March 28, 2023
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Fumba Town backstage: from streets to schools to solar energy.

The city of the future, urbanisation on a global scale – these topics are hotly debated all over the world. Katrin Dietzold, co-founder and new town manager of Fumba Town in Zanzibar, explains priorities and challenges – on the ground. 

THE FUMBA TIMES: A mosque or a beach, a school or a sea pier – what is needed most in a new town on the island of Zanzibar? 

Katrin Dietzold: Fumba Town is unique. A real estate project to create utterly needed living space in Zanzibar and Africa in a sustainable and equitable way, at the same time being attractive for private investment. For the new satellite town near Zanzibar City, with studios, apartments and villas for all budgets, our masterplan set the rules in the beginning. In the future, homeowners should participate in the decision-making process. 

What exactly is a town manager? 

I’m like the head of the municipality. Your investors and homeowners come from 60 different nationalities. Can there ever be common ground on taste, standards, cultural values? Investors can agree to disagree. They can also agree to agree. Even if I don’t like somebody’s opinion, I can still accept it as relevant, maybe even useful. There will always be a compromise. Regulations and organisational procedures ensure majorities.

What makes people buy in Fumba? 

Motives of investors are as varied as their backgrounds. Some invest purely for financial returns, others for emotional reasons, for instance, buyers from Oman wishing to return to their homeland. 

Who speaks for the house owners? 

We are just starting an Owner’s Association (OA) as stipulated by Tanzanian law and have planned a first official Town Hall meeting. One of the tasks will be to formulate community bylaws which cover just about everything from window covers to pets’ access. Every little issue sets the tone in a community. 

Let’s be specific. From quality standards to gardens, who sets priorities, who makes the rules? 

In the beginning, the project developer and architects decided what to build and how, based on demand and economic calculations. Clean water, electricity, environmental landscaping and waste recycling came first for us. Other real estate projects may have different priorities, like massive street lights and a highway access but no trees. We have a different concept; the value of Fumba Town is to be green, accessible and inclusive. 

Some residents complain about missing street lights and dusty roads… 

Not to worry, we are working on a beautiful lighting design but without light pollution! Inside Fumba, we will pave our streets this year. We have bought our own cobblestone machine for it, so that rain water can drain. Water shortages and blackouts are a challenge. 

Why is there no solar energy in the green city?

Big news on solar! After years of debate, we have found a solution with the government to make it economically feasible. Solar will come to Fumba. 

But when? Zanzibar is often facing power cuts, even in 2023.

I understand that some homeowners are wondering why we don’t just use generators to cover these power outages, but we don’t think it’s a worthwhile investment. The dimension for a whole town would be just enormous and contradict our claim to build a green, sustainable town. Here the right solution is better than a quick one. 

Some infrastructure problems require immediate attention…

That’s true. In the short lifespan of Fumba Town, we have realised very much that it’s not only about creating infrastructure but maintaining it. We have just initiated new departments to monitor and speed up repairs of infrastructure.

Can I rent at reasonable rates? 

Very much so! Long-term rentals at affordable rates are key. We are not a holiday location in Eldorado but a suburb of the capital. Airbnb’s are allowed but should not dominate. For our own employees, we just started housing subsidies. It is already prompting many to move here.

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