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Here’s What You Need to Know About Tanzania


About Tanzania

Tanzania is in central east Africa and is bordered by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. There is a coastline on the Indian Ocean.

A unitary republic, there are 26 mikoa (regions) in the United Republic of Tanzania. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete is the head of state and was elected in 2005. Dodoma has been the capital since 1996. From the country’s independence to 1996, Dar es Salaam was the capital. Dar es Salaam is still the country’s commercial center and the seat of many government agencies. Tanzania acts as the seaport for many of the country’s landlocked neighbors.


Tanzania is one of the earth’s oldest known continuously inhabited areas. There are fossil remains of humans and hominids that date back more than 2 million years. Tanzania is believed to have been populated by Cushitic and Khoisan speaking people. Bantu speakers arrived approximately 2,000 years ago. Niloltic pastoralists arrived later and continued to do so up to the 18th century.

Since the early first millennium AD, merchants from Western India and the Persian Gulf visited the East African coast. Islam began to be practiced in the area around the 8th or 9th century AD.

Omani Sultan Seyyid Said claimed the coastal strip and moved his capital to Zanzibar City in 1840. The city became the Arab slave trade’s center around this time. Of the Arab-Swahili population in Zanzibar, 65 percent to 90 percent were enslaved. Tippu Tip was one of the most famous slave traders in the region. Msiri and Mirambo led the Nyamwezi slave traders.

Germany conquered what became modern day Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi in the late 1800s. This area was incorporated into German East Africa. The British attempted a failed invasion during World War I. After repulsing the British, German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck began a guerilla campaign. After the war, the League of Nations made the area a British Mandate with the exception of a small area given to Belgium that became Burundi and Rwanda.

In 1961, British rule ended when the country transitioned to independence relatively peacefully. The Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was the leading political organization in Tanzania.

Julius Nyerere, who formed the TANU, became the Prime Minister at independence. Soon after taking power, he committed to Pan-African socialism. Large industries and banks were nationalized.

When the Arab dynasty in Zanzibar was ousted in the Zanzibar Revolution, it merged with Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964.

The economy faltered in the late 1970s. Tanzania aligned with China in exchange for aid.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the government borrowed from the IMF and instituted some reforms. The GDP and per capita income grew.


Members of the National Assembly and the president are elected by popular vote for five year terms. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The president chooses the cabinet from the members of the National Assembly. The president is also permitted to nominate ten non-elected parliament members. One party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution), dominates the state and is in power.

The National Assembly is unicameral and has 295 members. These include the Attorney General and five members from Zanzibar’s House of Representatives. 20 percent of the seats are reserved for women. Chama Cha Mapinduzi holds 93 percent of the seats. Laws related to certain designated union matters are valid in Zanzibar.

In Zanzibar, its House of Representatives have jurisdiction over all matters not related to the union. It has 76 members with 50 of them elected by the people, ten appointed by Zanzibar’s president, five ex officio members, and the attorney general. 15 seats are allotted for women. The members of the House and the President of Zanzibar serve five year terms.

There are five levels of the judiciary that combine Islamic, British, and tribal systems of law. From the primary courts, appeals go to the district courts, magistrate courts, high courts, and the Court of Appeals. The Chief Justice of Tanzania appoints the judges except those on the High Court and the Court of Appeals, whom the president appoints. The system in Zanzibar has a similar system, with the exception of Islamic and constitutional issues which are appealed to the union’s courts.


Services make up nearly half of GDP, with agriculture at 27.6 percent, and industry at 25 percent of GDP.

Gold and natural gas are among the many resources in Tanzania. Poor overall development has hurt the development of these resources.

Tanzanian industry is limited to processing agricultural products and some consumer goods. The country is the third largest gold producer in Africa. Gemstones are also well known. National parks, such as the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, also generate income in the tourism sector. Mineral output and industrial production grew in the 1990s. Songo Songo Island in the Indian Ocean began natural gas production in 2004.

Reforms in the banking and public sectors, along with new legislative frameworks, have led to investment and growth in the private-sector. Corruption is also a problem. In the early 2000s, Tanzania experienced a drought which reduced hydroelectricity production. There are plans to increase fossil fuel electricity production, but they have not been implemented.

The two main airlines in the country are Air Tanzania Corporation and Precision Air. Charter firms also exist. Two railway companies provide services between major cities in Tanzania.

