Five things to know about Tanzania

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  • Tanzania, which holds general elections on Wednesday, is a country rich in wildlife and mineral resources.
  • Tanzania held its first multi-party elections in 1995 and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has won every election since.
  • In January 2001 at least 30 people were killed in clashes between police and opposition supporters after a disputed election.


Tanzania, which holds general elections on Wednesday, is a country rich in wildlife and mineral resources, whose fast-growing economy recently saw it upgraded to lower-middle income status by the World Bank.

Kilimanjaro to Serengeti 

At 945 000 square kilometres, Tanzania is the biggest nation in East Africa, bordered by eight countries and the Indian Ocean.

Tanzania boasts Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the world's second largest and deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika.

The wildlife-rich Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro volcanic crater lure hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.

The official capital is Dodoma, although the economic heart is the port city of Dar es Salaam.

Diverse, but united 

Tanzania has around 120 ethnic groups, but does not have a single dominant group - unlike most of its neighbours. Ethnicity is not a major driver of political affiliation or political violence.

The country has an estimated population of 58 million, and Swahili and English are the official languages.

About 60 percent of the population is Christian, and 35 percent Muslim. On the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar however, 99 percent are Muslim.

European colony

The British established a protectorate on Zanzibar in 1890, while Germany took control of the mainland in 1891.

German East Africa became British territory in 1920 and took the name Tanganyika. It became independent in 1961 and the country's founding father, Julius Nyerere, was elected president a year later.

Mainland Tanganyika merged with the Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar and Pemba to form Tanzania in 1964, but the islands have kept a semi-autonomous status with a separate president.

Tanzania held its first multi-party elections in 1995 and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party has won every election since.

President John Magufuli, who succeeded Jakaya Kikwete and Benjamin Mkapa, was elected in 2015 and is seeking a second term in office.

Troubled polls in Zanzibar 

Sectarian and political tensions in Zanzibar - with a cosmopolitan population with Arab, Asian and African heritage - are more marked than on the mainland.

The archipelago has a history of controversial and violent elections, with the opposition charging the ruling party has stolen every election since 1995. Foreign observers have often agreed.

In January 2001 at least 30 people were killed in clashes between police and opposition supporters after a disputed election.

Polls in 2005 were also marred by clashes.

A political deal allowing for more power-sharing led to peaceful elections in 2010, but divisions quickly returned and in 2015, the head of the electoral commission cancelled the entire vote.

The opposition boycotted the re-run in 2016 and the CCM was declared victor.

Gold, cloves and coffee

Agriculture is the biggest economic sector, employing the vast majority of the workforce, and contributing around 30 percent to gross domestic product.

Gold is the main export and foreign exchange earner. The country also exports cashews, cotton, cloves and sisal, coffee, tea and tobacco.

After over six percent annual growth for the past decade, gross national income last year surpassed the World Bank threshold of $1 036 for lower-middle income status.

However, due to high population growth, the number of poor citizens has actually increased from 13 million in 2007 to 14 million, according to the bank.

Magufuli has pursued ambitious infrastructure plans, developing ports and railways and reviving the national airline.

However he has implemented a raft of new mining laws and pursued aggressive taxation, causing uncertainty for businesses and investors.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates growth will fall to 1.9 percent due to the effects of Covid-19.

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