Tanzania represents one of the well-documented cases of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where corruption is endemic. This has remained the case in spite of manifold commitments on the part of the regime to fight this problem and of the fact that Tanzania has in place, what is in the opinion of international experts, a state of the art anti-corruption legislation.
This article presents evidence collected through ethnographic research about the attitudes towards corruption of citizens in urban low income areas of Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, and explores some of the factors underpinning such attitudes. The research focused on experiences with corruption in the health sector, and on some of the coping strategies that citizens resort to in face of the difficulties encountered when seeking medical attention at public health facilities. With regard to the latter, it is well known that mutual help associations are playing an increasingly important role across Africa, which in turn suggests a relevant set of questions regarding the role that horizontal social networks found in these communities play in relation to prevailing corrupt practices but also regarding their potential role to develop more effective anti-corruption approaches. Regardless of the surge in the NGO “industry”, as denounced by some scholars, witnessed in Tanzania, we are interested in the role of these grassroots level associations as they are exactly of the kind that is expected to generate high levels of social capital, which – in the literature- is associated with favourable governance outcomes.