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Tanzania - People

The US Census Bureau International Data Base estimates the population of Tanzania in 2015 at 51,046,000, in 2025 at 66,905,000, and in 2050 at 118,586,000. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 80% of the population dependent on subsistence agriculture; per capita income estimates range from $260 to $610.

Tanzania remains one of the world's poorest countries. Almost 14 million people live below the national poverty line. The government's Poverty Reduction Strategy is now in its fifth year. There have been some successes in delivering social services: primary school enrolment has risen from 53% in 1999 to 97% in 2008 (Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, 2008) and child mortality has fallen by 40% over the past 10 years. But there are challenges around translating the high GDP growth into poverty reduction; poverty has only declined slightly this decade. Life expectancy is 48 years and falling.

The population of Tanzania was estimated in 2002 between 36 and 37 million, with an average life expectancy of approximately 51. Kiswahili, Swahili, and English are all described as official languages of Tanzania, with an estimated literacy rate of approximately 68%; literacy is distributed disproportionately between males and females.

Tanzania faces many daunting challenges that, left unresolved, will impede economic growth and potentially disrupt national unity. Perhaps the most obvious of these challenges is the dysfunctional national education system. Mkapa's government managed some significant success in widening access to primary education: the primary school enrollment ratio has increased from 66.8 percent in 1995 when Mkapa took power, to 88.5 in 2004. Secondary education is in abysmal condition however, and by 2005 there were few signs of hope on the horizon.

Tanzania's secondary school enrollment ratio is just below seven percent, one of the lowest figures in Africa. To make matters worse, all primary education is in Kiswahili, and all secondary education is in English. This means that those few students who actually make it into secondary school face the immediate daunting prospect of having to learn a new language while at the same time mastering their coursework. Not surprisingly, the dropout rate in the first years of secondary school is quite high.

Tanzanias population is concentrated along the coast and isles, the fertile northern and southern highlands, and the lands bordering Lake Victoria. The relatively arid and less fertile central region is sparsely inhabited. So too is much of the fertile and well watered far west, including the shores of Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa (Malawi). About 80% of Tanzanians live in rural communities.

Zanzibar, population about 1.3 million (3% of Tanzanias population), consists of two main islands and several small ones just off the Tanzanian coast. The two largest islands are Unguja (often referred to simply as Zanzibar) and Pemba. Zanzibaris, together with their socio-linguistic cousins in the Comoros Islands and the East Africa coast from modern-day southern Somalia to northern Mozambique, created Swahili culture and language, which reflect long and close associations with other parts of Africa and with the Arab world, Persia, and South Asia.

Tanzanians are proud of their strong sense of national identity and commitment to Swahili as the national language. There are roughly 120 ethnic communities in the country representing several of Africas main socio-linguistic groups.

One important outcome of the ethnic mix in Tanzania was that no group gained dominance, as was the case in some other African nations. The largest ethnic group in Tanzania was the Sukuma who account for about 13% of the population, with no other group exceeding 5%. The unity of the people of the nation was further supported by the use of Kiswahili, the official language of Tanzania. In recent times, members of many groups have moved from their traditional territories seeking farm land, for employment in the cities, and for other reasons.

Tanzania's 1967 census recognized some 120 ethnic groups (often called tribes, particularly in the older literature), each of which differs in varying degrees from the others in culture, social organization, and language. Only the smallest groups are homogeneous, however, most groups are marked by some internal variation in language and culture. Further most of them are characterized by traditions of varied origin, and very few had a clear sense of themselves as ethnic entities before the colonial period.

For the most part, ethnicity is localistic and passive rather than aggregative and assertive. Throughout Africa, colonialism destroyed the organizational bases of traditional societies. But in Tanzania neither colonialism nor the African reaction to it resulted in a permanent reintegration of these societies into larger communal groups. Julius Nyerere was born a Zanaki. This made him part of a community representing only about one-half of 1 percent of the population. Nyerere organized TANU, not because he was a Zanaki, but because he was an African nationalist.

The government has ceased to provide employment for students leaving secondary and high school except those going on to higher education and those who graduate from higher level learning institutions. This has led to a pool of individuals who left secondary and high schools and graduates who have no jobs. Employment in the private sector is likewise very limited and competitive, leading to few people gaining employment.

It was estimated in 2002 that just over 8% of the adult population in Tanzania is either HIV infected or has developed AIDS. The number of people believed to be living with HIV ranges from 1.3 million to 1.5 million. Since the first cases of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Tanzania were reported in 1983, the epidemic evolved from being a rare and new disease to a common household problem, which affected most Tanzania families. By 2009 the mainland Tanzania faced a generalized human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and AIDS epidemic, with an estimated 6.5% of the mainland population infected with HIV (7.7% of adult women and 6.3% of adult men). Overall, 1.4 million Tanzanians (1,300,000 adults and 110,000 children) were living with HIV infection, in a total population of 41 million. The social, economic, and environmental impact of the pandemic is sorely felt as an estimated 140,000 Tanzanians had perished, leaving behind as estimated 2.5 million orphans and vulnerable children, representing approximately 10-12% of all Tanzanian children.

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Page last modified: 19-05-2015 20:18:06 ZULU