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Countries

Tanzania

Tanzania
Tanzania
Tanzania
(Rafal Cichawa/Shutterstock.com)
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Overview

Tanzania is an East African country on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It borders Uganda and Kenya to the north; Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia to the south; and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda to the east. Given Tanzania's geographical location, it has a dual identity: It is both a Great Lakes region state and a coastal, southern African state. The Great Lakes region is centered on Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake. The massive body of water has acted as a transport artery for the peoples of the region for thousands of years, helping in the development of a relatively homogenous socio-cultural and linguistic identity. However, while Tanzania derives much from this part of its geography, it is also a thoroughly coastal power. The country's main population center falls on what is known as the Swahili coast. This positioning opened the country up to foreign interaction with Arab traders and others for centuries before British colonization. As a coastal state, Tanzania is able to look beyond the Great Lakes region and connect with southern Africa when it suits its interests. Managing this geographic duality is a necessary challenge for Tanzanian leaders. However, an ever more pressing challenge will be felt in the years ahead as the country's ruling party, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which is the longest reigning political party on the continent, grapples with inevitable electoral losses. Thus far, CCM has maintained its unparalleled dominance at the top of the Tanzania political system, but cracks will form in the years ahead. Indeed, there have already been signs of trouble: The government annulled the results of 2015 elections on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar in light of opposition success. How CCM's future leaders deal with electoral losses will have an outsized influence on the country's political stability. On the economic front, Tanzania is likely set to benefit from natural gas projects off its southern coast. The potential windfall in the years ahead (which would also benefit neighboring Mozambique) could serve to increase Tanzania's coffers and its profile on the continent and beyond.

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