Despite great progress, Tanzania's economy still cannot keep up with its fast-growing population. Poverty and malnutrition remain a problem.



Dodoma, seat of government: Dar es Salam

Official language

Swahili, English


947,300 km²


Approximately 53.5 million

Population growth

Approximately 3.1%

Rural population

36.6 million (68.4% of the total population)

Gross domestic product

USD 45.6 billion

Per capita annual income

USD 879

Share of agriculture in GDP


Severity of hunger, according to the Global Hunger Index

Serious (Value: 28.4 / Trend: -4.5)

Share of the population suffering from malnutrition


Human Development Index

Index: 0.521 / Rank: 151 of 188

Proportion of the population living on less than USD 1.25 a day


From African socialism to free market economy

After Tanzania's independence in 1961, a socialist unity party ruled for two decades under President Julius Nyerere. His Ujamaa policy (Swahili for "live like a family") promoted national unity of more than 120 ethnic groups until the mid-1980s and maintained civic peace. Village communities were to form large collective farms following an African model of Soviet-inspired kolkhozes, and help Tanzania on the road to autonomous development. But the planned economy led to the economic downfall of the country. Public debt mounted, the population was impoverished, and there was hardly any economic development. 


In the 1990s, the emergence of political pluralism went along with a period of economic liberalization. For more than ten years, the reform-oriented government has achieved steady economic growth of 6 to 7 percent per year. But still, 46 percent of the country's population of around 53 million is living on less than USD 1.90 a day; one third of all Tanzanians, and an estimated one in every two children, are undernourished. About 250,000 refugees from neighboring countries depend on food aid. 


No recovery without strong agriculture

Four out of five Tanzanians live off of agriculture. However, agriculture accounts for only about 30 percent of the gross domestic product. In principle, there are good conditions in place for the agricultural sector to serve as an economic backbone: a great deal of fertile land, abundant water resources and a variety of areas with favorable climates. But the agricultural sector has posted relatively weak growth in recent years, growing by around 3.4 and, more recently, just 2.3 percent. This is not enough to feed a population growing by 3 percent each year. 


Corn is one of Tanzania's leading agricultural products. Farmers also produce millet, rice, wheat and legumes, as well as cassava, potatoes, bananas and plantains. If rainfall is lacking or unexpectedly strong, whole crops can be destroyed. If that happens, small farmers in particular struggle to survive and regional famines are possible. Other problems faced by the agricultural sector are a dependence on rain and a slow pace of technological development. Most farmland is cultivated by families for their own consumption, mostly without modern equipment. As a result, crop yields are low. Crops which are produced for export mainly consist of coffee, cotton, tea, tobacco, sisal, cloves and cashews. 


Too little for too many

After the state-owned agricultural enterprises collapsed in the 1990's, many farmers settled on their land. Having lived there for two decades, they now consider this land as their property. But the Tanzanian government continues to regard itself as the rightful owner. It is seeking private investment, both foreign and domestic, in order to help modernize agricultural production. Because of the ambiguous ownership situation, each side considers the other to be land thieves and squatters. There are also endless conflicts over land between farmers and livestock ranchers. Herds of animals, in some cases very large in size, wander from place to place in search of grazing opportunities. When these are in short supply in times of drought, they invade the cultivated land of the farmers in search of food. 


Although Tanzania is relatively sparsely populated, large parts of the country are not suitable for food production: they are too dry, flooded or infested with tsetse flies. Furthermore, 40 percent of Tanzanian land is designated as nature reserves. In the country's 16 national parks, hunting and farming is highly restricted. According to the government, there is still plenty of unused land available. But the existing competition for land has already led to overgrazing and deforestation. It is urgently necessary for the exhausted soil to recover. Where entire ecosystems are destroyed, the nutritional basis for humans and animals is endangered. 


Tanzania's goal: semi-industrialized agriculture

LAKE VICTORIA, SOURCE OF FOOD As in other African countries, a corn starch porridge (ugali) is a staple in Tanzania. Rice is also very popular, and beans and leafy vegetables are also common. On special occasions, meat is consumed. Fishing plays an important role both on the coast and on the many lakes, especially on Lake Victoria.

Despite the problems, there is also significant progress in Tanzania. For example, life expectancy has increased by 8 years since 2000 and per capita income is up by almost 60 percent. In its "Vision 2025," the Tanzanian government sets ambitious goals for national development. In the coming years, it hopes to significantly improve quality of life for Tanzania's population, who will find themselves living in a competitive economy with sustained growth. In order to ensure the security of the good supply and higher incomes, the government is attempting to modernize its agricultural sector. The plan calls for increasing agricultural productivity by introducing free market conditions and providing access to modern cultivation methods, as well as advice from agricultural experts. At the same time, the government attaches great importance to environmental protection.



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