Zanzibar confirms first coronavirus case

Sammy Awami

BBC News, Dar es Salaam

A beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania
At least 80% of Zanzibar’s annual foreign income comes from tourism

Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, the East African nation's Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa says.

Another new case of the virus had been recorded on the mainland, in the main city of Dar es Salaam, bringing the country's overall total to three, he said.

Nearly 500,000 tourists usually travel to Zanzibar each year to enjoy its beaches and rich historical culture.

But the archipelago's economy has already been hard hit by cancellations caused by tourists' fears about the pandemic.

At least 80% of Zanzibar’s annual foreign income comes from tourism.

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Zanzibar tourism hit by coronavirus fears

Sammy Awami

BBC News, Zanzibar

Tourists sunbath on deckchair at an hotel on Nungwi Beach, on the island of Zanzibar
At least 80% of Zanzibar’s annual foreign income comes from tourism

Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar has not had any confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Yet its economy has been hard hit by tourists' fears about the pandemic, with reports of hotel cancellations after the government suspended direct flights from Italy.

At least 80% of Zanzibar’s annual foreign income comes from tourism but the government is looking at boosting investment in other sectors, such as fishing and agriculture, to mitigate the economic blow.

Zanzibar’s scenery and rich historical culture bring close to 500,000 tourists to the island every year.

But there have been some changes recently - which are quite noticeable in certain parts of the capital, Stone Town.

The sidewalks that are usually bustling with tourists have become much quieter in the last few days. Many here fear this could be part of a slowing down in tourism that this island expects.

Several hotels in Zanzibar have already received cancellations, especially from group bookings. Abdulaziz Yusuf, manager at the Tembo Hotel, says:

It’s going to affect us a lot because we really rely on tourism. The Italian market is a big market but in general tourism is the backbone of Zanzibar, so we are going to lose a lot."

Financing for at least 60% of the island’s budget comes from the tourism sector.

"We have to improve our agriculture system now using beautiful rains that we have, we have to improve our fishing industry, so that we don’t depend on tourism anymore because of this risk which may happen anytime again," Zanzibar’s Health Minister Hamad Rashid says.

The ministry has put in place measures to help prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Rashid adds:

We have 192 primary health centres [with staff] trained to look for symptoms. We do screen and talk to business people who travel to China. It’s a small area, so it’s very easy to control."

Why seaweed farming in Zanzibar is important

Here's an interesting video about seaweed.

Yes, seaweed - it is increasingly becoming Zanzibar's big export.

Seaweed export earnings rose from $3.7m in March 2018, to $3.9m in March 2019, according to the Bank of Tanzania.

About 90% of seaweed farmers are women and demand for seaweed is largely being driven by the global skincare market, which is projected to reach $180bn by 2024.

Seaweed farming in Zanzibar
Seaweed farming is on the rise in Zanzibar due to exploding demand from the global skincare market.

Anti-malaria drones to spray silicon film over Zanzibar fields

Rice field in Zanzibar
Getty Images
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water that sits on rice fields

Scientists plan to use drones to spray silicon film over rice fields in Zanzibar to see if it stops the spread of malaria.

The rice fields collect stagnant water, which is where malaria-carrying mosquitoes lay their eggs.

The researchers from Radboud University in The Netherlands will monitor whether the film will prevent anopheles mosquitoes' eggs from hatching by blocking the larvae from attaching to the surface of the water.

The researchers told Reuters news agency that they chose Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago to test the idea because of their progressive drone regulations.

The tests are at an early stage. After the trial, the researchers aim to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals before testing it again across the continent.

A contemporary take on traditional Tarab music

Siti, Rahma and Gore are in high demand in Zanzibar
Tarab is a popular music genre in Tanzania and some say the heart of it is found on the island of Zanzibar.  

Siti Amina and her cousin Rahma Ameir grew up loving the music and formed a band alongside their friend Gore Mohammed. 

However, their Tarab band takes the tradition and adds a contemporary twist, which has seen them become one of the most in demand acts on the island, as Newsday's Alan Kasujja found out when he joined them for a jam session.

(Photo: Siti Amina, Rahma Ameir and Gore Mohammed. Photo Credit: BBC/Alan Kasujja)