Z’bar economy going from strength to strength

SINCE 1964 the revolutionary government of Zanzibar has taken measures to improve the Island’s socio-economic status and lift the living standards of its people. 

Over the past five decades have a number of economic policies and development visions have been implemented by the government in an effort to attain economic prosperity. 

Currently under implementation is the Zanzibar Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (ZSGRP aka MKUZA) III, which is aimed at aimed at promoting its national economic growth as well as enabling its poverty eradication crusade to succeed. The thrust of the vision 2020 is eradication of absolute poverty and attain sustainable development. 

As is the case with most developing countries, the voyage to full economic freedom has proved challenging for this semi-autonomous Island. 

But as statistics suggest, progress is being made. With the vision 2020 entering the final two years of implementation and assessment, progresses have been made. 

Zanzibar’s Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Khalid Salum Mohamed, says the Isles economy is growing at an impressive rate. 

Dr Mohamed says Zanzibar gross domestic product recorded a significant growth from 2,628bn/- in 2016 to 3,099bn/- last year. The finance minister says the actual economic growth rate reached 7.5 per cent in 2017, with per capita income hitting a record high of 2,020,000/-last year from 1,806,000/- in 2016. 

“Agricultural sector was the main contributor to Zanzibar’s economy, with the growth rate of 8.8 per cent in 2017 from the previous 6.3 per cent,” Dr Mohamed says as he reflects the state of Zanzibar’s economy. The service sector, he says grew from 7.2 to 8.2 per cent in 2017, with the industrial sector growing at 7.9 per cent compared to 6.7 per cent growth in 2016. 

According to Dr Mohamed, the year 2017 witnessed low inflation rate, which decreased from 6.7 per cent in 2016 to 5.6 per cent. “The decrease was down because of declining prices of food products as a result of increased domestic production, thanks to good weather and shilling stability against dollar,” he says.

Zanzibar national debt, on the other hand, grew by 37.8 per cent from 361bn/- in March, 2017 to 519.7bn/- in March, 2018. He states that the domestic debt stood at 158.3bn/- while external debt amounted to 361.4bn/- during the period, but he remains optimistic that the debt is sustainable. 

“The national debt is equivalent to 16.8 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), therefore it’s still low and sustainable and we can still borrow if the needs arise, to fast-track our development,” he explains. 

He insists that the overall performance of the Isles economy remains strong with the high growth rate of 7.7 per cent expected this year. The forecast economic growth will be achieved through increased food crops production, says the minister, revealing that the government was planning to purchase 20 new tractors for farmers in the Isles. 

The government will also boost promotion of domestic and foreign investments and execution of new projects, including road infrastructure, airport and building of modern residential houses at Kwahani, Chumbuni, Nyamanzi, Fumba, Mtoni and Matemwe. Other catalysts for the envisaged economic growth, according to Dr Mohamed, are increasing number of tourists visiting the India Ocean semiautonomous Archipelago and maintained peace and tranquillity. 

The focus of the 2018/19 budget is on areas earmarked in the national development plan, including improving entry-point infrastructure, that is, ports and airports; roads and energy supply, development of tourism sector, development of small industries through value addition and packaging. 

Dr Mohamed says the current budget also seeks to promote the development of the agricultural sector through installation of irrigation schemes, promote fisheries and livestock sectors and improve social services like education, health, sports and availability of clean and safe water. 

People’s empowerment, good governance, improvement of institutions and preservation of peace and tranquillity, youth employment and researches are other priority areas, he says. 

Though economic development in Zanzibar has been associated with tourism, agriculture still contributes greatly to the Islands’ economy and food security; hence the government is increasingly investing in agriculture.

The revolutionary government of Zanzibar is in the final stages of development of a programme that will see major transformations in its agriculture sector in the coming ten years. Dubbed ‘Zanzibar Agricultural Sector Development Programme’ or in short ZASDP the programme aims to boost sustainable production by combining both the blue and green economies. 

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