Tanzania, officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda on the North, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the West, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique on the South. To the East it borders the Indian Ocean.


Tanzanian history was marked by foreign cultures. In the 8. century there was an intensive maritime trade at the coastside by arabic and persian sailors. In the middleage Portugeese dominated, followed by Arabs. From 1928 on the Sultan of Oman stayed on Zanzibar. The 19. century was marked by trading with slaves and ebony, activities of the first missionaries and the explorers.

What is now Tanzania was a colony and part of Germany from the 1880s to 1919. Then it became a British Mandate until 1961. It served as a military outpost during World War II. Julius Nyerere became Minister of British-administered Tanganyika in 1960 and continued as Prime Minister when Tanganyika became independent in 1961. Tanganyika and neighbouring Zanzibar, which had become independent in 1963, merged to form the nation of Tanzania in 1964.

Politics today

One-party rule came to an end in 1995 with the first democratic elections held in the country. In 1996 government offices were transferred from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma, making Dodoma the country's national capital. Dar es Salaam remains the principal commercial city.

Tanzania's president and National Assembly members are elected concurrently by direct popular vote for five-year terms. The president appoints a prime minister who serves as the government's leader in the National Assembly. The president selects his cabinet from among National Assembly members. The Constitution also empowers him to nominate ten non-elected members of Parliament, who also are eligible to become cabinet members. Elections for president and all National Assembly seats were held in 1995, 2000 and December 2005.

The unicameral National Assembly elected in 2005 has 324 members to participate in the Parliament. 20% of the seats are reserved for women. At present, the ruling CCM holds about over 80% of the seats in the Assembly. Laws passed by the National Assembly are valid for Zanzibar only in specifically designated union matters.

Tanzania is divided into 26 regions, twenty-one on the mainland and five on Zanzibar. 117 districts, each with at least one council, have been created to further increase local authority.

Geography, Nature

At 945,087km² , Tanzania is the world's 31st-largest country (it comes after Egypt). It is comparable in size to Nigeria, and is slightly more than twice the size of the U.S. state of California or 2½ times the size of Germany.

Although Tanzania is located in the central tropics, the climate is moderate because of the average altitude of around 1'100 meters above sea level. Exceptions are Kilimanjaro (5.895 m), the highest mountain of Africa as well as the humid-hot coast.

To the North and West are Lake Victoria (Africa's largest lake) and Lake Tanganyika (Africa's deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish). Central Tanzania comprises a large plateau, with plains and arable land. The Eastern shores are hot and humid, with the island of Zanzibar lying just offshore.

Lake Victoia suffers a lot through the immense wastewaters, illegal fishing methods, the release of the Nile perch and the spreading of water hyacinths.

Through growing urbanisation, ecological problems increase. Especially in densly populated areas air and water pollution and the need for land is problematic. Deforestation caused by peoples need for firewood and overgrazing are serious challenges for the national environmental policy.

Tanzania has declared ¼ of its land "protected areas". These National parks are largely untouched landscapes and attract a lot of people from all over the world. Tanzania is proud of many large and ecologically significant wildlife parks, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park in the North, and Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi National Park in the South. Gombe National Park in the West is best known as the site of Dr. Jane Goodall's studies of chimpanzee and their behavior.


The economy is mostly based on agriculture, providing approximately 85% of exports, and employing about 80% of the workforce. Industry is mainly limited to processing agricultural products and light consumer goods. Tanzania has vast amounts of natural resources including gold deposits and diamonds. Tanzania is also known for Tanzanite gemstones.

Tanzania has dozens of beautiful national parks like the world famous Serengeti and the Ngororngoro crater, that generate income plays a vital part in the economy.

Growth from 1991 to 1999 featured a pickup in industrial production and a substantial increase in output of minerals, led by gold.

Tanzania woke up from economic lull caused by the state directed economy. Since the 90s with political pluralism, the economy improves. Inflation is under 5% and the rates of economic growth is over 5 % over the last years.

Tanzania is sparsely populated and the surface suitable for agriculture is comparable big. The competition between crop producers, cattle drivers and the firewood cutters is immense. Land ownership is not regulated and so the available land (¼ are protected zones) is overused.

Tanzanian has only 20,000 km of mainroads of which just 4,000 km are paved. 2,000 people a year are killed by the 200,000 registered vehicles. Telecommunication is increasing rapidly thanks to mobile technology.

