Tanzania’s geography is one of the most varied and unique in the world; it contains Africa’s highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters/19,341 feet), as well as lakes, mountains and many natural parks. West of the mountains in the northeast is Serengeti National Park, famous for its annual migration of millions of white bearded wildebeest, as well as its abundance of lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and buffalo.
Further west is Lake Victoria, on the Kenya–Uganda–Tanzania border. This is the largest lake in Africa and is traditionally named as the source of the Nile. Southwest of this, separating Tanzania from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is Lake Tanganyika. This lake is estimated to be the second oldest (and second deepest) lake in the world after Lake Baikal in Siberia.
The centre of Tanzania is a large plateau. The southern half of this plain is grassland within the Eastern Miombo woodlands ecoregion, the majority of which is covered by the huge Selous National Park. Further north the plateau is arable land and the new capital, Dodoma, is located there.
The eastern coast of Tanzania is hot and humid, and contains Tanzania’s largest city and former capital, Dar es Salaam. Just north of Dar es Salaam lies the island of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous territory of Tanzania which is famous for its spices.
The climate of Tanzania ranges from hot and humid on the coast, to a more temperate climate in the elevated centre of the country. Tanzania has two rainy seasons; a long heavy one from March to May, and a shorter, lighter one from November to January.
Tanzania boasts 14 National Parks and 34 game reserves. Most important for tourism, the Tanzanian people are warm and friendly, speak English, although Kiswahili is the national language, and the country is an oasis of peace and stability with a democratic and stable government.
The mainland area of Tanzania comprises 945,000 square kilometers. Zanzibar comprises 1,658 square kilometers.
Tanzania’s population of approximately 42 million is concentrated along the coast and islands, the fertile northern and southern highlands, and the lands bordering Lake Victoria. The relatively arid and less fertile central region is sparsely inhabited. So too is much of the fertile and well watered far west, including the shores of Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa (Malawi).
About 80% of Tanzanians live in rural communities. Zanzibar, population about one million (3% of Tanzania’s population), consists of two main islands and several small ones just off the Tanzanian coast. The two largest islands are Unguja (often referred to simply as Zanzibar) and Pemba.
Tanzanians are proud of their strong sense of national identity and commitment to Swahili as the national language. There are roughly 120 ethnic communities in the country representing several of Africa’s main socio-linguistic groups.
Approximately 35% identify as Muslim 35.0% and 63% as Christian. The remaining 2% include traditional, Sikh, Hindu and others.
Literacy of women is 67% on the mainland and 77% in Zanzibar. Literacy of men is 80% on the mainland and 86% Zanzibar. The work force is primarily agricultural with approximately 80% engaged in agricultural work. The remaining 20% are employed in industry, commercial enterprises and government.
The independent United Republic of Tanzania was created on April 26, 1964 from the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Tanganyika had gained its independence in 1961 and Zanzibar became independent in 1963.
Following the creation of the united republic independence leader Julius K. Nyerere was able to create a merger between the leading political parties on the Tanzanian mainland with the leading party of Zanzibar to form the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) which became the sole ruling party in both parts of the union.
As the sole legal political party for all of Tanzania, CCM had the role of directing the population in all significant political and economic activities. On February 5, 1977, the union of the two parties was ratified in a new constitution. The merger was reinforced by principles enunciated in the 1982 union constitution and reaffirmed in the constitution of 1984. Tanzania is a republic with an executive branch of government and a legislative branch.
President Nyerere instituted social policies that proved successful in forging a strong Tanzanian national identity, which to this day takes priority in the hearts of the great majority of Tanzanians over ethnic, regional or linguistic identities. Observers are nearly unanimous in attributing Tanzania’s unbroken record of political stability to Nyerere’s social policies.
President Nyerere stepped down from office and was succeeded as President by Ali Hassan Mwinyi in 1985. Nyerere retained his position as Chairman of the ruling CCM party for five more years. He remained influential in Tanzanian politics until his death in October 1999. The current President Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania’s long-serving Foreign Minister, won the presidential election in December 2005. He is the head of the Executive branch of government and as such is the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume, the son of Zanzibar’s first president, was elected in 2000 and then re-elected in 2005.
Tanzania’s president and National Assembly members are elected by direct popular vote for 5-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 10 non-elected members of Parliament, who also are eligible to become cabinet members.
General elections were held in Tanzania on 31 October 2010. The presidential elections were won by the incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party (CCM), who received 63% of the vote. The parliamentary elections resulted in a victory for the CCM, which won 186 of the 239 elected seats.
In the elections in semi-autonomous Zanzibar, Ali Mohamed Shein of the CCM won the presidential election, whilst the CCM also won the most seats in the House of Representatives.
The Zanzibar House of Representatives had 50 elected members, ten appointed by the President, and 15 seats for women. The women’s seats were assigned to parties which won seats in the House, and distributed in proportion to the number of seats held by each party. The House also had six ex-officio members, the Attorney General and five Regional Commissioners.
The National Assembly has up to 325 members: the Attorney General, the Speaker, five members elected from and by the Zanzibar House of Representatives, 75 special women’s seats apportioned among the political parties based on their election results, 231 constituent seats (including 50 from Zanzibar), and up to 10 members nominated by the president. The ruling party, CCM, holds about 80% of the seats in the Assembly.
Under the Union Agreement, Zanzibar has extensive autonomy within Tanzania. Zanzibar has its own President, legislature and bureaucracy (“the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar” led by “the Revolutionary Council”) that presides over all non-union matters. The Tanzanian Union Parliament legislates on all union matters (for example, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Police) and non-union matters for the mainland.
Tanzania’s GDP (2009 est.) is approximately $23 billion. The average growth rate (2009 est.) was approximately 5%. Agriculture accounts for approximately 27% of GDP. Agricultural products produced include coffee, cotton, tea, tobacco, cloves, sisal, cashew nuts, maize, livestock, sugar cane, paddy, and wheat. Industry and manufacturing represents 23% of GDP and includes textiles, agro-processing, light manufacturing, construction, steel, aluminum, paints, cement, cooking oil and beer.
Tanzania’s natural resources include hydro-electric potential, natural gas, coal, iron, gemstones, gold, nickel, diamonds, forest products, wildlife and fisheries.
The country exports approximately US$2.7 billion (2009 est.) primarily from agricultural and light manufacturing to markets in U.K., Germany, India, Japan, Italy, China, Bahrain, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan and Indonesia. Primary imports include refined petroleum products, consumer goods, machinery and transport equipment, clothing, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.