently spread that customers, flush with per diems and with time to kill during breaks, were in town. So as we spilled out of the conference room for our first tea break, we were met by a newspaper vendor, a professional photographer, a stall selling jewellery and clothes, another offering cracked heel balm and aloe vera toothpaste, and a fairly unconvincing guy offering “health checks” along with appropriate herbal remedies to treat your multiple deficiencies.
Nice for the entrepreneurs of Morogoro, but that’s probably not quite who the donors have in mind when committing their funds. Part of the reason all these government and aid conferences (workshop, training, orientation, induction, seminar, briefing, etc…) are held far from Dar es Salaam, even if it means all the participants come from Dar, is the generous per diems, or daily allowances, that people get paid. Basically, they’re more likely to attend, and to stay for the whole session. Not that I blame them, given what most people earn here, though there seems to be a certain inflation going on – because by now even an event in Dar’s fanciest hotel with free lunch doesn’t necessarily draw many customers.