Fact Check This (Part 1 of 2) Posted on April 4th, 2010 by

Recently, I realized that though I have given much commentary on Tanzania’s culture and landscape, I have supplied very few real facts.  This series will come in two parts, the first concerning social facts and the second, economics.  So here is a little commentary, and a lot of facts.

On the 9th of December, 1961, Tanganyika gained independence from British rule.  A few years later, the island of Zanzibar gained similar independence and joined with the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania on 26th April, 1964.  Hence the name, Tanzania.

The country of Tanzania is the world’s 31st largest with a total size of 947,300 sq km, roughly two Californias.  In comparison the USA is the 3rd largest nation with 9,826,675 sq km (3/10 the size of the African continent).  Tanzania is bordered by 8 countries and 1424 km of the Indian Ocean.  The country is home to many of the ‘continent’s greatest’ including highest mountain (Mt. Kilimanjaro at 5895 m), and the three of the largest lakes (Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa).  Additionally, Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake, and Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second deepest.  Tanzania is also home to part of the Great Rift Valley, Ngorongoro caldera and a plethora of unique flora and fauna.

Lake-1Lake Victoria

The population of this African nation comes in at 41,048,532 (30th*), much below the USA which weighs in at 307,212,123.  This is only where the difference in population begin.  The median age in Tanzania is 18; in the United States it is 36.7.  The population over 65 consists of a mere 2.9% in Tanzania versus 12.8% in the US.  This statistic is more dramatic when seen from a different angle.  The average life expectancy for a Tanzanian is 52.01 years (206th of 224), 26.1 years less than the average American life expectancy.  It’s a little better for women who get an expected 53.51 years but it’s still much less than the American woman who gets 80.69 years.  Though we complain much about the costs and hassles of health care in the States, we really are getting a good deal.  That said, there are still 48 countries with better life expectancies than the United States.  (If you want to live long, move to Macau, Andorra or Japan.)  Infant mortality in Tanzania is 69.28/1000 live births (25th) – over ten times the rate in the US!  Like many developing nations, Tanzania’s urban population is on the rise.  25% of the population already lives in cities (compared with 82% in America) and that number is increasing at a rate of 4.2%.  The population as a whole is increasing at a rate of 2.04% (55th).

Tanzania, like all of Africa, is facing a HIV/AIDS crisis.  There are 1.4 million (6th) people living with HIV/AIDS in Tanzania alone.  There are 1.2 million infected in the States, but compared with population size, this is a much smaller fraction (6.2% for Tanzania versus 0.6% in the States).  Tanzania is also seventh in terms of HIV/AIDS deaths with 96,000 in 2007.

Tanzanian education, as you may imagine, is lagging.  Literacy is at 69.4% (girls comprising 62.2% and boys 77.5%).  Part of this may be explained by examining education expenditures.  Tanzania spends 2.2% of it’s GDP on education (164th).  In comparison the US spends a little more at 5.3% (57th).  What do these figures translate into?  With a little math you find that Tanzania spends $27.61 on each student.  This figure is an estimate because because it is based on the population below 14 and not all children below 14 go to school and many children above 14 go to school.  Nevertheless it is in the ballpark.  The math for the United States works out at $12,200.86 per student but this figure is bound to be high as it does not factor in any student over the age of 14.  Surprisingly, the majority of the countries with the highest educational spending are those in the South Pacific, with the tiny island of Kiribati coming in first at 17.80%.  On the other hand, the countries with the lowest GDP are the same Pacific island nations.

Tanzania is comprised of mainly three religions. 30% of the population is some denomination of Christian, 35% Muslim and the remaining 35% of believers hold indigenous religious beliefs. The percentage of the Muslim population increases as you head east; the island of Zanzibar is over 99% Muslim.  In comparison, the United States is 78.5% Christian and only 0.6% Muslim (the remaining percentage comprised of other beliefs (4.9%) and unaffiliated/non-believers(16.1%)).  

Tanzania, upon gaining independence, became a republic and choose to develop a legal system based on English common law.  Like the States, suffrage is 18 years and universal.  The current president, Jakaya Kikwete, has been in office since 21 December 2005.  Presidential terms last five years and the next election is coming up in October 2010.  In the last election, Kikwete won with a resounding 80.3%.  Compare this with our last presidential election in which Barak Obama won with 52.4% (a percentage most Americans did not find close).

Tanzania’s flag, as shown, consists of four colours.  The green represents the country’s flora, the yellow for it’s mineral deposits, black for the people and blue for it’s lakes and rivers.


Now that I have given you a multitude of facts, take some time to mull them over and come back next week for part 2.

* Disassociated numbers in parenthesis indicate rank among the world

Note: All facts and figures compliments of the CIA World Factbook and the math is brought to you by my handy Casio calculator.


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