NGOs in policymaking in Tanzania: The relationships of group characteristics, political participation and policy outcomes
The study of non-governmental organizations in African countries has focused almost exclusively on their roles as service providers, leading to a limited perspective on their participation in society. This analysis instead considers NGOs as deliberate political actors in Tanzania. Interest group theory is used to understand organizations' behavior in the policymaking process. The research revealed that local Tanzanian non-governmental organizations acted in the same ways as Western interest groups when they attempted to influence policy outcomes. They were engaged as stakeholders, consultants, lobbyists, networkers and challengers. Variation in group behavior existed across four policy cases, but the patterns were similar. Organizations began as participants invited by the government, later deciding whether further engagement was needed to achieve specific policy goals. If they decided in the affirmative, they would then commence lobbying and/or challenging government officials. In the meantime, most of these organizations also chose to form coalitions to strengthen their policy positions. Groups that chose to challenge policymakers by changing the venue of contestation (turning either to the public or Members of Parliament) were similar in significant ways. Each organization was involved in multiple policy areas, all were large organizations, none had links to government, all were oriented toward advocacy, and all had activist leadership. They varied by age (years since being founded), cause and professional status. By contrast, organizations that chose not to challenge did not share any meaningful characteristics. However, only non-challengers were considered to have achieved a substantial number of their initial policy goals. These organizations relied on long-term lobbying to influence policy, and they developed meaningful relationships with officials. The three sets of organizations that challenged the government were unable to realize their desired policy outcomes. Their willingness to use challenger behavior was intricately linked with their organizational characteristics: being more oriented toward advocacy rather than service, having activist leadership, and having the resources to carry out active campaigns against policy. The findings suggest that to be successful in Tanzanian politics, such groups need to consider not always acting in ways that seem most natural to their activist natures, instead diplomatically engaging policymakers.