Tanzania can be described as both heterogeneous and cohesive. While the population is 99 percent African, this population is comprised of over 100 different tribes. Yet its 42 million natives share one common language, Swahili, and have a history of living together harmoniously, exhibiting a pervasive sense of nationalism.
The land itself offers examples of extremes, in Mt. Kilimanjaro - Africa's highest point - and the bottom of Lake Tanganyika - the continent's lowest elevation.
In general, this country, which has been independent for just over 40 years, is a mix of histories and peoples working together toward the common goal of strengthening their nation.
Tanzania, a republic, has had a multi-party system since 1992. The current ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) (Revolutionary Party) has been in existence since 1977. There are 15 other registered political parties in the country, which according to the constitution must include members from both Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania.
The President is elected to five-year terms, although since the inception of the multi-party system, elections have generated little opposition to the CCM.
The Parliament consists of the National Assembly - or Bunge - which has 295 members elected from its constituencies, including five members from Zanzibar's House of Representatives. Members are elected to five-year terms. A certain percentage of Assembly seats are specifically allocated to women.
The islands of Zanzibar maintain a good deal of governmental autonomy. They have their own elected president who oversees matters concerning the archipelago. Zanzibar has its own House of Representatives, 50 members elected to five-year terms. Laws enacted by the National Assembly effect only the mainland - Zanzibar has its own governing body in its President and House of Representatives.
Tanzania's economy has historically been agrarian. Julius Nyerere, the country's first president, promoted a policy of self-reliance and socialism in 1967, whereby farm families were relocated into collective communities.
This policy, known as ujamaa, or familyhood, was not an economic success, and in 1985 when Nyerere stepped down, Tanzania's economic situation was grievous. Extremely dependent on foreign aid, the country continues to struggle with problems, such as infrastructure and education. An estimated 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Despite the nationwide hardship, certain industries have thrived in Tanzania. Today, agriculture accounts for 50 percent of the GDP. The mining sector - specifically diamonds but also including gold, nickel, copper, natural gas, hydropower, coal, and salt - has been growing in recent years.
Manufacturing, tourism, communications, and transportation are other growth sectors. Tanzania now has its own Stock Exchange, where the public can transact sales and purchases of shares.
Foreign investors site several reasons for their presense in Tanzania, including the stability of its people; its free market economy; opportunities in mining, agriculture, energy, and communications; and an underemployed labor pool. However, with a multi-party political system still in its early years, and the government's commitment to capitalism yet to bear fruit, Tanzania's economic direction and future success remain to be seen.