Like what has happened in many other African countries, even in Tanzania the economy underwent profound transformations in the period of colonial domination, which among other things was twofold, first German, then English. During these years the plantation economy was introduced and subsequently strengthened (however entrusted to foreigners, Europeans and Indians); the village economy based on subsistence agriculture was completely neglected to the Africans. Becoming independent in 1964, Tanzania chose a socialist and strongly community-based development path, aimed at creating a classless society as close as possible to that existing in the ancient tribal villages. The country launched ambitious programs: by freeing itself from foreign interference and strengthening its productive structures, it intended to raise, with conspicuous public interventions, the standard of living of the population, especially the rural one, who represented the vast majority of Tanzanians; at the same time, the government aimed at increasing agricultural production and getting national industry off the ground. The instrument chosen to make this economic policy operational was the institution of Ujamaa: village cooperatives similar to Chinese municipalities, equipped with schools, dispensaries, some even with small industries that worked local products and in which the population was gradually started. The government nationalized most of the small and medium-sized farms but never entirely abolished private property. According to Findjobdescriptions, the mining sector, the main industries, banks, transport, foreign trade remained under the exclusive direction of state or parastatal bodies. However, when from 1973 to the world economic crisis repeated natural disasters were added (the terrible drought that devastated much of Africa, destroying pastures and decimating cattle), the government found it necessary to downsize its initial projects and at the same time to increasingly resort to foreign financing, which over time resulted in a more or less disguised form of dependence. The end of socialist politics was made official in 1986 when the Tanzanian economy took a liberal turn by receiving funding from World Bank and, later in the 1990s, opening up sectors such as commercial and banking to private intervention. The country’s economy thus became heavily dependent on international aid and, despite the confidence of the national market, Tanzania remains one of the poorest countries on the African continent with a steady GDP of US $ 20,731 million and a per capita GDP of only US $ 521 (2008). A difficult political-economic problem in Tanzania remains the phenomenon of corruption, present in an endemic form in the administrative systems of the state.
Hydrography, which is very fragmented and varied, is connected to the particular conformation of the territory, also because Tanzania is interested, albeit marginally, by the three largest African lakes: Vittoria, Tanganyika and Malawi. Vittoria, third in the world by surface area (68,100 km²), falls half within the Tanzanian borders; shallow, with low, jagged coasts, bordered by countless islands, it occupies a large depression in the plateau and, via the Nile River, pours part of the waters of northern Tanzania into the Mediterranean Sea. Tanganyika, on the other hand, belongs to the Congo river basin, which receives the contribution of numerous rivers of western Tanzania (given the morphology of the plateau, the watershed line is rather uncertain), including the Malagarasi, which drains a large section of the western highlands.
Lake Tanganyika (32,893 km²), with its long and narrow shape, reflects the tectonic origin of the lake basin, which occupies a long stretch of the western trench; in relation to this, it is very deep (it is the second cryptodepression in the world after Lake Baikal) and has rather precipitous coasts. SE of Lake Tanganyika is Lake Malawi (30,800 km²), the southernmost of the Rift Valley, which in the northern part of its basin rests on the Kipengere Mountains. Typical lakes SE of Lake Tanganyika is Lake Malawi (30,800 km²), the southernmost of the Rift Valley, which in the northern part of its basin rests on the Kipengere Mountains. Typical lakes SE of Lake Tanganyika is Lake Malawi (30,800 km²), the southernmost of the Rift Valley, which in the northern part of its basin rests on the Kipengere Mountains. Typical lakes endorheics are the Rukwa, between Tanganyika and Malawi, and the various lakes that occupy the eastern branch of the Rift Valley: the Ayasi, which however has an extensive supply basin, the Manyara and the Natron. The whole eastern section of Tanzania instead pours its waters into the Indian Ocean through a series of rivers that run normal to the coast. The main ones, as regards the extension of the basin, are in the center the Rufiji, the largest river in the country, which draws its waters up to the Kipengere mountains and runs its course in the central part of the plateau, then flowing into a large system delta in front of the island of Mafia, to the N the Pangani or Ruvu, which has its spring branches in Kilimanjaro and Meru, and at the extreme S the Ruvuma, which marks the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. The rivers that flow into Indian Ocean have a slightly different regime going from S to N, given the varying rainfall; more constant is that of the northern rivers, such as the Pangani, more irregular those of the central south, such as Rufiji himself, fed by inland areas that are not very rainy.