Lela Mohammed Mussa, the minister for Education and Vocational Training, made this observation when responding to questions by members of the House of Representatives demanding clarification on the leasing of the islets.
Voicing concern over the matter during debate on budget proposals of the Office of the President, (Labour and Economic Empowerment), some representatives expressed dissatisfaction with the leasing process, saying Zanzibar residents were not adequately involved.
Lela who led the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage for several years said investment in the islets was important for economic growth, ending a situation where the islets were left idle and unproductive, while a number of studies showed their economic potential.
Leasing these islets will promote tourism and its specialized aspects like diving, she said, elaborating that the leasing process started in 2009 and in 2019 the government formed a special committee of 17 people to evaluate the process and give advice.
She said drug dealers used to hide in the islets, several of them near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa.
Tourism activities were continuing but the government wasn’t obtaining any revenues, she said, underlining that countries making progress in tourism have considerable interest in investing in islets, like the Maldives and the Seychelles.
The Zanzibar government is marketing nine islets to prospective investors, specifically targeting net-worth individuals, as Zanzibar has over 50 islets, some of which have already secured investments, the minister added.