Tanzania is located midway down the east coast of Africa and shares boarders with eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique (anticlockwise from North). The capital city is Dodoma, in the centre of the country, however Dar Es Salaam is the major commercial hub and most populated city, situated on the shoreline of the Indian Ocean.
Culture is diverse amongst the many tribal groups. African rumba and bongo flava are popular music styles which have evolved from a fusion between traditional dance and modern day hip hop. Typical literary forms have a strong oral basis stemming from folktales, riddles, songs and proverbs, whilst food culture is limited by what staples are available. Ugali is a common national dish made from corn-meal to form a paste like porridge. Swahili and English are the official languages but Arabic and various local languages are also widely spoken.
The birth rate ranks seventeenth highest in the world at 4.95 children born/ woman as contraception is uncommon and infant mortality relatively high. 45% of the population is aged 0-14 years old forcing the median age as low as adolescence (17.4 years).
95% of mainland Tanzanians are ethnically African, with cultural roots predominantly tied to one of 130 Bantu tribes. Zanzibar has a greater Arab influence, where more than 99% of the population are Muslim.
Mainland Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) achieved independence from Britain in 1991. It then united with Zanzibar in 1964 to form one nation. After three decades of one-party rule, democratic elections were held in 1995 although were somewhat contentious due to Zanzibar’s semi-autonomous status. This tension has since been diffused through the formation of unified government involving Zanzibar’s two leading parties.
Previously a predominantly self-reliant economy, Tanzania is nearing completion of its transition toward liberalisation. Strong growth above regional and global averages is largely attributable to the booming gold sector, tourism and continued flow of foreign direct investment, coupled with promising advances in governance structures. Unfortunately though, much of this growth was not pro-poor and has been enjoyed by a small minority.
As characteristic of a developing country, agriculture accounts for 85% of exports and employs 80% of the labour force. Major commodities include gold, coffee, cashew nuts and cotton. At the same time, the finance sector has recently expanded and the presence of foreign banks has brought competitive rates, improved efficiency and higher quality of services.
- Malnutrition: Despite efforts to meet UN millennium development targets, little progress has been made towards reducing extreme hunger and malnutrition. Given the high population growth rate and inadequate investment in infrastructure, the agriculture sector has not been growing fast enough to keep up with demand resulting in widespread food insecurity. As many as 1 in 3 children below five years of age are underweight, and rates of stunting and undernourishment are distinctively higher in rural areas than urban.
- Disability: Approximately 9% of the population are disabled. Although the 1977 constitution formally recognises their rights and prohibits discrimination, extensive unemployment and below-average education rates persist. On paper the Tanzanian government has strategised for targeted improvements in quality of life and productive employment according to the 2004 National Disability Policy, however no national plan of action has yet been implemented and the country’s guarantee of free access to health services is yet to become a reality.
- Environmental degradation: Population pressure and climate change are an increasing threat to Tanzania’s natural resources. Unsustainable harvesting practices, unbridled cultivation and low regulation in agriculture and mining has led to a critical loss of habitat and biodiversity. Nonetheless, efforts have been made toward environmental conservation through the designation of ‘Protected Areas’ which now extend across 17 400km2 of native reserves.
CIA WorldFact Book - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tz.html
UNDP - http://www.id.undp.org/
WHO - http://www.afro.who.int/en/tanzania/country-health-profile.html