So far so good as Zanzibar registers $321m projects in nine months

What you need to know:

  • Interview Zanzibar’s economic transformation is well on course, promising a bright future for the semi-autonomous island

The Executive Director for Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (Zipa) Shariff Ali Shariff, spoke to The Citizen’s Lilian Ndilwa on a number of issues pertaining to investment in the Isles and how the sector was doing amid the global Covid-19 pandemic. Read on...

Question: Zanzibar offers a wide range of investment opportunities ranging from blue economy, agribusiness to tourism, as the investment authority what major strategies do you put in place to ensure all these opportunities are utilised?

Answer: One of the leading approaches that have earned us a great number of investors on the island is physically meeting investors around the world and share with them opportunities of investing on our land because a few of them are willing to make investment decisions on the island without meeting physically, which usually acts as an introductory convention. We also use digital means such as websites and social media to show the world all corners of the island as well as reveal what it has to offer through the blue economy policy. Another strategy used is highlighting free economic spots through the creation of master plans that detail the reas of concern on different plots of land that are for investment, for instance, the Fumba Town and Blue Amber Resort.

What is the adverse impact of Covid-19 on Zanzibar’s investment areas?

Truth be told, Covid-19 took a toll on Zanzibar Investment arena, like it did on other countries because looking at the investment figures in Zanzibar after Covid-19 made entrance last year, they are lower compared to the past years. We only survived because of the path our leaders chose in curbing the corona pandemic. As of now, we are witnessing an increase in investment, specifically in real estate because since November 2020 to July this year, about 52 projects in Zanzibar have been given permission to be developed on different parts of the island, this is the highest number of projects to be developed in less than a year. We are certain that it will increase because of the plans we have in place, one being to ensure eco-friendly development of projects on small islands sited in Unguja and Pemba.

How does that compare with the number and value of projects that were registered before November last year?

Well, what I can say is that the 52 projects - which had been registered during the past nine months - are worth $321 million. The projects have created a total of 3,590 jobs. Since its establishment, Zipa has registered a total of 1,115 projects. Out of the number, however, 804 projects are currently in various stages of being developed whereby 370 - worth a total of $7.6 billion – are currently in operation. You are at the forefront of the investment drive. Please, tell us some of the areas that will become major hotspots for investment in the future. All eyes are on manufacturing especially with new multipurpose port that will be built at Mangapwani in Unguja. It will have about five to six ports inside it and with that we expect the highest flow of business in terms of imports and exports. That is why we are in the process of announcing plots that will be used as industrial parks. We believe that manufacturing is the future of Zanzibar with regards to business and investment.

How does Zanzibar, being a part of the United Republic of Tanzania, use its unique position to reach out to the wider East African Community (EAC) market?

Zanzibar’s position in the map has made the island outstand in terms of business. It is a crucial point for business development In East Africa and beyond that. This is one of the reasons we repeat to modify different sectors to fit in with the growth of business on the island including expansion of Terminal Three Airport.

Executive Director for Zipa, Shariff Ali Shariff

Zanzibar also has lucrative incentive packages to strategic investors by allowing foreign investors to own 100 percent of their businesses. What has the response been from investors following these alluring arrangements?

The response has been positive. These arrangements have given us a picture of how developed countries conduct these kinds of investment. It has also formed a cooperative bond between the government and investment stakeholders, for instance, they were involved in the creation of incentives for foreign investors alongside the government. With the positive response, we look forward to tangible investment in capital formation, introduction of new technology in terms of machinery as well as construction of buildings.

 Are there any specific strategies in place to ensure the dynamic and young workforce in Zanzibar benefits from the multiple investments in the isles?

That is one of the goals. Even in business investment on the island we want to ensure young people are involved directly. For instance, we often suggest to our foreign investors to include locals in their projects for a sense of belonging because this is their land. Being a government authority, we advise the youth in Zanzibar to take time with education because it will assist them in getting opportunities the island has to offer in the investment sector. Education will give them a seat as future employees or employers.

According to the Zanzibar investment guide 2019-2020, contribution of agriculture to Zanzibar’s GDP has been going up, a contrast to other African countries.

How does the investment authority plan to keep this sector thriving considering the threats to the tourism industry?

In a more economic sense, agriculture in Zanzibar has to con[1]tribute to the lead developmental sector whereas the lead sector in Zanzibar is tourism, so the growth of tourism sector is directly proportional to the growth of agriculture.