16 December 2009

Tanzania: Isles Forming in Spotlight

The Zanzibar Business Council starts its two-day meeting today to discuss ways of improving agriculture in the Isles.

A statement by the Zanzibar Business Council says some of the topics to be discussed in the meeting include the role of the private sector in developing agriculture, how tourism can support it and the role of financial institutions in promoting the sector.

President Amani Karume is scheduled to chair the meeting.

"These topics comprehensively mirror the 'Kilimo Kwanza' initiative undertaken by the government of Tanzania with relevance to key areas to the island, which are tourism, economic empowerment and investment," notes the statement.

The council's third meeting takes place against a backdrop of an acute power shortage in the Isles after a plant broke down at a power substation.

Zanzibar business stakeholders on Monday told the press that power shortages had raised operational costs. They cited a tourist hotel which was using up to Sh2 million on a standby generators daily.

The meeting is also being held at a time when the production of the major cash crop- cloves - has plummeted in recent years.

The contribution of tourism in the economy, which was overtaking agriculture, suffered from the global meltdown. To minimise risks, Zanzibar is striving to diversity its economy.

The council was launched in 2007. It held its first and second Zanzibar Business Council meetings in January and March 2009 respectively and focused on issues such as tax reforms, the global crisis and the establishment of both commercial and small claims courts.

Participants in the two meetings appealed to the Bank of Tanzania to lay down people-centered measures to strengthen the financial sector and monitor interest rate trends.

The meetings also proposed that the ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs protect Zanzibar distilled water industries against external competitors whose products are under-taxed so as to enhance local producers' competitiveness.

They also resolved to speed up measures towards improving airport services including rehabilitating runways and arrival and departure lounges.

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