Mask production and fashion collections – Zanzibar’s path through the crisis

The global travel restrictions are hitting Zanzibar’s tourism industry hard, but local businesses can still survive thanks to creative solutions.

Zanzibar is the fastest-growing tourist destination in Africa, with more than 500,000 guests visiting the island off the coast of Tanzania every year. The sector is therefore important for the economy, with around 70,000 jobs dependent on it. However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought tourism to a standstill, threatening not only hotels and restaurants but also the income of many businesses. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is advising affected companies on the ground about how to find new income streams, safeguard jobs and protect their employees from the pandemic.

Working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ has been supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises in the region since 2017. One such company is Zanzibar Apparel. The textile company makes clothes that used to be bought by tourists. But now the company has switched to producing face masks with the help of GIZ, ‘Thanks to the GIZ network, we can make high-quality masks at a good price’, explains Managing Director Hussain Adnan Halai.

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Zanzibar Apparel has now produced more than 30,000 reusable masks and sold them in local pharmacies. Switching production in this way has enabled the textile company to protect almost all its jobs. Employees have also been provided with hygiene training, board and lodging to help protect them from infections. The business is now planning to manufacture protective suits for hotel employees that meet World Health Organization standards. Zanzibar Apparel is also keen to further expand its clothing business. As well as planning online sales of clothes for the international market, the company also wants to design a collection tailored more to local tastes.

Although Zanzibar has responded flexibly to the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, people are still pinning their hopes on the tourists returning. So they can arrive safe and sound, GIZ is helping the East African Community (EAC) to develop a hygiene concept for air travel. Zanzibar’s airport was the first in the region whose staff were trained in how to deal with air passengers safely.