Kelsall, T. (2018) ‘Thinking and Working with Political Settlements: The Case of Tanzania’. Working Paper 541. London: ODI.


The institutions and power relations that underpin political stability are crucial shapers of development outcomes, to which aid policy ought to adapt.

Building on previous work by political settlements analysts, this paper trials a new political settlements concept, based on the idea that settlements can be distinguished according to the breadth and depth of their social foundation, and the degree to which they concentrate power.

The typology categorises countries according to whether the ‘social foundation’ on which the settlement rests is broad and deep or narrow and shallow, and whether the ‘power configuration’ it creates is concentrated or dispersed.

Since independence, Tanzania has oscillated between broad-dispersed and narrow-concentrated political settlements and is currently moving in the direction of a more narrow and concentrated settlement than ever before.

The opportunities for international donors to change this direction of travel appear limited. Adapting to it implies providing financial and technical support to central government, while trying to strengthen the policy role of non-state actors in non-confrontational ways.