Zanzibar: From tourist paradise to economic powerhouse


What you need to know:

  • In the two years to the end of August 2023, the island has attracted nearly $3.73 billion (Sh9.4 trillion) in investments through projects registered by the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (Zipa).

Zanzibar is not just a tourist paradise; it is rapidly becoming an economic powerhouse.

In the two years to the end of August 2023, the island has attracted nearly $3.73 billion (Sh9.4 trillion) in investments through projects registered by the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (Zipa).

From sports to entertainment, the blue economy, agriculture, energy, tourism, and technology to international collaborations, Zanzibar is setting an impressive example of what visionary leadership and robust investment can accomplish.

Zanzibar's Investment Boom

Speaking during the commemoration of the Kizimkazi Day in Zanzibar on August 29, 2023, Zipa's executive director Mr Shariff Ali Shariff stated that the country has overseen a monumental leap in investment and development within just three years.

He said Zanzibar, under President Hussein Mwinyi's leadership and the dedicated efforts of Zipa, has attracted investments that promise a prosperous future for the island.

"In two years the authority has registered 250 projects valued at $3.73 billion (equivalent to Sh9.4 trillion) which has created nearly 15,000 employment opportunities," he said.

Mr Shariff said Zanzibar is swiftly becoming a global investment destination, attracting interest from far and wide, thanks to the economic diplomacy agenda of the republic President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Notable Investments

One of the most exciting developments he said is the introduction of the National Basketball Association (NBA) of the United States to Zanzibar.

"You (The President) have facilitated the NBA to come to Zanzibar. We have already given them a 20-hectare land where they will build a sports arena, ensuring Zanzibar's participation in regional African championships," Mr Shariff proudly announced.

He said with Rwanda as the only regional competitor, Zanzibar is set to become a force to reckon with on the African basketball stage.

But the investments dooen't stop at sports; the creative industry is also set to flourish. As international actor Idris Elba promised, a state-of-the-art film studio will grace Zanzibar's landscape.

"We have provided him with 80 hectares in Fumba town in the free economic zone area to build the film studio," said Mr Shariff highlighting Zanzibar's commitment to nurturing creative talents and making its mark on the global film industry.

Zanzibar is not just riding the waves of conventional industries; it's making strides in technology. The island is on the verge of having its very own "Silicon Valley”, he said.

According to Mr Shariff with tech investments pouring in, the dream of a Zanzibar innovation hub is becoming a reality. This landmark achievement showcases Zanzibar's ability to diversify its economy and embrace the digital era.

Government Initiatives

Speaking during the same event Minister of State Presidents Office Responsible for Economy and Investment Mr Mudrick Soragha said the isle’s government had also taken several initiatives towards easing way of doing business through establishment of one stop center.

He said the government of Zanzibar is also collaborating with Tanzania Investment Center (TIC), and close neighbors in Rwanda and Mauritius in issues of capacity building and experience sharing.

“When this administration came to power, an investment certificate could take up to three months, but currently due to the transformation that we have done, an investor can acquire his certificate in just 24 hours,” said Minister Soragha.

According to the minister, Zanzibar is also in the process of reviewing its Investment Act 2023, whose bill is expected to be discussed in the coming representative assembly.

The Electronic Investment Window

Zipa has also established an online portal, the Zanzibar Investment Electronic Window (ZIeW) to FastTrack the process to investors provide ease of doing business, and cut down costs.

According to Zipa, the new advanced digital systems ZIeW will act as a one-stop center, saving time loss of bureaucracy and unnecessary inconveniences.

Zanzibar external sector performance

The country's economy has been on an improved recovery post-COVID-19 as a key sector of tourism boost isle's exports bill.

Data from the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) indicated that the total value of exports to the year ending August 2023 was at $202.8 million compared to $175.6 million recorded in a corresponding period in 2022.

The services receipts which played a critical part in the impressive performance rose by 41.8 percent to $139.6 million from $98.4 million of August 2022, following the increase in tourism arrivals during the said period.

In terms of Imports of goods and services, the payments rose to $634.6 million from $493.9 million recorded in the year ending August 2022.

“All major categories of goods imports increased In particular, imports of capital goods increased to $67.8 million from $34.1 million, largely associated with ongoing infrastructure projects,” the BoT states in part.

The import bill increase according to the central bank was in items such as machinery and mechanical appliances; industrial transport equipment; and electrical machinery and equipment.

The imports of intermediate goods rose by 17.2 percent to $389.0 million, with the main items being refined white petroleum, food and beverage for industrial use, and motorcars for households.

While on the other hand, the increase in consumer goods imports was mostly driven by other consumer goods sub-categories.