The small state of Zanzibar has one of the most beautiful coasts in the world. But less dramatic than the high-rise hotels and luxury yachts are the sources of the extraordinary wealth it hosts. It’s emerged as one of the world’s most valuable economies – and lies within just ten minutes of the largest natural seaway in Africa.
Until last year, the archipelago was a one-party state with much of its wealth reliant on agriculture and tourism. But it’s also dependent on Tanzania’s oil reserves, and fears that the commodity might not be produced in the same way as initially thought have increased fears of a drop in revenue.
In addition, the island’s overall stability is under threat. In 2013, pirates attacked three vessels passing through the Indian Ocean, stealing around $1.4m (£933,000) in copper and other minerals. Then last year, radicals who had earlier claimed responsibility for a series of assassinations in Zanzibar launched two successful attacks. Two civilian police officers were killed when a grenade was thrown into their home. And on the outskirts of town, a gun attack on a police vehicle left another officer with shrapnel wounds to his stomach.
The threat of the insurgency is, however, far from the only worrying threat for Zanzibar – even in a region wracked by extremism. As BBC reporter Caroline Jones discovered when she visited the island in September, poverty and poor roads mean Zanzibar has one of the highest rates of rural to urban migration in the world. Around 40% of the population – more than one million people – now live in towns, further intensifying its dependence on its export-led economy. “So if there is a disaster here, it can be disastrous for the entire region,” Jones said.