By Godwin Semunyu
The Zanzibar 8th phase Government under President Dr.Hussein Mwinyi is setting the pace towards attaining a robust 2050 vision, emphasizing in building an economy that capitalizes on marine-based products. “The blue economy,” as it technically termed.
Zanzibar, a combination of Unguja and Pemba islands, has a total surface area of 2,550 sq.Km with a population of close to 1.6 million people.
According to President Mwinyi, Zanzibar’s population has grown in five folds within 50 years, from only 300,000 in 1964. The number is expected to increase to over three million by the year 2040.
the drastic population growth will effectively increase density and consequently increase pressure on land for settlement and production.
Understanding the blue economy vision The ocean covers 72% of the earth’s surface while constituting more than 95% of the biosphere. Human beings’ livelihood is equally blue as it is green. However, less production is done on oceans than on land. Therefore, the blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, job creation, and better ecosystem health, from fishing to renewable energies, maritime transport, tourism, and waste management.
In Zanzibar, for instance, most of the fishing activities are taking place within fishing grounds in territorial waters, yielding around 1,806 metric tons annually. Comparatively lower to neighboring Mombasa and Lamu that produces about 24,096 metric tonnes annually.
Currently, Zanzibar’s GDP stands at Sh3.1 trillion, with tourism contributing 30 percent, agriculture 20 percent, Industry 18 percent, and other sectors carry 12 percent.
The figures could increase significantly if strategic and deliberate efforts are employed to leverage ocean-based resources like offshore hydrocarbon, energy, tourism, maritime transport, shipping, and deep-sea fishing. Certainly,
Plans should increase the yields through stern investment in deep-sea fishing to cater to local and international demands. There is a ready-made market in the landlocked countries of Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Malawi, and Zambia.
Reports have indicated that the Eastern Africa region will increase fish consumption from 4.80 kg in 2013 to 5.49 kilograms by 2022. Rising population growth and income levels imply that the region will need 2.49 million tonnes of fish to fill the demand-supply gaps.
Kudos to the Zanzibar government for establishing the Fishing Corporation (ZAFICO) along with the construction of 26bn/- Malindi fish market that, apart from providing reliable stocking facilities with cold rooms, will also create close to 6,000 jobs.
Coastal Tourism is another important pillar of Zanzibar’s blue economy vision. Tourism contributes over 30 percent of Zanzibar GDP, contributing immensely in providing employment and 80% of foreign exchange.
The sector that enjoys an annual visit of around 500,000 tourists boasts a wide variety of options ranging from the historical and cultural sites of Old Stone Town to beach and leisure activities. Zanzibar has more than 500 hotels and guest houses, with a total of 7,500 rooms and a total of 114 tour operators. One of the best in the region.
Zanzibar needs more marketing efforts to promote the Mantra Resort in Pemba, the only underwater hotel in Africa. The Mantra resort rooms are 4 meters under the surface of the Indian Ocean, providing a unique underwater experience to the tourist. If well promoted, The $750 Per night per person rooms will surely be making its way on to the top bucket list of millions of tourists from all corners of the world.
However, the Zanzibar tourists’ sector should not become complacent or rest on their laurels but rather be on their guard by creating more tourists’ values. Zanzibar should always keep in mind the constant competition from Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Maldives.
Another critical area of the Zanzibar Blue economy vision is Seaweed farming. So far, the sector has created more than 25,000 jobs as Zanzibar is the third-largest exporter of seaweed in the world, after the Philippines and Indonesia. The room for expansion in this area is immense.
Furthermore, there is light at the end of the tunnel for deep-sea gas exploration in Zanzibar. Recent development including the initial signing of the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) between the Zanzibar Government and the UAE based RAK GAS company, has paved the way for further exploration of oil and gas reserves archipelago. This area is of significant importance.
The future is blue
With resources like land for farming becoming scarcer, Zanzibar, like many other islands, ought to fully optimize all the resources presented by the Indian ocean. The blue economy is, therefore, a way forward.
President Mwinyi’s decision to form a special Ministry for Blue economy and fisheries is a bold statement of intent that for Zanzibar, the future is blue.