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Monday, July 1, 2013

Tanzania - A Basic Introduction

Our two weeks in Tanzania was spent in a narrow slice of the northern part of the country.  The map below points out the places that we visited.  We spent about half of our nights in Moshi, a community of close to 200,000 on the lower slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Several nights were spent out in the northern safari circuit areas of the Serengeti.  And we spent two nights in Bukoba, a community of about 100,000 on the shore of Lake Victoria.

Tanzania has an area about twice the size of California and a population of around 40 million.  Our visit covered a small but remarkably diverse area.  From the flat and dry (at this time of year) plains of the Serengeti through rain-forest and into the foothills of snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro it seemed like each hour's drive could transport you into a totally different world. 

A few statistics are in order to set the scene. First, the economy.  How much economic activity is there in the country?  A good source is one of the listings ranking GDP per capita as you will find on this Wikipedia page.  Here are some selected countries.  We'll take a look at the CIA/U. of Pennsylvania ranking of 195 countries:
Rank Country GDP/person
1 Qatar $102,800
9 United States $49,800
111 Egypt $6,600
164 North Korea $1,800
166 Tanzania $1,700
195 Dem. Rep. Congo $400

That ranking of Tanzania below North Korea and at about 1/4 of the level of Egypt certainly sets a perspective.  How about a ranking of 193 countries based on life expectancy?
Rank Country Life Expectancy at Birth
1 Japan 83
33 United States 79
92 Egypt 73
162 Tanzania 59
193 Sierra Leone 47

If those charts aren't depressing enough, consider that estimates find 1.4 million Tanzanians suffering from HIV/AIDS and this chart measures consumer inflationTanInf-1

One of our early stops on the morning of our first day was at a currency exchange.  This sign caught everyone's attention, of course.

The exchange rate is a bit better for larger U.S. bills, but runs about 1600 to 1.

We loaded up on Tanzanian Shillings.  The currency is colorful and features local landmarks on one side and mostly native animals on the opposite side.
TanCurr-1 TanCurr-2

This ten-thousand shilling "Elephant" note is the most common bill.  Think of it as a seven dollar bill.

When you are dealing with someone and they say "thirty shillings," they usually mean thirty thousand, dropping the final three zeroes.

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