Tanzania Religion and Languages

By | March 5, 2021

According to franciscogardening, Tanzania is a country located in East Africa and shares borders with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. It is home to the highest mountain in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro – as well as the iconic Serengeti National Park. The official language is Swahili but English is also widely spoken. Tanzania has a population of over 55 million people with over 120 ethnic groups and tribes that make up its diverse population. The capital city is Dodoma while the largest city is Dar es Salaam. The country has an economy based on agricultural production, tourism and mining. Tanzania has a rich cultural heritage with many festivals celebrated throughout the year like Mwaka Kogwa which marks the start of the new year in Zanzibar or Uhuru Day which celebrates independence from colonial rule.


In 2019, Tanzania had a population density of 60 residents per km2; however, the population is very unevenly distributed. According to Countryaah, most of the country is quite sparsely inhabited, but some areas, for example. The slopes of Kilimanjaro and on Lake Malawi show large population concentrations. Parts of the highlands in central Tanzania and the areas south of Lake Victoria are also relatively densely populated.

In 2019, 34 percent of the population lived in cities, of which Dar es-Salaam (3.4 million residents, 2012), Mwanza (640,600) and Zanzibar (539,900) were the largest. During the 1990s, the country received refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. It is estimated that there are 270,000 refugees in the country.

Tanzania’s population is characterized by great ethnic diversity. In the national census in 1987 (the last one to include ethnic affiliation), 130 different African ethnic groups were registered. They make up 99 percent of the population; only 1 percent are Asians, Europeans and Arabs. However, the boundaries between the groups are dynamic and the group terms are often contextually dependent and therefore varied. More than 95 percent of the population are Bantu people. In the northern parts of the country, besides Bantu, there are also groups of Nilotic and Kushite and Khoisan people.

The largest nilotic groups are livestock massages (300,000) in the Arusha region and luo (210,000) in the northwestern part of the Mara region, which subsist on agriculture and livestock, combined with fishing on Lake Victoria. Iraqw in the Arusha region, also farmers and herdsmen, is the largest Cushitic group (462,000). Small minorities are sandawe (20,000) in the Kondo district, where they live on agriculture, and hadza (1,000) on Lake Eyasis, which in part still provides themselves as hunters and collectors. On the steppes south of Arusha there is okiek, a small group of aci-speaking hunters and collectors (maximum 500). The Khoisan groups sandawe and constitute small minorities.

The Bantu groups in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country are mainly farmers. In the hinterland, on the drier high plateau and in the area south and east of Lake Victoria, livestock management in combination with agriculture is of great importance in the economy. The largest linguistically and culturally related group consists of sukuma (6.7 million) and nyamwezi (1.7 million). Other large bantugrupper is Makonde (1.2 million), Chaga (1 million) and haya (1.9 million) in the northwest Tanzania, have (1.3 million) in Western Tanzania, hehe (1.2 million) and GoGo (2 million).

Most bantu groups were previously organized in the chiefdom of varying territorial extent. More centralized political systems existed, especially in the northwestern part of the country. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, local kings and warlords emerged as the Nyamwezikungen Mirambo and the king Makwaia, who temporarily came to dominate large areas.

Except in eastern and southeastern Tanzania where matrilineal kinship systems dominate, the social organization of most other groups in the country is patrilinear. Traditions that prescribe both male and female circumcision are found in the northern and eastern parts of the country but, with a few exceptions, are lacking in other parts.


Official Language of Tanzania

In Tanzania, about 130 native languages ​​are spoken, representing all four major language families in Africa. However, the vast majority belong to the Niger-Congo languages. The two most significant of these are the related sukuma and nyamwezi, which are spoken by one sixth of the population.

The other language families – the Nilo-Saharan, Afro-Asiatic and Khoisan languages ​​- are represented by languages ​​spoken by a total of 6%. English and Swahili are official languages. Swahili has the status of a national language and is prioritized in the official language policy.

See also Population and Ethnography above.


Information on religious affiliation in Tanzania is uncertain, as these are no longer included in the census. During colonial times, Christianity quickly became established in large parts of the interior. Today, an estimated 60% of Tanzania’s population is Christian. Among these, the Catholic Church is the largest with about 25% of the population as members, while Protestants are estimated to be about 20%. The first Protestant church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, has about 10% of its population as members. About 5% of the population is members of Baptist-Pentacostal communities. In addition, there are a number of smaller Christian groups, including Methodists, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Anglicans, and Presbyterians.

The Muslims constitute almost a third of the population. Of these, about 85% are Sunni and the rest are Shia groupings of Asian origin. Islam is strongest in the coastal area, especially on Zanzibar and other islands, where there have been Muslims since Muhammad’s century. In Zanzibar, almost all Muslims are. For shaping African socialism ujamaa, Muslims played a prominent role.

The country also has supporters of traditional indigenous African religion. It is estimated that around 10% of the population devotes to this. In addition, there are small groups of Buddhists, Hindus and Baha’is.

The Constitution and other laws guarantee freedom of religion. In some areas, Tanzania has a parallel legal system, where Sharia can be applied to Muslims in family law matters. In Zanzibar there is a system of kadhid courts, which consists of judges trained in Islamic law who adjudicate on issues related to divorce, custody of children, inheritance and other matters covered by Islamic law. Tanzania’s Muslim Council is striving to introduce cadhid courts on the mainland.

  • Follow abbreviationfinder to see what is the meaning of TZ in geography. It can stand for Tanzania. Click this site to see other possible meanings of this acronym.

The public school is allowed to teach about religion, but religious education is not included in the curriculum. A number of private schools and universities are affiliated with religious institutions, both Islamic and Christian.

The following days are national religious holidays: mawlid (Prophet Muhammad’s birth), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Id al-fitr, Id al-hajj (Id al-adha), and Christmas Day.

Tanzania Population by Religion