The Economy of Zanzibar

The Economy of Zanzibar
For the people of Zanzibar, fishing and farming are the main economic activities. From the beginning of the 19th century to the mid-1970s Zanzibar exported a large proportion of the world's supply of cloves, and the islands' economy was based largely on this commodity.
Some diversification has occurred since then as the world market price for cloves fell dramatically in the 1980s, but cloves are still a major export, along with coconut products and other spices. In recent years, seaweed has also become an important export commodity. The potential for tourism to be a major earner of foreign currency has been recognised and this is being developed.

Seaweed Farming

In 1989, seaweed farming was introduced on the east coast of Unguja (Zanzibar island) and has since become a vital source of income for coastal villagers. The seaweed is planted and tended on beach areas between the high- and low-water marks (see sustainable seaweed farming box, page 225). It is harvested and dried, collected in Zanzibar town, and then exported to several countries in Europe and Asia for use as a food thickener or stabiliser. Seaweed is now a valuable addition to Zanzibar's traditional exports of coconuts, cloves and other spices. (for details on cloves and coconuts see boxes.)

Despite the success with seaweed, exports are limited, and Zanzibar imports many basic foodstuffs, including rice (from Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, China and the USA), maize (from mainland Tanzania), cooking oil (from Kenya, Tanzania, Singapore and Dubai), sugar (from Brazil), plus wheat and flour (from France, Germany and the USA). Other imports include mineral water (from the Gulf states) and beer (from Denmark).
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