Population politics in Tanzania reflect multiple understandings of the ‘problem’ of population. While Tanzania has a long history of family planning service provision through its childspacing programmes, a national population policy was not adopted until 1992. This work explores the ambiguity and ambivalence reflected in the discourse surrounding the Tanzanian National Population Policy. Although an international consensus on questions of population and family planning may have been reached at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, when we look at actual cases of policy formulation and implementation, the discourse reflects ambiguity and conflict rather than consensus. The Tanzanian case suggests that this ambiguity may be strategic. Competing ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ approaches have been articulated from the level of national policy negotiations to that of local implementation. This enables the Tanzanian government, promoting a ‘positive’ view of population, to ally itself with proponents of an expanded reproductive health agenda without alienating the elements of the population establishment that pushed for a population policy and fund its implementation.
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