Tanzania high court lifts ban on Zanzibar beer importers

Thursday February 22 2024

The decision could be a sigh of relief for beer lovers who have endured shortages and near-total absence of any imported brands.



The High Court in Tanzania on Thursday ruled in favour of three companies previously denied importation licences by the Zanzibar Liquor Control Board (ZLCB), which has seen prices of alcohol skyrocket in the past few weeks following limited supply in the island.

The court granted an injunction requested by Zanzibar Maritime and Mercantile International Co Ltd (ZMMI), One Stop Company Limited and Scotch Store Limited on February 19, restraining the ZLCB from interfering with their operations, suspending their permits or delaying their goods.

Additionally, the court ordered the ZLCB to issue import, distribution and sales licences to the companies, pending the final determination of ongoing appeals and legal proceedings.

Read: Beer gamble threatens Zanzibar economy

“The court orders the ZLCB to issue import, distribution and sales licences to the applicants, pending hearing and final determination of this matter, including a pending appeal to Zanzibar Tourism and Heritage minister and related judicial review proceedings,” ordered Justice Rabia Hussein Mohammed.

The decision could be a sigh of relief for beer lovers who have endured shortages and near-total absence of any imported brands.

Earlier this year, the ZLCB's decision not to renew the licences of the three importers, who have served the islands for over two decades, triggered a significant beer shortage in Zanzibar.

Prices skyrocketed with some brands hitting as high as 300 percent, tourism businesses expressed concern, and legal action was initiated.

While the full details of the court's reasoning are not yet available, the ruling suggests that the judges found merit in the applicants' arguments. 

The situation remains fluid as the ZLCB could choose to pursue further legal avenues or seek a political solution. The longer-term implications for the liquor industry in Zanzibar are yet to be determined.


Traders said the root of the problem lay with ZLCB after they delayed permits for the three importers, sparking initial hiccups.

But a more drastic decision followed on January 2 when the board refused to renew licences for the seasoned players in the industry.

The newcomers who were granted licenses, plus the temporary measures that were instituted, have still yet to bear fruit despite the recent assurances during a meeting with the Zanzibar Revenue Authority (ZRA), and the island continues to depend on supplies by the military and what other suspect to be smuggled alcohol.

Observers feared that it would prolong the agony, potentially taking up to six months and as the prices continue to spiral.

The first official alarm bell was rung by former minister of Tourism and Heritage Simai Mohammed Said.

Read: Zanzibar minister quits citing poor working conditions

Meeting with tourism stakeholders last month, he painted a stark picture of Zanzibar's dependence on tourism, a sector contributing over 30 percent of the island's GDP.

"We've seen the board's decision. Hotels are facing shortages and businesses are also struggling. I urge investors to remain calm while we seek solutions," he said.

The Citizen's investigation revealed new importers were subjected to a long vetting process, as they were required to comply with manufacturers' code of conduct.

Importers pay a hefty Tsh30 million ($11,787) annual fee to the board for licence and Zanzibar law also demands importers be Zanzibari residents with a clean tax record, a warehouse and a delivery vehicle.

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