Zanzibar profile

Map of Zanzibar and Pemba

Map of Zanzibar and Pemba

The Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous province of Tanzania. It consists of the island of Zanzibar or Unjuga, Pemba as well as smaller neighbouring islands.

A former centre of the spice and slave trades, present-day Zanzibar is infused with African, Arab, European and Indian influences.

In 1964 members of the African majority overthrew the established minority Arab ruling elite. The leftist revolution was swift but bloody; as many as 17,000 people were killed.

A republic was established and the presidents of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, on the mainland, signed an act of union, forming the United Republic of Tanzania while giving semi-autonomy to Zanzibar.

Separatist sentiments have been gaining ground on the islands.

  • Capital: Zanzibar city

  • Area: 2,462 sq km

  • Population: 1.8 million

  • Languages: Swahili, Arabic, English

  • Life expectancy: 65 years (men) 69 years (women)

President: Hussein Ali Mwinyi

Hussein Ali Mwinyi

Hussein Ali Mwinyi

Hussein Ali Mwinyi, from the long-term ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, has been Zanzibar’s president since winning the October 2020 elections.

A former defence minster, he campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket and since winning office, almost 300 corruption cases have been prosecuted by the Zanzibar Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Authority, or ZAECA.

Zanzibar has its own cabinet, known as the Revolutionary Council, and a 50-seat house of representatives. Elections, by popular vote, are held every five years.

Beach scene in Zanzibar

Beach scene in Zanzibar

The media in Zanzibar come under a different set of regulations to their counterparts in mainland Tanzania.

Reporting on the state-owned Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) tends to be pro-government. There are around 20 privately-owned radio stations and a handful of private TV stations.

The government publishes the only daily newspaper and most readers rely on newspapers from the mainland.

The BBC broadcasts on FM in Zanzibar (94.1) and Pemba (93.5). Zanzibar profile

  • Zanzibar Leo (Zanzibar Today) – state-run daily

  • Zanzibar Wiki Hii (Zanzibar This Week) – private, weekly

View from the House of Wonders in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

From the 9th Century, Swahili merchants on Zanzibar operated as brokers for long-distance traders from Africa and across the Indian Ocean

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