What holds back dam building? The role of Brazil in the stagnation of dams in Tanzania

Research output: Working paper


Across Africa, a number of major dam projects have been resurrected, often with thebacking of the so-called emerging powers. However, many are yet to reach construction andare stuck in the early phases of implementation, with studies ongoing. This paper examinesthis issue in Tanzania, where eight dam projects were pursued between 2005 and 2017 yetonly one reached construction. Beyond the literature on anti-dam activists, there is littleanalysis of the more technical, financial and policy-making processes that cause suchstalling of dam projects. Therefore, this paper focuses on the Brazilian government and twocompanies, Odebrecht and Queiroz Galvão, as the international enablers of two dams inTanzania, the Stiegler’s Gorge and Mnyera projects. It demonstrates the significance of twodrivers in undermining these dams construction. One was the inconsistency resulting fromBrazil’s heavily presidential foreign policy that oscillated from strong support for Africarelations and infrastructure projects between 2010-2012, to a withdrawal of diplomatic andfinancial support since. The second driver was the degree to which Brazilian governmentaland private sector actors misread Tanzanian politics, not understanding the degree offragmentation in the ruling party and how this affected policymaking. These two factors helpexplain why the widespread resurrection of dam projects has not entailed an equal boom indam construction. Additionally, the paper makes a secondary contribution to understandingthe factors behind the collapse in Brazil-Africa relations over the last decade, particularlybeyond a core group of Lusophone countries.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherThe University of Manchester
ISBN (Print)9781913093051
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Hydropower
  • infrastructure
  • politics
  • development
  • Brazil
  • Tanzania
  • emerging powers

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