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Working in Tanzania

Find out how to get a job and work in Tanzania

Are you one of the many expats working in Tanzania for companies in various economic sectors or for an international organization or NGO? Expats about to begin working in Tanzania will find information on the economy, main sectors, the job search, social and business etiquette, and more in this guide.

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Employment in Tanzania

  • Tanzania is still a relatively poor country and a significant number of the population still live in poverty. Manufacturing, IT and tourism are some strong sectors in which expats can look for work.
  • Apart from Tanzania’s economic center Dar es Salaam, there are other cities preferred by expats. Arusha — also known as Tanzania’s diplomatic hub — is one of them.
  • Business etiquette will certainly seem strange at first for many expats moving to Tanzania — running late, for example, is part of the culture.

From Poverty to Potential: The Tanzanian Economy

Tanzania has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world and just under a third of the population is living below the poverty line. The country has a high potential for growth, however, due to its many investment opportunities in areas such as mining, tourism, and natural resources. Despite experiencing a dip from 2009 to 2011 due to the global recession, the growth rate was back up to about 5.5% at the start of 2016, mainly due to the high price of gold and increased production.

Tanzania has been slowly making the transition to a liberalized market economy since the mid-1980s. The government still maintains a presence in some sectors, however, such as banking, energy, mining, and telecommunications. Many people have found jobs working in Tanzania in the financial sector in the past few years, with many foreign-owned banks operating in the country.

Around 67% of the people working in Tanzania have jobs in the primary sector and agricultural exports account for over 30% of the country’s GDP. Industry accounts for another quarter of Tanzania’s GDP and services make up the remaining 44%.

Where to Look for Work

Tanzania’s main sectors include agriculture, fishing, mining, manufacturing, energy, telecommunications and IT. Many people also have jobs in tourism, since Tanzania is home to some of Africa’s biggest tourist destinations such as Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, and Olduvai Gorge.

Tanzania’s main agricultural products include coffee, tea, cotton, corn, wheat, cattle, and sheep. Tanzanian mining efforts are mostly concentrated on gold, base metals, and diamonds. With companies from Australia, Canada, and South Africa investing in the gold sector, it is fast becoming one of Africa’s major producers. In the energy sector, many people work for oil and gas companies, as well as for companies focusing on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, hydropower, and biomass.

The City of Peace: Tanzania’s Economic Capital

If you will be working in Tanzania in the industrial sector, you will probably end up in Dar es Salaam. With a population of 4.36 million, Dar es Salaam, which means City of Peace in Arabic, is home to over 10% of the mainland population. It is Tanzania’s largest and richest city, and its economic center.

Dar es Salaam has experienced a major construction boom over the past few years. Despite this, an estimated 70% of the population lives in informal housing and slums. Other problems plaguing Dar es Salaam include an outdated public transportation system and occasional power rationing.

The city is divided into three districts: Ilala, Kinondoni, and Temeke. The administrative district and central business district (Posta) are located in Ilala. This district is also the transportation hub of the city, with the international airport, and two train stations located within its borders. Half of the city’s residents live in the second district, Kinondoni. Most of the high-income suburbs are located here, so this is where you will find most expats living. The third district, Temeke, is the city’s industrial center and the location of Tanzania’s busiest port.

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Expat Hotspots and Jobs in Tanzania

Arusha and Other Expat Hotspots

The second-largest expat hub in Tanzania is Arusha, located in northeast Tanzania close to the border with Kenya. It is the country’s third-largest city and has a population of 416,000 (739,000 if you include the surrounding metro area). Many people find tourism jobs in Arusha, as the city is located near several of the country’s (and continent’s) most famous destinations, such as Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Olduvai Gorge, and Mount Kilimanjaro, to name a few.

Many expats working in Tanzania also come to Arusha due to its status as a major international diplomatic hub. They work at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the headquarters of the East African Community. There are also many jobs available in NGOs that specialize in topics such as HIV and AIDS awareness, children’s education, or microfinance.

Other cities with sizeable expat communities include Mwanza, Tanzania’s second-largest city and a major trading center, Dodoma, the country’s legislative capital, Moshi, located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar City, located on Unguja Island, the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago.

