Tanzania is predominantly an agricultural country where most of the people live near the subsistence level. In an attempt to foster a more balanced economy and attain self-sufficiency, the government has adopted a socialist economy guided by five-year plans. Among the many objectives are agricultural reforms and improvements, industrialization to reduce imports, and the development of mining. Virtually all industries have been nationalized, and there are many cooperatives. Money spent by tourists, many of them attracted by safaris, provides an important source of foreign exchange.
Tanzania's basic currency unit is the Tanzanian shilling.
Most of Tanzania is too dry or otherwise unsuited to farming, yet agriculture supports the vast majority of the people. Most farming is done on small plots, sustaining individual families, and on lands of cooperative ujamaa villages---settlements promoted by the government. Cash crops, though increasingly produced on small farms, are grown primarily on large commercial farms, most of which are owned and run by the government.
The main subsistence crops include corn, cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, rice, millet, and plantains. Coffee, cotton, sisal, cashew nuts, cloves, tea, tobacco, and pyrethrum are the chief cash crops, and together account for the bulk of the nation's exports. The herding of livestock, especially cattle, is widespread in Tanzania. Much grazing land, however, is made unusable by the tsetse fly, which transmits fatal diseases to humans and domestic animals. Almost all the livestock is of poor quality.
Manufacturing industries play a relatively small---but growing---role in the economy. Most industrial enterprises operate on a small scale and either process cash crops for domestic and foreign markets or produce basic consumer goods. The textile industry is of particular significance. Industries considered essential for further economic growth are increasing in number; they include petroleum refining and the making of chemicals, cement, fertilizers, and farm implements. The government has been primarily responsible for the growth of manufacturing.
Dar es Salaam is by far the leading industrial center. Other cities, however, are experiencing industrial growth under a government plan that discourages further growth in Dar es Salaam.
Diamonds are mined in Tanzania and are a leading export. Other gemstones, gold, and salt are also produced. Large deposits of iron ore, coal, and other minerals are known but remain inaccessible.
Forests, consisting largely of hardwoods, make up one of Tanzania's chief resources. They provide wood, lumber, and such products as bark extracts, palm kernels, and gum arabic.
The fishing industry is only slightly developed, but offers great potential in the freshwater lakes and along the coast.
Modern transportation facilities are inadequate or lacking throughout most of Tanzania. Railways, leading westward from Dar es Salaam and Tanga, are the chief means of transport. The Chinese-built Tazara line, completed in 1975, connects Dar es Salaam's port and the copper belt in Zambia. Hard-surfaced, all-weather routes make up only a small part of the road system. In much of the country, the only roads are dirt tracks.
Ocean shipping is conducted primarily through the port at Dar es Salaam. There are also smaller ports, including several on the great lakes, which have regular steamer service. Air Tanzania is the national airline. Most air service, including that of foreign air lines, is through the modern terminal at Dar es Salaam.