While some East African countries are still under Covid-19 lockdown, a large number of Dar es Salaam residents flocked to the Saba Saba grounds, during the 44th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair, the pandemic threat notwithstanding.
More people attended the promotional event famously known by its Swahili name, Saba Saba, on July 7, which was the climax. The annual show is usually preceded by over a week-long exhibition, which usually brings together local and international exhibitors.
Things were different this year as many exhibitors did not participate due to Covid-19. According to the organisers, Board of External Trade, the number of participants dropped to 43 from the over 500 participants last year. All the same, the low turnout mainly of foreign exhibitors did not deter city residents from visiting the trade fair grounds.
Turkey, Syria, UAE, Ghana and China are some of the foreign countries that participated in the fair.
As is the case everywhere in Dar es Salaam today, very few people at the fair were taking preventive measures against Covid-19. Very few were wearing masks and many were not observing physical distancing as recommended by experts.
The only prevention measure observed was hand washing. There were buckets of water and soap at the entrance for people to wash their hands before entering the grounds. National Service youth were stationed at the main gate to oversee the exercise. Also, everyone entering the grounds had their temperature measured. Outside the pavilions too were buckets of water and soap for hand washing.
When the trade fair started on July 1, the turnout of both participants and visitors was very low, something that worried everyone, especially the organisers.
Things took an about-turn on the third day as the number of exhibitors and visitors increased. Two pavilions, one for Bongo movie stars and another for Young Africans football club, were a great attraction.
The artists and sportsmen who participated in the fair as exhibitors for the first time, spiced up the event that many expected would be boring due to Covid-19. Fans thronged the two pavillions not only to find out what their celebrities had to offer but also to get a chance to interact with their idols.
Inside the artists’ village, more than 15 Bongo movie celebrities showcased different activities that they do apart from acting. It was easy for visitors to choose which booth to visit since they bore the names of the artists. Many were delighted to meet the celebrities.
Artists who participated in this year’s trade fair included Jackline Wolper, who was selling African wax prints (Vitenge), Aunt Ezekiel, who was selling handbags, Zuwena Mohammed who had a food stall, Karen Gadner, sugarcane juice and Gladness Kifalikwa aka Pili, who was selling cashew nuts.
Saba Saba goers who spoke to Life&Style said they were interested in meeting the celebrities face to face, interacting with them as well as taking pictures. The artists were very friendly and really made good business. Many made the purchases because they found pleasure in buying from their celebrities.
An exhibitor, Peter Msina said no one expected this year’s fair would take place due to Covid-19. Those who participated did so at a very short notice after life returned to normal. They did not have enough time to make preparations.
“I sell spices but I did not bring a large consignment, fearing the turnout would be low due to the pandemic. Surprisingly, I have been selling like never before. Visitors increased on the third day,” says Msina, who is a frequent exhibitor.
Institutions like the Vocational Education and Training Authority and the University of Dar es Salaam, which normally showcase a number of technologies did not have much to show given the short notice. These need more time to prepare. Preparations for innovators usually start in January, giving them enough time to design the technologies. Due to Covid-19, many had thought the show would be postponed this year.
Halima Mndeme, a reveler told Life&Style that she only visited Saba Saba grounds after she heard about the bongo movie village. She is a fan of Jackline Wolper and wanted to meet her face to face as she only sees her in movies.
“The exhibition started at a slow pace but the presence of artists gave it a boost. It gave people reason to go to Saba Saba, where they were pleased to meet celebrities they only see on the big screen. Their presence gave revelers a new experience. I had no plans to attend at the beginning, thinking there would be nothing exciting this time. Am happy I met Wolper and had the opportunity to take photos with her as well.”
Faustine Lameck, a fan of Shilole, says he could have bought food anywhere at the grounds but chose Shilole’s booth for a difference. Apart from acting and music, Shilole aka Shishi also runs a food business. Shilole who recently released a new number “Pindua Meza” owns a restaurant in the city known as Shishi Food.
Her booth attracted a huge number of revelers, some who were lucky to be served by Shilole herself. Many fans had the opportunity to take photos with her as well. On the menu at Shishi Food was a variety of delicacies including chips chicken, rice and ugali to mention but a few.
“Shilole’s food is no different from food in other restaurants. I like the fact that she took the advantage of her being famous to make money through her business,” Faustine says.
He advises more celebrities to follow suit. He says they should invest in other businesses instead of relying on just making movies or music.
During the official opening of the fair on July 3, Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa commended the organizers for managing to co-ordinate everything within a short time, despite the fact that the country, like the rest of the world, is going through a difficult time due to Covid-19.”