By Barnaby Dye

Africa has experienced a dam boom since the mid-2000s with projects across the continent being built by the so-called rising powers like China, ‘traditional donors’ (e.g. the USA and Germany) and established international development organisation such as the World Bank. The dam resurgence also involves projects that have been resurrected, dusted-off shelves and then actively planned. However, across the continent, many of these planned projects have not reached construction.

This paper examines this puzzle of resurrected projects being actively planned but not built by looking at two dams in Tanzania between 2009-2017 the Stiegler’s Gorge and Mnyera dams. Both were supported by Brazil: Its diplomats and companies Odebrecht and Queiroz Galvão became key enablers of both dams in terms of providing prominent backing and finance.

However, as well as initiating the dams’ progress, this paper also argues that these Brazilian actors were a key reason for their delays. The paper demonstrates two relevant arguments here. The first is that Brazil’s swings in foreign policy prevented sustained support for projects in Tanzania. The second shows how inexperience in non-Lusophone Africa, and Tanzania especially, led to Brazilian actors misreading the politics of the ruling party. This lack of understanding meant that the Brazilian firms failed to navigate a path to construction.

Thus, the paper makes an important contribution to understanding the dam resurgence in Africa. It shows that international enablers, both governments and companies, are essential for understanding the progress of projects. They are partly responsible for the upturn in infrastructure in the 21st century but can also cause projects to stall.

Read the Working Paper: What holds back dam building? The role of Brazil in the stagnation of dams in Tanzania

Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of FutureDAMS as a whole.

Image by Shahir Chundra from WikiMedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]

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