Unpacking Authoritarian Governance in Electricity Policy: Understanding Progress, Inconsistency and Stagnation in Tanzania

Barnaby Dye

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In Africa, the 21st century has seen increased policy focus on the electricity sector, with targets for providing reliable, affordable power and achieving universal electricity access. But how to understand the policymaking affecting these goals? Recent academic and policy literature has tended to focus on factors like ‘political will’ and on the positive impacts of democratic and liberal-market institutional reform. However, given the predominance of authoritarianism in Africa, we also need to unpack countries ruled by dominant political elites. This article, using insights from the political settlements framework, addresses this by using the case study of Tanzania. Whilst under consistent de-facto 1-party rule, it experienced two markedly different periods of electricity policymaking in electricity generation, first under President Kikwete (2005–2015) and second President Magufuli (2015–2021). Meanwhile consistent, substantive increases were achieved in electricity access. Using insights from the ‘political settlements framework, the article explains these contrasts through shifts in the nature of political power. The article demonstrates that centralised, fragmented regimes contain weaknesses in their ability to implement policy and pursue long-term development, whilst centralised dominant regimes have a weakness from supressing critique. Overall, this reinforces the importance of analysing the manifestation of political power within the ruling elite, and the way this shapes key political pressures and policymaking horizons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102209
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021


  • Africa
  • Electricity policy
  • Illiberal democracies
  • Political economy
  • Political settlements
  • Power generation

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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