National Debt

Tanzania is highly indebted. From an economic point of view, Tanzania is the third poorest country on the world. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person a year is $340 USD. But this classification is probably too pesimistic. Compared with other African countries, the living conditions are better than the numbers imply. The costs of living correlate with the productivity in agriculture. Tanzanians use around 56% of their means for food, 10% for transport, 8.5% for energy and water as well as 7% for drinks and tabacco.

At the same time, economic indicators declare Tanzania a "rising star of Africa".


The self-reliance of Tanzania was one of the goals of the Ujamaa-policy of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Vision and reality are far apart from each other. Though hardly any other country got so much donor support as Tanzania, without success. Almost half of the national budget are subsidies. Beside that, Tanzanian economy is mainly financed with outside capital. A lot of Tanzanians would like to work for an international project, which increases the dependency on foreigners. The lack of self confidence, which is rooted in the times of slavery, colonialism and the centralistic control of CCM seems very hard to overcome.

The civil society is still young and grows slowly. More and more people want to participate in decision-making and want to take responsibility in the development of the society. The list of national and international organizations for the development of Tanzania is remarkably long. Unfortunately not all the NGO's who call themselves partner of the poorest, are guided by common welfare and service for the collective good.


2008 the estimated population is about 40 million, with a growth rate of about 2%. The population distribution is extremely uneven. With densities varying from 1 person per square kilometer in arid regions, or 51 per square kilometer in the mainland's well-watered highlands, to 134 per square kilometer on Zanzibar. More than 80% of the population live in rural areas. Tanzania has a very high unemployment rate of about 67%. Dar es Salaam is the largest city and is the commercial capital; Dodoma, located in the center of Tanzania, is the new official capital and houses the Union's Parliament.

The African population consists of more than 120 ethnic groups, of which the Sukuma and Nyamwezi, the Hehe and Bena, the Gogo, the Haya, the Makonde, the Chagga and the Nyakyusa have more than 1 million members.

Non-Africans residing on the mainland and Zanzibar account for less then 2% of the total population. In the 1960s and 1970s thousands of Asians emigrated, frequently under force. Their community, including Hindus, Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis and Goans, has increased in the past decade to 350,000. An estimated 240,000 Arabs and 70,000 Europeans still reside in Tanzania.

Education & Health

The Educational and Health system were exemplary in Africa until the 1980's when the level collapsed. The bottom seems to be passed, efforts of reforming and the cancellation of national debts have improved the situation. Today there are a lot of schools built, but often there are not enough teachers and there is lack of furniture and school material.

The main issue of the falling life expectancy (about 46 years) is HIV/AIDS. About 7% of the population are affected by the HIV pandemic. Around lake Victoria the rate is much higher. Women are more affected (60–75%) than men. The main reason is that sex is still a means to address poverty. Furthermore, the taboo of HIV is hard to overcome. The middle generation is most affected; the society's percentage of children and grandparents steadily growing.


Each ethnic group has its own language. Swahili is the official national language, used for inter-ethnic communication and for official matters. After gaining independence, English, the language of colonial administration during the era of British rule, was still used for some official issues, and was thus considered de facto official alongside Swahili. Official usage of English has greatly diminished during the first thirty years following independence.

However, the political reforms which turned Tanzania away from a closed and socialist environment and a centrally planned economy inevitably resulted in a dramatic opening up of the country. The growth of the private sector and new investments have resulted in English regaining importance, and there are many schools in which English is the medium of instruction. Universities all use English, which often causes problems for students who have previously only taken English as a subject in school.


The religions in Tanzania coexist peacefully. 35% of the population are Muslim, 30% of the population are Christian, 35% of the population adhere to indigenous religion.


Makonde, the ebony wood carving art is known over the world. Even though most of the artists are producing for the tourist market. Tere is still great art to be found.

Tingatinga, named after an ingenious painter, is a native painting style. Tingatinga pictures are available everywhere, but it is difficult to find ones of good quality.

Architectural works of art which are protected are rooted in foreign cultures mostly and they are found on the coast of Zanzibar (Stonetown). Besides Western pop music Congolese, Westafrican, Indian, Arabian and Caribian styles are very popular and have strong influence on Tanzanian musicians.


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