The University of Iowa University of Iowa






55,451,343 (July 2018 est.)


Tropical to temperate


2,243.8 Tanzanian shillings (TZS) = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Dar es Salam, Zanzibar, Dodoma, Kogoma, Lindi






Major Peoples

Karagwe, Kwere, Maasai, Makonde, Shambaa, Swahili, Zaramo


Christian 30%, Muslim 35%, African Religion 35%



Principal Language

Kiswahili, English, Arabic, and local languages

Official Language

Swahili and English


Head Of State

John Magufuli (since November 5 2015)

Type of Government

Presidential Republic

Date of Independence

December 9, 1961

Major Exports

Gold, Coffee, Cashew Nuts, Manufactures, Cotton

Precolonial History

Khoisan-speaking hunter-gatherer societies inhabited Tanzania about 10,000 years ago. They were joined by and assimilated into Cushitic and Bantu communities migrating to the area from north and west Africa. Trading ports were established along the Tanzanian coast, and the Swahili culture evolved from the amalgamation of African, Arab, and Persian populations by 1200 CE. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached the coast in 1498. Portugal seized Zanzibar and most of the Swahili ports within a decade, controlling the region until Omani Arabs ousted the Europeans in 1699. Zanzibar became the center of the Arab slave trade and later the capital of the Omani empire under Sultan Seyyid Said in the mid-19th century. British explorers Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke reached Lake Tanganyika in the late 1850s. Germany began claiming mainland territory in the 1880s, and established the colony of Deutsch-Ostafrika (German East Africa) in 1891. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, the League of Nations granted control over the colony to Britain.

Postcolonial History

In 1954, Julius Nyerere founded the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) to resist British rule. He became prime minister when Tanganyika declared independence in 1961, and president when the country was proclaimed a republic the following year. Zanzibar declared independence from Britain in 1963, and soon merged with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. The leader of the Afro-Shirazi Party of Zanzibar became Nyerere’s vice-president, and in 1977 the two dominant political parties merged into Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the Party of the Revolution. Nyerere retired in 1985. Multi-party elections were permitted in the 1990s, and Benjamin Mkapa was elected president in 1995. Years of violence and rallies by opposition supporters ensued, and Jakaya Kikwete of the CCM was elected in 2005. In 2007, Tanzania was announced as one of the World Bank’s best examples of global reform.

Recommended Sources:

Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (

Graham Matthews and Michael Jennings, “Tanzania: Recent History,” Africa South of the Sahara (2008).