The country achieved its independence in 1961, as part of the United Nations de-colonization initiative. Then known as Tanganyika, the country had been a German protectorate from 1884 until 1917 when the German colony was given to the British at the end of World War I. While the English settled and developed Tanzania, it was never on the same scale as in Kenya. The advantage to Tanzanian people was that they did not receive the same psychological or cultural impact as did the Kenyans. Additionally, there has never been a ruling white class in Tanzania thus the country did not experience the same tension between whites and blacks as so many other colonized African countries did.
Union of the Mainland and Zanzibar:
Upon achieving independence as Tanganyika in 1961, the first president, Julius Nyerere, established the country as a socialist economy. In 1964, the island of Zanzibar joined the mainland and the country officially became known as Tanzania. The union of the mainland and Zanzibar is a unique arrangement and leaves most Tanzanians with definite opinions about how the two governments should interact.
Tanzania's geography is one of the most varied and unique in the world; it contains lakes, mountains and many natural parks. The north-east of Tanzania is mountainous, and includes the highest mountain in Africa, the Mount Kilimanjaro (5895m) and Mount Meru (4566m), both of which are active volcanoes. West of these is Serengeti National Park, famous for its annual migration of millions of wildebeest, as well as its abundance of lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and buffalo. The Serengeti also contains the marvelous Eden of Ngorongoro, a 20-mile-wide volcanic crater that is home to an extraordinary concentration and diversity of wildlife.
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. On the coast of Tanzania you’ll find the beautiful islands of Zanzibar, and an ocean rich in marine life.
The climate of Tanzania varies quite a bit. It 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 fell under German control in 1886, but was handed over to Britain after WWI. Present day Tanzania is the result of a merger between the mainland (previously Tanganyika) and Zanzibar in 1964, after both had gained independence. Tanzania has like many African nations experienced considerable strife since independence, and its economy is extremely weak. However, political stability does appear to have been established in recent years.
Population & People:
Tanzania has an estimated population of 45 million inhabitants. The mainland is comprised of about 120 tribal groups. Most of these are small, and as a result, no tribe has succeeded dominating politically or culturally.
About 95 percent of Tanzanians are of Bantu origin. The largest tribes include the Sukuma, Nyamwezi, Makonde, Haya and Chagga. The Maasai and several smaller groups are of Nilo-Hamitic or Nilotic origin. Average life expectancy is 57 years for men and 59 years for women, according to statistics by the UN.
Politeness, respect and modesty are highly valued attributes in Tanzania’s traditional society. Pleasantries are very important and people often spend several minutes at the beginning of a conversation simply greeting each other. It is considered impolite to launch directly into questions without these formalities. Knowing a few basic greetings, such as habari (meaning ‘news’) and then accompanying responses before switching to English will be much appreciated. Along with greetings, handshakes are also an important part of social interactions. People often continue to hold hands for several minutes after meeting, or even throughout the whole conversation. In some areas you will see people touching their left hand to their right elbow as they shake hands as s sign of respect.
The United Republic of Tanzania is a young multiparty democracy. Executive power rests with the president and the ruling party CCM. The president and members of the national assembly are elected by direct popular vote for five year terms. The prime minister, who functions as the head of the national assembly, is appointed by the president. Cabinet members are selected by the president from among national assembly members. Apparently, Tanzania is reviewing the constitution and wanting it to change to fit with changes that happening in the country.
Tanzania is in the bottom ten percent of the world's economies in terms of per capita income. The economy depends heavily on agriculture, which accounts for more than 40% of GDP, provides 85% of exports, and employs 80% of the work force. Topography and climatic conditions, however, limit cultivated crops to only 4% of the land area. The World Bank, the IMF, and bilateral donors have continually provided funds to rehabilitate Tanzania's out-of-date economic infrastructure and to alleviate poverty. Industrial production and a substantial increase in output of minerals, especially gold, have contributed to economic growth. Recent banking reforms have helped increase private-sector growth and investment. Continued donor assistance and solid macroeconomic policies supported real GDP growth of 7.1% in recent years.
Christianity and Islam are the main religions of Tanzania. About 40-45% of the population practice Christianity and about 35-40% practice Islam. The rest of the population follows traditional beliefs, which usually centers on ancestor worship and nature-based animism. Most Christians live on the mainland, where missionary stations and schools reach deep into the continent. Islam is the major religion of the coastal areas but is also practiced further inland along the old caravan routes. Religion plays a large part in the daily life of Tanzanians. Easter and Christmas are major events in Tanzania, with services and celebrations often extending far into the day and night.
Tanzania’s educational system is loosely based on that of Britain. There are seven years of primary school which are, at least in theory, compulsory, and four years of secondary school, with an additional two years required for university entrance. Primary schooling is in Swahili. Secondary school and University are in English. There has been a lack of resources for additional teachers, classrooms and books. There are also reports of children not attending school because of poorly paid teachers demanding enrollment money from them. There are private primary schools where tuition varies quite a bit and many are in English (as opposed to Swahili taught in government primary schools). Many students leave school after finishing primary education.
Swahili and English are the official languages in Tanzania. English is widely spoken in cities and larger towns, however in rural areas English is spoken less. It is useful for any visitor to know at least a few basic Swahili phrases.
Besides Swahili, these are also numerous other languages spoken in Tanzania, reflecting the country’s ethnic diversity.
Tanzania has exceptionally rich and varied ecosystems. While most foreigners are only aware of the large mammal wildlife population, there is much more to Tanzania than just that. The country has several forests and lakes hosting among the highest biodiversity of flora and fauna in Africa. In order to protect this natural wealth, the government has set aside about 25% of Tanzania’s land as protected parks, game and forest reserves and marine parks.