Zanzibar's Sauti za Busara Festival in doubt after donors pull out

 Sauti za Busara Festival

 A performance by Culture Musical Club during the 2014 Sauti za Busara Festival in Zanzibar. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The possibility of Sauti za Busara holding the 20th edition of the internationally acclaimed festival is in doubt following the termination of their core funding contract by sponsors.

The festival, which is held annually at the iconic Ngome Kongwe in Stone Town, is believed to be among Africa’s top 10 festivals, attracting more than 40 groups, with visitors coming from across the world.

In a statement issued on September 2, Busara Promotions’ CEO Yusuf Mahmoud says the organisation of the 2023 edition of the festival has hit a brick wall after sponsors-Blue Amber terminated the contract signed in March 2022.

“On August 30, Busara Promotions received official notification that its sponsorship with Blue Amber had been terminated. Once again, our future is uncertain because we have no funds to run the office beyond September,” said the CEO.

 According to Mr Mahmoud, their sponsors, Pennyroyal, the developers of Blue Amber decided after their consolidated 99-year land lease was terminated by the Ministry of Lands, leading to the consequent revocation of the construction permit.

Purchased tickets

The festival, however, has promised that all those who had purchased tickets in advance will be reimbursed with a board meeting scheduled to take place on September 15.

With close to two decades of entertainment usually, the number of tourists to Zanzibar increases significantly each year in February with International media naming the Sauti za Busara as one of the top 10 must-go-to events.

A report shows that even in 2020, tourist arrivals in Zanzibar during February increased by 0.5 per cent to 61,752 arrivals whereas, in February 2021, there were 51,574 arrivals compared to 49,868 in January of the same year.

This was quite against global trends where most countries had closed their airspace and some were still in lockdowns.

According to Mr Mahmoud, Busara’s income from ticket sales covers less than 30 per cent of the total costs which runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It would probably get in twice as much if it just corresponded to the commercial purpose,” said Mr Mahamoud

Efforts to reach Blue Amber for comment have so far been futile as phone calls and messages went unanswered with sources privy to the project saying they were supposed to deliver their first units in December 2022.

Blue Amber

Unverified reports claim that Blue Amber has terminated their sponsorship of the event due to their entire development project being forced into a termination by the government in a land dispute that is set to rock the Zanzibari real estate market in its entirety.

In 2017 the resort which was about to start construction was touted by Bloomberg as a one-of-a-kind that was supposed to offer many luxury facilities, such as East Africa’s first championship golf course and five global leading hotels.

It was also supposed to offer a deep water marina, aqua park, underwater restaurant and nightclub, glamorous souk dedicated to promoting local goods and music, equestrian centre plus super-yacht facility.

Recent survey

The announcement that is yet to be confirmed that its lease has been terminated will send shock waves across East Africa and beyond.

Though this comes as a shock, a recent survey by the Citizen on property development and investment revealed that Zanzibar’s real estate sector is struggling to woo would-be property buyers, something that developers and analysts owe to regulatory issues.

As a top destination in Africa, Zanzibar is playing catch-up with fellow peers such as Dubai, Seychelles and Mauritius in attracting investment in the property market.

The beautiful structures some of which are complete and others which are yet to be finished are a breath of fresh air in an Island famously known as the Spice Islands.

The Citizen’s survey recently shows that some developers in the archipelago have remained stuck with properties whose construction ended several years ago and some of the buyers cannot get the incentives that were attached as conditions by the authorities.