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Famous People from Tanzania

Tanzania is the home of numerous stars… mainly four-legged. From the Big Five to the Small Five, from elegant giraffes to grumpy buffalos – the East African country is swamped with VIAs (Very Important Animals). But how about two-legged Tanzanians who have caught attention due to extraordinary feats? In fact, Tanzania has given the world a whole range of influential personalities, some of whom you may be familiar with. In this article, we put the spotlight on ten of the most famous people from Tanzania who have made a mark both nationally and internationally.

Julius Nyerere

Julius Nyerere was hugely instrumental in Tanzania’s anti-colonial movement while serving as Prime Minister of Tanganyika from 1961 to 1962. He was President of Tanganyika from 1962 to 1964 and led the successor state, Tanzania, as president from 1964 to 1985.

On top of that, he was a founding member and leader of the Tanganyika African National Union party and its successor, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (from 1954 to 1990). As an advocate of African nationalism and African socialism, he positively championed Ujamaa, a unique socio-political philosophy.

With all of these feats, it’s no surprise that Julius Nyerere is a much-loved and famous Tanzanian. So famous, in fact, that in 2019 the northern part of the Selous Game Reserve was renamed to Nyerere National Park.

Rufiji River in Nyerere National Park, former Selous Game Reserve

Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete

Having served as the nation’s fourth president from 2005 to 2015, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete has of course deserved a place in our top ten of Tanzanias famous people. Before his presidency, Kikwete contributed to the country’s international relations as the Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2005, under the administration of a certain Benjamin Mkapa.

His influence extends to local duties, however, as he also held key positions in regional organizations. From 2008 to 2009, he led the African Union as its chairperson, and from 2012 to 2013, he was the chairman of the Southern African Development Community Troika on Peace, Defence, and Security. 

Widely treasured among famous Tanzanians, Kikwete’s roots are proudly embedded in his Tanzanian tribal heritage.

Flaviana Matata

Next up, we have the widely adored Tanzanian celebrity and fashion model, Flaviana Matata. Not only was she recognized by Forbes Africa in 2013 as one of the top-earning models in Africa, she has also reached the publicly voted Top 100 Women in Africa.

Matata’s journey to fame began with her victory in the first Miss Universe Tanzania pageant in 2007, leading her to represent Tanzania in the Miss Universe pageant the same year. She secured a spot in the top 15 semi-finalists and finished in 6th place in the evening gown segment.

Her participation in Miss Universe 2007 was groundbreaking: she was the first Tanzanian to compete, and quite notably did so with a completely shaved head. She looked, quite frankly, utterly stunning, even without her flowing locks.

Ray C

Ray C is a charting musician and a famous Tanzanian celebrity, having made national waves in the popular Afro-pop and Bongo Flava music scene. Before her rise to fame, she entertained music enthusiasts as a presenter at Clouds FM, a radio station in Dar es Salaam.

Her debut album, “Mapenzi Yangu”, marked the beginning of her journey as a leading figure among famous Tanzanians. Ray C’s music has resonated beyond Tanzania, leading her to perform in countries like Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Mozambique. Her success is not limited to the African continent, though: fans from destinations such as China, the United Kingdom, large parts of Europe, Australia, and Thailand dance to her unique style.

Illustration of Ray C

Ali Kiba

As a much-loved Tanzanian singer and songwriter, Ali is one of the most famous musicians in Tanzania. Originally hailing from Kigoma, he also heads the Kings Music label, and through it, his album “Cinderella” achieved remarkable success. In fact, it has become the best-selling album in East African countries.

In 2022, Ali Kiba earned recognition as the most awarded artist in the Tanzania Music Awards, securing five awards and thereby earning his status as a leading Tanzanian celebrity.

Christopher Mwashinga

Christopher Mwashinga is a Tanzanian author and poet from Mbeya, who currently resides in the United States. His theme is mostly Christian poetry, having been published in mainstream anthologies in the US.

Hasheem Thabeet

When it comes to sports, Hasheem Thabeet is arguably the most famous Tanzanian. After playing college basketball at UConn (University of Connecticut), he was drafted second overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Thabeet’s journey in the NBA has been a topic of much discussion, with some analysts having considered his performance as a top draft extremely noteworthy, due to his limitless raw talent and an ability to read the game intuitively.

In 2021, he returned to his roots in Tanzania. He played for Savio, led them to the Dar es Salaam Regional Basketball League (RBA) title and was voted the Finals MVP.

Diamond Platnumz

Most famously known as Diamond Platnumz, Nasibu Abdul Juma Issack is a Tanzanian bongo flava artist, dancer, philanthropist, and businessman. He is of Ha heritage, founded WCB Wasafi Record Label, Wasafi Bet, and Wasafi Media, and is known for his huge influence in East and Central Africa. Interestingly and rather impressively, Diamond is the first Africa-based artist to achieve one billion YouTube views.

After signing with Universal Music in 2017, he released “A Boy from Tandale.” Then, in 2021, Diamond Platnumz and WCB Wasafi partnered together with Warner Music Group and became a notable Tanzanian celebrity with people of all ages.

Illustration of Diamond Platnumz

Harmonize

Rajab Abdul Kahali, more famously known as Harmonize, is a massive figure in the Tanzanian music scene, particularly in the Bongo Flava genre. Due to his Makonde heritage, he is often referred to as ‘Konde Boy’.

Harmonize’s music career bounces effortlessly between local Tanzanian villages and jet-setting international stages, mirroring the diversity of Tanzania itself.

Benjamin Fernandes

Benjamin Fernandes has come to fame both as a Tanzanian entrepreneur and as a former national television presenter. His notable work with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Digital and Financial Services teams has gained attention in the USA, propelling him to fame on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Fernandes holds the distinction of being the first Tanzanian to enrol in the Stanford Graduate School of Business as an Africa MBA Fellow. He’s also the youngest African admitted to this prestigious institution. In 2017, he made history as the first Tanzanian to participate in programs at both the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

 

Fancy seeing a bongo flava artist in the flesh, a notable author reciting poetry or other famous people from Tanzania? With Tanzania Specialist, you can immerse yourself in the nation’s beauty and might even encounter some of these illustrious figures along the way! Even if it’s ‘just’ the four-legged ones 😉

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