Michael Moses
Michael Moses

This study aims to determine whether and how the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has been leveraged to promote a more accountable, open, and responsive government in Tanzania.

To accomplish this aim, the study explores two specific themes: the institutionalization of the broader open government agenda in Tanzania, and efforts to pass a freedom of information bill, with a key focus on the extent to which OGP was leveraged in each of those processes. In examining the institutionalization of the open government agenda, we focus in particular on how reformers working on this issue leveraged OGP to expand the scope, sustainability, and nature and continuity of state–civil society engagement in that agenda. By investigating the linkages between OGP and the push for freedom of information legislation we are able to explore whether and how OGP factored into a substantive reform process.

Using interviews with key stakeholders and relevant literature to investigate the themes above, and to contextualize the journey of open governance efforts in Tanzania, this study reveals that OGP may have pushed high level leaders to maintain their commitment to some aspects of the open government agenda, and that OGP served as a validation mechanism for demonstrating commitments to good governance. It may also have provided a space for more, if still limited, collaboration between CSOs and the government on policy matters.

However, the momentum of advancing a broad and inclusive open government agenda has been affected by the fact that OGP processes are dominated by a small group of actors both in the government and civil society, as well as by domestic political scandals and concerns; a government in which there is little bureaucratic engagement with open government; and the existing agendas of key actors, including donors. These factors, combined with regular government reshuffles, have restricted the ways in which OGP has been able to enhance the scope, sustainability, and participatory nature of open government. Tensions between and within government and civil society remain a prominent feature of the open government landscape, and the leverage reform champions can exert, even when using OGP inputs, is limited, as aptly demonstrated by efforts to pass an access to information bill.

The study therefore shows that OGP may have empowered a few leaders to introduce initiatives that complimented other, pre-existing reform efforts, but not necessarily to carry those initiatives through. Some OGP inputs, like international events and IRM reports, may have helped some actors, especially those in civil society, to navigate the Tanzanian political context more effectively. However, they also provided incentives for those actors to engage adverserially with the government in order to win some modest concessions on open government issues. For the most part, power remains concentrated, and OGP has been of limited usefulness in driving progress on open government in Tanzania.