Learn about the formation of Tanzania and the geography of East Africa by reading this country profile.
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Map of Tanzania
Map of Tanzania
United Republic of Tanzania

President: Jakaya Kikwete (2005)

Prime Minister: Mizengo Pinda (2008)

Land area: 342,100 sq mi (886,039 sq km); total area: 364,898 sq mi (945,087 sq km)1

Population (2007 est.): 38,139,640 (growth rate: 1.8%); birth rate: 37.3/1000; infant mortality rate: 94.5/1000; life expectancy: 46.1; density per sq mi: 111

Capital (2003 est.): Dodoma, 164,500. Largest city (2003 est.): Dar es Salaam, 2,489,800

Monetary unit: Tanzanian shilling

Languages: Swahili, English (both official); Arabic; many local languages

Ethnicity/race: mainland: native African 99% (includes 95% Bantu, consisting of well over 100 tribes), Asian, European, and Arab 1%; Zanzibar: Arab, native African, mixed

Religions: mainland: Christian 30%, Islam 35%, indigenous 35%; Zanzibar: more than 99% Islam

Literacy rate: 78% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $48.94 billion; per capita $1,300. Real growth rate: 7.3%. Inflation: 7%. Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 5%. Agriculture: coffee, sisal, tea, cotton, pyrethrum (insecticide made from chrysanthemums), cashew nuts, tobacco, cloves, corn, wheat, cassava (tapioca), bananas, fruits, vegetables; cattle, sheep, goats. Labor force: 20.04 million; agriculture 80%, industry and services 20% (2002 est.). Industries: agricultural processing (sugar, beer, cigarettes, sisal twine); diamond, gold, and iron mining, salt, soda ash; cement, oil refining, shoes, apparel, wood products, fertilizer. Natural resources: hydropower, tin, phosphates, iron ore, coal, diamonds, gemstones, gold, natural gas, nickel. Exports: $1.581 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): gold, coffee, cashew nuts, manufactures, cotton. Imports: $2.391 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): consumer goods, machinery and transportation equipment, industrial raw materials, crude oil. Major trading partners: India, Spain, Netherlands, Japan, UK, China, Kenya, South Africa, UAE, U.S. (2004).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 127,000 (1998); mobile cellular: 30,000 (1999). Radio broadcast stations: AM 12, FM 11, shortwave 2 (1998). Radios: 8.8 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 3 (1999). Televisions: 103,000 (1997). Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000). Internet users: 300,000 (2002).

Transportation: Railways: total: 3,690 km (2002). Highways: total: 88,200 km; paved: 3,704 km; unpaved: 84,496 km (1999 est.). Waterways: Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, Lake Nyasa. Ports and harbors: Bukoba, Dar es Salaam, Kigoma, Kilwa Masoko, Lindi, Mtwara, Mwanza, Pangani, Tanga, Wete, Zanzibar. Airports: 123 (2002).

International disputes: disputes with Malawi over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and the meandering Songwe River remain dormant.

1. Including Zanzibar.
Flag of Tanzania


Tanzania is in East Africa on the Indian Ocean. To the north are Uganda and Kenya; to the west, Burundi, Rwanda, and Congo; and to the south, Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi. Its area is three times that of New Mexico. Tanzania contains three of Africa's best-known lakes-Victoria in the north, Tanganyika in the west, and Nyasa in the south. Mount Kilimanjaro in the north, 19,340 ft (5,895 m), is the highest point on the continent. The island of Zanzibar is separated from the mainland by a 22-mile channel.




Arab traders first began to colonize the area in 700. Portuguese explorers reached the coastal regions in 1500 and held some control until the 17th century, when the sultan of Oman took power. With what are now Burundi and Rwanda, Tanganyika became the colony of German East Africa in 1885. After World War I, it was administered by Britain under a League of Nations mandate and later as a UN trust territory.

Although not mentioned in old histories until the 12th century, Zanzibar was always believed to have had connections with southern Arabia. The Portuguese made it one of their tributaries in 1503 and later established a trading post, but they were driven from Oman by Arabs in 1698. Zanzibar was declared independent of Oman in 1861 and, in 1890, it became a British protectorate.

Independence and a New Name

Tanganyika became independent on Dec. 9, 1961; Zanzibar on Dec. 10, 1963. On April 26, 1964, the two nations merged into the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. The name was changed to Tanzania six months later.

An invasion by Ugandan troops in Nov. 1978 was followed by a counterattack in Jan. 1979, in which 5,000 Tanzanian troops were joined by 3,000 Ugandan exiles opposed to President Idi Amin. Within a month, full-scale war developed. Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere kept troops in Uganda in open support of former Ugandan president Milton Obote, despite protests from opposition groups, until the national elections in Dec. 1980.

In Nov. 1985, Nyerere stepped down as president. Ali Hassan Mwinyi, his vice president, succeeded him. Running unopposed, Mwinyi was elected president in October. Shortly thereafter plans were announced to study the benefits of instituting a multiparty democracy, and in Oct. 1995 the country's first multiparty elections since independence took place.

A Bombing Tragedy and Government Scandal

On Aug. 7, 1998, the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam was bombed by terrorists, killing ten. The same day an even more devastating explosion destroyed the U.S. embassy in neighboring Kenya.

President Benjamin William Mkapa (1995–2005) sought to increase economic productivity while dealing with serious pollution problems and deforestation. With more than one million people infected with HIV, AIDS care and prevention have been major public health issues. On foreign policy, Tanzania has taken a leading diplomatic role in East Africa, hosting peace talks for the factions fighting in neighboring Burundi. The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is located in the town of Arusha. In Oct. 2000, Mkapa was easily reelected. In 2002, opposition leaders and foreign donors criticized the president's costly new $21 million personal jet.

In 2005 presidential elections, foreign minister Jakaya Kikwete of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party won with 80% of the vote.

Prime Minister Lowassa resigned in February 2008 over a scandal involving an American energy company, Richmond Development, which was hired to provide Tanzania with generators to supply electricity to the country during a power shortage. The company never began the operation, yet Lowassa urged the government to renew the contract. Mizengo Pinda replaced Lowassa as prime minister.


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