Zanzibar: We are Truly a Part of the World

October 2, 2014


  • Roads that were previously impassable on the islands of Zanzibar have been rehabilitated through a $122 million World Bank Group-supported project
  • The three, newly-constructed roads are crucial links for transport of goods and people
  • With increased accessibility, hotels have expanded their business, employed more people, and attracted more tourists to the islands

PAJE, October 2, 2014 – Along Zanzibar’s southeast coast, majestic palm trees sway against the gentle breeze as if silently choreographing a plot to keep their enamored visitors spellbound and forever bonded to the islands. They have co-conspirators in splendid white sands, dazzling blue sky and endless blue waters. The spell only works for as long as the visitor can stay away from the ‘barabara za ngombe,’ or cattle paths; old, impassable roads that made it difficult for tourists to enjoy the sites.

Khamis Omar, permanent secretary at the Zanzibar Ministry of Finance, said before 2008 many tourists noted in hotel exit survey’s that they would never return. 

" This road brought us to the world. We now feel like we are truly part of the world "

Maulid Masud Amei

“Once visitors arrived there, they ended up stuck at that single destination, abandoning all plans to go around and enjoy the other attractions on the island,” Omar said. “They could not contemplate going back on the same bad road, except for the final departure to the airport.”

That has all changed since the implementation of the Central Transport Corridor Project 1. The $122 million World Bank Group-supported project helped construct three roads identified as crucial links – Pongwe-Matemwe (20.4kms); Mkwajuni-Nungwi (18.86kms) and Paje–Pingwe (19.8kms). Work on the roads started in 2005 and was completed in 2008.

Kiwengwa resident Maulid Masud Amei said he felt the impact of the new roads was felt almost upon completion of construction.

“This road brought us to the world,” Amei said of Pongwe-Matemwe Road. “We now feel like we are truly part of the world.”

Where there was typically one lorry plying each of these routes to and from Stone Town, transportation of both people and goods has picked up. Michamvi now has 24 vehicles on the route.

“It takes just 45 minutes,” said Mlenge. “You can decide what time of day you would like to set off and you are assured of returning as you please.”

With the fresh accessibility of their locations, hotel owners have also been able to expand their previously stagnated businesses. Zakaria Juma, hotel manager at Karfuu Beach Resort, said in the past the hotel was unable to fill their 80 rooms to capacity.

“When the road was rehabilitated, we expanded to 120 rooms and we always fill up,” she said. “A good percentage of our guests are repeat visitors.”

The roads have not just been good for tourists. Residents here who once had to make do with only two buses and three-hour journey’s on the route, are today freely accessing the more than 35 buses per day for 30 minute trips. Hotel managers are able to easily restock supplies, and they are now also finding it easier to employ people to work at the hotel.

“There were young people who needed jobs, but this felt like the end of the world to them because of the inaccessibility,” said Juma. “If somehow they were convinced to accept a job offer, it would not be long before they left.”

With better roads, investors have been emboldened to build hotels on the islands. Paje-Pingwe, for instance, had only one hotel, but today there are eight busy hotels on the popular hub. Michamvi has more than 12 new hotels, also up from just one. The competition is not a concern.

“Over the years, the Zanzibar brand has grown into such a phenomenon that it sometimes seems as if visitors are constantly arriving,” said Juma. “Here we are fully booked through the peak season. As a rule, even during the off peak, it is not advisable to walk in and expect to find accommodation just like that. Because of this high demand, we are planning to open 16 more units soon.”