The People

About 99 per cent of the people are Africans, members of some 120 different groups of predominantly Bantu origin. Most of the few non-Africans are Arabs and East Indians, but there are also some Europeans. Most of the Africans live in rural villages. The non-Africans inhabit the towns of the coastal regions.


In 1988 Tanzania had a population of 23,174,336, including 640,578 on Zanzibar and Pemba. The population density was about 48 persons per square mile (19 per km2) overall, but much of the dry interior is virtually uninhabited.

Tanzania's largest cities are Dar es Salaam, with a population of 1,360,850; Mwanza (223,013); Dodoma (203,833); Tanga (187,634); and Zanzibar (157,634).

Language and Religion

Swahili (a Bantu language) is the official language and the second language of many groups that speak other Bantu dialects. English is widely spoken in the coastal areas.

From 30 to 50 per cent of the mainland Tanzanians are animists. Of the remainder, about half are Muslims and half Christians. Most of the inhabitants of Zanzibar are Muslims of the Sunni branch.

Education and Culture

Primary and secondary schools are maintained by the central government, local authorities, and voluntary groups (mainly mission schools). Most of these schools are government-supported, either wholly or partially. Facilities for vocational, technical, and teacher training are also provided by the government. Higher education is available at the national university at Dar es Salaam (founded in 1961) and several colleges.

The government has placed great emphasis on expansion of the educational system and on adult education programs. The literacy rate is 75 per cent, one of the highest in Africa.

Tanzania has a rich tradition in music and dance. Oral literature in the form of myths, folk tales, and poetry is also highly developed. Wood carvings and painted leather shields are notable Tanzanian handicraft items.