The Job Search

The majority of expats in Tanzania work in the education, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and wholesale and retail trade sectors. Common jobs include working as English teachers, IT project managers, software developers, oil and gas workers, and telecommunications contractors. The cost of living can be quite high in Tanzania, especially if you want to buy imported Western foods and live according to Western standards, so you should keep this in mind when you are negotiating your contract.

The following online search engines are a good place to start looking for a job in Tanzania:

Challenges for Expats in Tanzania

According to Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics, foreign workers make up just 0.8% of the workforce. Most of these expatriates come from other East African Community countries, with smaller numbers from India, Europe, the US, Canada, and South Africa. Despite this small percentage, the current Tanzanian government is worried that this number is too high. It is true that about 90% of the CEOs in the country are expats, largely due to a lack of sufficient skills among the local population. Current laws already require the deputy of a company to be Tanzanian if the CEO is not and an expat quota of five persons is put on a company during its start-up period.

Recent trends seem to point the way towards tougher restrictions on expats working in Tanzania. In October 2013, the government ordered over 1,500 foreign teachers to leave due to expired work permits and illegal immigration. A bill, called the Act for Foreign Workers’ Permits, was also passed in June 2015. This act centralizes the work permit application process, allowing it to be more easily supervised and controlled in the hope that the number of foreign workers in Tanzania will decrease. This bill, together with increased work permit costs in October 2012 and the work permit crackdown in October 2013, show a growing move towards protectionist policies when it comes to hiring expatriates.

Tanzania: Taxes and Business Etiquette

Taxes and Social Security: A Slightly Confusing System

Legal residents of Tanzania who are present in the country for 183 days or more in one calendar year must pay taxes in Tanzania on their worldwide income. The amount of income tax you will have to pay ranges from 0% to 30%, depending on your income. If you are an employee, taxes will be deducted directly from your paycheck.

Social security and public health insurance contributions may also be deducted from you paycheck. Making contributions to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) is mandatory for all employees. Both you and your employer must contribute 10% of your gross salary to the NSSF. Check with your employer before you sign your contract for more information on what exactly will be deducted from your paycheck. Even if you are contributing to the NSSF, you will probably want to make additional payments into a private retirement savings account.

The Dos and Don’ts of Social and Business Etiquette

Tanzania is still a very traditional male-dominated society. Traditional social customs and taboos are much stronger in rural areas than urban ones. It is common to see two men holding hands in public. This is a sign of friendship, rather than of sexual preference. Homosexuality is still a taboo in Tanzania.

Although expat women will generally not be held to the same standards as locals, it is respectful to dress modestly, especially in Muslim areas such as Zanzibar. Wearing shorts is never appropriate for men or women at any time. During Ramadan, you should try to avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public.

Business Meetings

A handshake or bow is usually an appropriate greeting in Tanzania. If a Muslim man greets a woman, a bow is appropriate; non-Muslim men should wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Greetings in Tanzania are very important and should not be rushed. Take a few minutes to make small talk. Good topics include family and work.

When you do get down to business, don’t be too direct. Tanzanians equate directness with rudeness. If they want to ask for help, for example, they would tell you a story about their recent problems, from which you could infer what they really want from you. Along with not being too direct, the ability to control one’s temper and emotions in public is greatly valued. Building humor and jokes into a conversation is often a good communication technique.

Punctuality is usually not a big priority among Tanzanians. Those used to working with expats will try to make an effort to be on time, but you should not show your frustration if they are late. In big cities, traffic congestion often makes it very difficult to schedule an exact time for a meeting to begin.

More Helpful Tips

Here are some additional etiquette tips to ensure your smooth transition into Tanzanian culture:

  • Don’t use your left hand for anything, including picking out fruits and vegetables at the market.
  • Never beckon for someone to come to you with your palm facing upwards. This is only used for animals. You should instead hold your hand with the palm facing down and make a scratching motion with your fingers.
  • Wearing camouflage clothing in public is illegal. You will be fined by the police and asked to change.

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Updated on: September 29, 2016
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