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Blue economy: A vehicle for sustainable development in Zanzibar


The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth, covering more than two-thirds of its surface. It is vital for all life on the planet, including humans: from being an important source of oxygen and food to regulating the climate, housing an incredible biodiversity and creating millions of jobs. A healthy, resilient ocean means a healthy planet and a healthy economy.

The ‘blue economy’ is an emerging concept that promotes better management of our ocean or ‘blue’ resources. It seeks to promote our wellbeing and social equity whilst substantially reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Ocean resources are estimated to contribute around 3-5% of global growth domestic product (GDP) in 2010.[1] Turning to Zanzibar, ocean resources are estimated to contribute about 30% of its GDP and employ about one-third of its labour force. The livelihood of a typical Zanzibari has hinged largely on coastal and maritime services.

Similar to other parts of the globe, the potential to develop the blue economy in Zanzibar is limited by a number of challenges, including harmful human activities, skill gaps, scarce financial resources and institutional capacities. The Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar (RGoZ) is determined to overcome these challenges and embrace the blue economy as a vehicle for sustainable development. It has developed the Zanzibar Development Vision 2050 and Blue Economy Policy, and is in the process to develop a Blue Economy Strategy.

The latter involves fostering platforms to build a stronger knowledge base. The RGoZ works with UONGOZI Institute as one of its partners in implementing this. It recognises that the Institute is uniquely positioned to convene stakeholders from relevant disciplines and industries to exchange knowledge, leverage expertise and resources, as well as recommend suitable, feasible approaches for maximum impact. Furthermore, the Institute has the capacity to conduct research to inform its plans for the sector.

On 12 June 2021, the RGoZ, through the Ministry of Blue Economy and Fisheries, convened a forum on the ‘Blue economy for socio-economic development and environmental conservation in Zanzibar’ together with the Institute, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Officiated by the President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, H.E. Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, the forum engaged high-level decision makers plus representatives from the private sector, development partners and academia. It featured discussions on the potential of the blue economy in the archipelago; effective management practices that it could adopt; and evaluated the unique advantages and implications for developing the Blue Economy Strategy.

President Mwinyi, a ‘champion’ of the blue economy, highlighted the varied opportunities for Zanzibar covering small-scale and deep-sea fishing; aquaculture; seaweed farming; maritime infrastructure; maritime trade; plus coastal and marine tourism. He commended the forum as an ‘important catalyst’ for driving efforts to promote sustainable approaches to prosperity through the blue economy.

The proceedings of this forum will soon be published on our website

‘Realising the blue economy in Zanzibar: Potentials, opportunities and challenges’ by Prof. Joseph Semboja, the Institute’s former CEO and now Senior Research Fellow, offers a detailed review of the issue for the archipelago. Visit this link to obtain the report.

[1] OECD (2016), The Ocean Economy in 2030, OECD Publishing, Paris,