Zanzibar-European Investment forum geared to a stronger and sustainable partnership

The economy of Zanzibar has really picked up from the effects of covid-19. It is now on the road to achieving great economic transformation as it leverages on its longstanding cooperation with the European countries, which is now flourishing in different socio-economic aspects.  The government of Zanzibar believes that the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the nation is crucial to their efforts to meet development goals established by regional and international organizations, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2063 set by the AU with the aim of achieving sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development for the people of Zanzibar.

Group Photo of His Excellency Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi with other Zanzibar government representatives, European Ambassadors and European investors

Zanzibar story: Recovery and Resilience

Statistics collected by the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA) indicate that in the course of a 19-month period (from November 2020 to May 2022), ZIPA has registered 136 investment projects with a total value of 1.4 billion USD, which are expected to create more than 9,000 direct jobs.

At the moment, Zanzibar is looking at a total of  342 projects worth 2.6 billion US Dollars from European Countries. This alone accounts for 38 percent of all registered investment projects in the country.

So far, a total of 17 small islands out of 52, have been awarded to various investors with total investment capital 443.5 Million USD as a result of the Zanzibar government putting up some of these smaller islands for high-end investment and development opportunities.

Forging new and old partnerships

Indeed, Zanzibar is set to a positive trajectory towards opening up for business and investment. However, that does not mean that there are no setbacks or challenges to building partnerships. The European investors in Tanzania had an opportunity to share with the government what they feel could be improved to make the business environment more conducive. This was done during the first ever Zanzibar-European Investment Forum organized by the European Union Business Group (EUBG) in Tanzania in collaboration with the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA) on 23rd June 2022 at the Golden Tulip Airport hotel in Zanzibar.

Signing of the Letter of Intent for Collaboration by EUBG Tanzania CEO, Cikay Richards (far left) and ZIPA Executive Director, Shariff A. Shariff (far right), witnessed by the President of Zanzibar His Excellency Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi together the Netherlands Ambassador H.E Wiebe de Boer

Some of the main challenges to investment expressed during the event included insufficient skilled labor, poor infrastructure, import taxes, electricity and water issues and unstable internet.

To reassure the investors, the Zanzibar government emphasized that its goal is to increase revenue while increasing business activity without raising taxes. To achieve this, the government intends to increase the tax base, increase staff capacity and train taxpayers.

The Zanzibar government has also already begun to address the regulatory framework and, following improvements in PPP laws, has so far managed to attract 15 direct investments. Greater efforts are being made to attract foreign direct investment and capital. License processing has been reducted from 3 months to a mere 48 hours. The goal is to complete all processes within 24 hours. A land bank has also been set up to facilitate the foreign investment process.

Through digitization, the government is now working to keep all relevant government agencies under one roof with a new investment directive, which is currently being finalized.

In his speech, the Principal Secretary of Blue Economy and Fisheries, Dr. Aboud Jumbe, summed up the vision for the transformation of the Zanzibar government by stating the following;

“President Mwinyi’s message on Blue Economy is a wakeup call that the future is here, that the prospects of a structural transformation of the Zanzibar Economy is in the Ocean; that all we have to do is tap into the potential of global tourism and travel, fisheries and aquaculture, maritime trade, services, infrastructure, energy and the question of maritime safety and security or ocean governance” Dr. Aboud Jumbe

This vison is well aligned to Dutch expertise on blue economy which was elaborated by the Netherlands Ambassador, H.E Wiebe de Boer, during his speech at the event that could serve as an area for future collaboration with the Zanzibar government that aims to have investments that are Pro-Nature, Pro-People and Pro-Climate.

The Netherlands is Tanzania’s biggest EU trade partner and its biggest EU investor. Much of that is linked to fields in which the Netherlands has long excelled, such as the maritime sector, agriculture and food security. But there are also exciting new areas, like agro-logistics and the Blue Economy, which provide opportunity for more collaboration.

EUBG Tanzania and ZIPA presenting President Mwinyi with a special award as an Investment Promotion Champion

Like in Zanzibar, a large part of the Dutch economy depends on its strategic location on the sea. The Dutch maritime cluster has worldwide knowledge and expertise in the field of inland shipping, ports, offshore industries, fisheries, education, shipbuilding and maritime suppliers. 

The Netherlands is also a leading provider of maritime security services, which are essential to support the Blue Economy in various ways. Sea power and economic development functions relate to protection of shipping channels and safe passage of vessels at sea. This is why the Embassy of the Netherlands had invited Commander Pepijn Verstand as a special guest to speak on blue economy and maritime security during the event. Commander Verstand is with the Royal Netherlands Navy and is also the founder of the Maritime Capacity Alliance, which is working on Maritime Security.

The Embassy of the Netherlands is optimistic about the future. The embassy looks forward to playing a key role and forming strategic partnerships with the government of Zanzibar. The event witnessed the signing of a Letter of Intent for Collaboration between EUBG and ZIPA by His Excellency President of Zanzibar, Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, who was also the Guest of Honor. As the funder of EUBG and the event, the embassy believes that this is the start of what will be a very fruitful partnership.

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