Zanzibar has on Tuesday, June 20, entered a $428 million (Sh1.01 trillion) agreement with United Kingdom Export Financing (UKEF) to expand Pemba Airport and construct various road networks in the Unguja and Pemba islands.
Zanzibar’s position as a self-governing part of Tanzania required Tanzania’s Finance and Planning Ministry’s involvement in the signing. Zanzibar’s Minister of State, President’s Office, Finance and Planning, Ms Saada Mkuya Salum, however, represented the Tanzanian ministry.
The British government has guaranteed the funding of the projects through the UKEF. Citibank London and Deutsche Bank London will finance the developments. The Zanzibar government has already contacted the contractors, doing so back in September 2022 and January 2023.
The Unguja and Pemba Road Projects
Zanzibar’s 103.5km road projects cover Unguja’s South Region’s, 48km Tunguu-Makudunchi Road, West Urban Region’s 12km Kisauni-Fumba Road and the 43.5km Mkoani-Chake Chake Pemba Road.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Zanzibar’s Minister of State, Ms Saada Mkuya Salum, said it was the first financing secured by the island state since its 1964 revolution, and that it took several years before willing partners could be found to fund the project.
The Unguja and Pemba islands are among Zanzibar’s tourist destinations, and the road projects are expected to not only make road travel safer and more comfortable for the locals, but also to boost tourism on the islands.
“These roads will be expanded to include four lanes, with two lanes in each direction, along with street lighting and pedestrian paths. The road projects are anticipated to be an unprecedented boom for tourism,” Ms Saada said.
Former finance minister, Jamal Kassim, who began the search for favourable financing during his term, was also present at the signing. He expressed delight at the agreement between Zanzibar’s revolutionary government and the UKEF, calling it the biggest financing deal in Zanzibar history.
“There were many false starts, but we didn’t give up our pursuit and finally with the financing agreement in place we can now focus on the benefits that this project can bring to our nation,” Mr Kassim stated.
The Pemba Airport Expansion Project
Pemba Airport was built in 1962, with a 500-metre (1,640 ft) long, 15-metre (49 ft) wide runway which accommodated only light aircraft. This relegated the airport to local flights since the runway could not support the larger planes required for international flights.
The expansion project will see the runway extended to 2.5 kilometres, and the terminal building redesigned. It is believed that this will allow international flights directly on the airport.
Pemba Airport currently accommodates 45,000 passengers yearly, though over 110,000 tourists annually visit Pemba Island. Upon completion the airport is expected to accommodate 750,000 passengers per year.
Minister of Works and Transport, Dr. Khalid Salum Mohamed, has expressed high hopes about the revenue that the airport would generate once the expansion project was completed.
“Once completed at the end of 2026, the airport development will significantly attract more tourists to Pemba Island, as improved infrastructure often signals greater opportunities for the future,” Dr. Mohamed stated.
He also spoke on the road projects, mentioning the poor condition of the Pemba and Unguja roads, and how their reconstruction would benefit Zanzibar.
The eastern part of the island, renowned for its pristine beaches, diverse hotel options, water sports activities, and vibrant nightlife, attracts a large number of travellers. However, they are right now in their poorest condition. The improved roads will unlock endless possibilities for tourism.”
Tanzanian contractors, Mwananchi Engineering and Contracting Limited (Mecco), and Propav Infrastructure (Propav) will oversee both the road and airport projects.
The British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Mr David Concar, has declared the signing a historic milestone, strengthening the economic ties between Tanzania and the UK.