MEDA Blog - Stories from the Field

Mitumba Shopping in Dar

Before coming to Dar, I wasn’t sure what to expect for my downtime, but as I get to know Dar, friends and events better, I find I definitely under-packed my non-work wardrobe. Contact lens solution and packs of mango gummy candies took priority in my luggage!

I’ve been to Mlimani City once and it had a couple fast-fashion shops, but at prices I wouldn’t pay back home. Same thing with some boutiques on Kimweri: Forever 21 store tags still on some of these items, but with a 100% markup or more! Or attractive-from-a-distance blouses brand new from China, falling apart at the seams. 70,000 TSh polyester blouse?! Kweli?! Non-negotiable?! Kweli?![1]

I dragged my heels, but after 2 months I finally found time for mitumba (second-hand clothes) markets! I love thrift and vintage shopping wherever I go. And much more interesting than just saying you picked something up at any Zara! Mwenge has been my market of choice. Great bus route, variety of stuff…

The prices that vendors announce, (typically non-negotiable), range from 500-4000Tsh for button up blouses, skirts and such, (mostly from charity clothes drives or second hand stores in North America). I see tags from Goodwill and Sally-Anns from time to time. Prices for handbags, overnight bags and shoes however, depend on your powers of persuasion and the quality of the item.

How it works!

Vendors buy a bale from wholesalers of clothes , sorted according to clothing type, and unload the lot at a market table. Similarly, bales are shipped around the country and end up at the smallest towns.[2]

There is the element of risk for the vendor. Despite the grading system (A-D for condition of the stock, according to my rudimentary research), you never know what you will get. All 80′s power shoulders? On the consumer side, what you find depends on your eye and a bit of luck. I saw that GAP blouse 3 seasons ago but they were out of my size!

So far, I’ve bargained for a couple items that make my friends in Tanzania proud. Sensible dress shirts for work for 1,000-2,000TSh ; flat, black, faux leather, studded ankle booties, and a classic black leather saddle handbag for 10,000Tsh each. You can expect to pay quite a bit more for quality, trend or if you are in certain neighbourhoods like City Centre.

Find out from other Tanzanian customers what general price ranges are. Haggle by all means, but don’t let it get out of hand. If you can’t bargain it to the last 500Tsh of what you’ve been told the price is, please don’t hostile or give platitudes on discrimination. You may not always be getting ripped off. Pick up a supply and demand curve, think about it and remember this makes someone’s livelihood.


[1]OK I know there must be more places than Kimweri that may be better priced. I’ll get to Kariakoo boutiques soon enough.

[2] Proof! My translator in 2011 had a blue Wind River winter jacket from such a market in rural Meatu, Shinyanga because it got “cold” when we drove long distances on the motorcycle.

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