Tanzania country profile - Overview

  • 4 November 2015
  • From the section Africa
Map of Tanzania

Tanzania has been spared the internal strife that has blighted many African states.

Though it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with many of its people living below the World Bank poverty line, it has had some success in wooing donors and investors.

Tanzania assumed its present form in 1964 after a merger between the mainland Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar, which had become independent the previous year.

Unlike many African countries, where potential wealth contrasts with actual poverty, Tanzania initially had few exportable minerals and a primitive agricultural system.

In an attempt to remedy this, its first president, Julius Nyerere, issued the 1967 Arusha Declaration, which sought economic self-reliance through cooperative farm villages and the nationalisation of factories, plantations, banks and private companies.

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Image caption Tanzania's port city of Dar es Salaam

But a decade later, despite financial and technical aid from the World Bank and sympathetic countries, this programme had completely failed due to inefficiency, corruption, resistance from peasants and the rise in the price of imported petroleum.

Tanzania's economic woes were compounded in 1979 and 1981 by a costly military intervention to overthrow President Idi Amin of Uganda.

After Mr Nyerere's resignation in 1985, his successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, attempted to raise productivity and attract foreign investment and loans by dismantling government control of the economy.

This policy continued under Benjamin Mkapa, who was elected president in 1995. The economy grew, though at the price of painful fiscal reforms.

Tourism is an important revenue earner; Tanzania's attractions include Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, and wildlife-rich national parks such as the Serengeti.

Tanzania has become a target for poachers, and conservationists have warned that the current rate at which elephants are being killed for their ivory the entire population could die out by the end of the decade.

The political union between Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania has weathered more than four decades of change. Zanzibar has its own parliament and president.

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Image caption Tanzania is home to Ol Doinyo Lengai, an active volcano

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