Big Oil and Troubled Waters: The Tanzanian-Norwegian Energy Relationship, 1970-2020

Big Oil and Troubled Waters represents a comprehensive historical exploration of the energy discourses and rhetoric that have stood at the core of the Tanzanian-Norwegian development relationship for half a century.

From large-scale hydropower projects to the discovery of substantial offshore petroleum reserves, this project will take an in-depth look at the evolution of Tanzanian-Norwegian energy cooperation in Tanzania from 1970-2020.

Focusing on how Norwegian and Tanzanian actors employed rhetoric and shaped influenced discourses to foster collaboration and further their own interests, the project will analyze how Tanzanian-Norwegian “constellations of influence” – rapidly evolving agglomerations of business and civil society organizations – became critical actors in a rhetorical space where sustainability and development were canonized. By developing greater understanding into how economic, civil society, and state interests collided and coalesced to shape the development of Tanzania’s energy sector, Big Oil and Troubled Waters will nuance, challenge, and build upon existing historical narratives in development and energy history. Further, the project will a cultivate deeper understanding into the integral roles of business and civil society in the Tanzanian-Norwegian development relationship, analyzing how these sectors have historically leveraged rhetoric and discourse to influence Tanzanian development.

Objectives & Research Questions

  • How did Tanzanian-Norwegian constellations of influence affect development and energy discourses in Tanzania? Were Norwegian discourses transferred to Tanzanian actors through these constellations? If so, how?
  • How did Norwegian discourses on Tanzanian energy development evolve from 1970 to 2020? How did the discourse change after large gas reserves were discovered in Tanzanian waters and the energy discourse shifted from hydropower projects to petroleum production?
  • How were Tanzanian-Norwegian energy discourses influenced by North-South dynamics and power asymmetries? In other words, how did Tanzanian actors discursively engage their Norwegian counterparts? Furthermore, how did Tanzanian actors leverage rhetoric to compensate for resource asymmetries and influence Norwegian actors?
  • For Tanzania, both hydropower and gas were part of a broader discourse on finding reliable sources of energy for Tanzanian development – in other words, while the exporting of gas or hydroelectric power was seen as exciting, Tanzania’s domestic need for energy came first. On the other hand, not all Norwegian actors shared this focus, with energy exports also becoming an important topic. How was the Tanzanian-Norwegian energy discourse influenced by different opinions around energy exports, domestic needs, and economic sustainability/profitability?





Published Dec. 1, 2020 4:37 PM - Last modified Oct. 13, 2021 8:39 AM