- Zanzibar is fast-tracking the start of direct flights to and from Saudia Arabia.
- Trade between Zanzibar and Qatar more than doubles in the last decade.
- New UAE consulate in Zanzibar spearheading investment pacts between the two countries.
The island of Zanzibar is championing a renaissance in trade with talks on securing agreement for direct flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This comes only months after Saudi Arabia introduced direct flights to the country’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.
The direct flight from Saudi Arabia effectively cuts travel time and reduces travel costs by more than half. Travel time from Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam to King Abdulazz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia is now roughly 4 hours 40 minutes. Previously, travelers were spending 10 hours to complete the journey.
Tanzania Works and Transport Minister Makame Mbarawa said the direct flights will serve to boost international travelers’ receipts in Tanzania. “The reduced flight time is expected to significantly increase travel and trade between the two countries and improve our economic and bilateral relations,” he said then. The Island of Zanzibar now wants a similar deal.
Zanzibar gains from Saudi Arabia
Data from Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority shows that international travelers increased by 55 percent as of last year. In the said period the number of international travelers grew from 1.694 million to 2.618 million.
Since the direct flight deal between Tanzania mainland and Saudi Arabia was brokered by Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan, the same is expected to be the result of recent efforts by Zanzibar President Hussein Mwinyi.
Zanzibar State Minister, Office of the President (Constitution, Legal Affairs, Public Service and Good Governance) Haroun Ali Suleiman told a media briefing that direct flights from Saudi Arabia to Zanzibar will significantly boost trade and strengthen their bilateral relations.
In a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Acting Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr. Fahad Al Harb, the diplomat said immediate gain will be the reduced cost of travel for Muslim pilrgrims going to Mecca every year.
Pilgrims to Saudia
An average of 2,500 Tanzanian pilgrims fly to Saudi Arabia every year. However, they are forced to use various airlines and fly through different routes to Saudia.
According to the Minister, the issue is not only in the airlines and various layovers the travelers face. The people of Zanzibar have to first struggle with travelling to Dar es Salaam to fly out of the country.
“Normally, when pilgrims and citizens book to Saudi Arabia they have to go to Dar es Salaam. It is high time we have a direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Zanzibar,” said the minister.
In response, the Acting Saudi Arabia Ambassador to Tanzania Sheikh Fahad Al Harb was very positive about the request. He reassured the minister that his government is firm in its commitment to building bilateral relations with Zanzibar.
“We will continue collaboration for the interests of Saudis and Zanzibar citizens,” local media quoted the diplomat.
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Zanzibar-Qatar trade relations
Already, trade between Qatar and Tanzania Mainland has amounted to $87.08 million as of last year. This is a 12 percent increase compared to $77.5 million which was recorded in 2021.
Similarly, Qatar exports to Tanzania have grown by 37 percent annually from $15,600 in 1996 to $37.8 million in 2021.
To cement trade ties between Zanzibar and Qatar, the President Mwinyi met with Qatar’s Chamber First Vice-Chairman, Mohamed bin Twar Al Kuwari and board member Mohamed bin Ahmed al-Obaidli.
The meeting in Qatar saw Zanzibar president encourage investors from Qatar to invest on the island. The Island is looking for investment in tourism, hospitality, real estate, and energy among other sectors.
In his acknowledgement of the potential in investing in Zanzibar, First Vice-Chairman, Mohamed bin Twar Al Kuwari said; “Now the time is appropriate to explore investment opportunities there (Zanzibar) to strengthen cooperation between both countries.”
“Qatar Chamber supports this cooperation and is prepared to host a seminar highlighting the opportunities available in Zanzibar among Qatari investors,” he added noting that.”
The two sides went ahead and signed an MoU to enhance trade and investment cooperation between the two countries. The trade deals will also serve to build business partnerships between traders on the two sides.
In 2019, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi pledged to the then Presidennt of Zanzibar Dr. Ali Mohammad Shein, a commitment to the Island.
Boosting UAE-Zanzibar relations
Shaikh Mohammad stressed the UAE commitment to boost its relations with Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania alike.
The Crown Prince signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide $10 million for the development of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Zanzibar.
The pact was to be realized through Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development. Hussain Jasem Al Nowais, Chairman of the fund, signed the MoU.
As part of its commitment to Zanzibar, the UAE opened up a consulate on the island in 2022.
Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Stergomena Tax, said; “It is a great opportunity having the consulate in Zanzibar. It will help to boost trade, facilitate consultations between Zanzibar traders and their UAE counterparts.”