Tanzania belongs to the East African Community and may be a member of the East African Federation.

Regions and Districts

There are 26 regions in the country, with 21 on the mainland and five in Zanzibar. There are also 99 districts with a local council in each. 114 councils operate in the districts. 22 are classified as city councils, town councils, or municipal courts.


Tanzania has a total area of 847,300 sq. km. The northeast is mountainous and is the location of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. The Great Lakes of Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika are in the north and west. A large plateau is situated in central Tanzania. The eastern shore’s weather is hot and humid.


There is a tropical climate in Tanzania. Temperature varies in the highlands. The hottest time periods are from November to February. There are two major rainfall seasons. The first is from December to April and the other is from October to December and has a second phase from March to May.


There is considerable wildlife habitat in the country. On the Serengeti, the white-bearded wildebeest and other similar animals migrate annually. The journey to forage during the dry seasons causes 250,000 to perish yearly. Several other endemic species also are present in Tanzania.

A Biodiversity Action Plan has been developed to address conservation.


Tanzania’s population stands at 49,639,138 in 2014, with a 2.8 percent growth rate. Distribution is uneven. Over 80 percent of the people are live in rural areas. The largest city and commercial capital is Dar es Salaam. Dodoma is the new capital and houses the parliament.

There are over 120 ethnic groups. Those with more than 1 million members are the Sukuma and Nyamwezi, the Gogo, the Haya, the Hehe and Bena, the Makonde, the Chagga, and the Nyakyusa. The Shambaa, Ngoni, and the Pare are other groups. Most Tanzanians are part of the Sukuma and the Nyamwezi, which are of Bantu origins. The Maasai and Luo are from Nilotic origins. Khoisan languages are spoken by the Sandawe and Hadza people.

Indians, Arabs, and Pakistani people are also in Tanzania along with small Chinese and European communities.


The country’s population is roughly one-third each of Muslims, Christians, and indigenous religions. Religious affiliation is a sensitive topic since Tanzanians pride themselves on living together with diversity.

Most Christians are Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Zanzibar, 97 percent are Muslim. The Muslim mainland communities are mostly in the coastal area. Most Muslims are Sunni. Other religions exist in smaller numbers and include Buddhists, Baha’is and Hindus.


Local languages have over taken former colonial languages in Tanzania. English is still the official language in the courts, it has recognition. Swahili is Tanzania’s unifying language. Most Tanzanians first learn their tribal language and English and Swahili are learned later.


The infant mortality is 43.74 for every 1,000 live births. Life expectancy is at 61.24 years, with 59.91 for males, and 62.62 years for females. The HIV/Aids adult prevalence rate is 5.1%.


Tanzanian music varies from traditional African styles to hip hop to taarab. There are several internationally known artists from Tanzania. A distinct type of rumba music called muziki wa dansi is present in Tanzania. There are many famous writers from Tanzania.

Tanzania’s position in art is unique with two styles, Tingatinga and Makonde, becoming well known. Tingatinga involves enamel paints on canvas of animals and flowers. Makonde is a sculpture style known for Trees of Life make from ebony tree materials. George Lilanga, one of Africa’s most famous artists, is from Tanzania.


The country proclaims education is a key to national development. There are three levels in the system, which are basic, secondary, and tertiary levels.

There are two government ministries in charge of education, the Education and Culture and Higher Education. The Higher Education Accreditation Council coordinates and manages quality of the tertiary level institutions.

Instruction is bilingual in that all children must learn English and Swahili. Swahili is used at the primary levels and English in the higher levels.

Education reforms began in 1995 to ensure access to the system, increase efficiency, and better use of resources. Decentralization and more local control have also been proposed.

The government is trying to change from the provider of services to a facilitator for the private sector. It is hoped that private investment will help the learning environment.


Tanzanians have won Olympic medals. The country also competes in the African Championships series and the Commonwealth Games.

Football is popular and fans typically support one of two main clubs which are the Young African Sports Club and the Simba Sports Club.

Basketball is played often in schools and in the army. Cricket is also becoming more popular.

Media and Communication

The first color television station in Africa was Television Zanzibar. The oldest newspaper, the Daily News, is state-run. Public broadcast television and several radio networks are also run by the government.

Many private run outlets exists, including 30 FM radio stations and 20 newspapers. Some of these are owned by political parties.

Internet use is growing. Many Tanzanians read internet news and blog daily.



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