'Like a real hospital': Imagining hospital futures through homegrown public-private partnerships in Tanzania

Noelle Sullivan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article traces a shift in how hospital workers at a Tanzanian public hospital thought about their workplace. In 2010, for the first time, staff began collectively imagining what they called 'a real hospital'. This collective dreaming of institutional possibilities emerged due to two transformations: a shift in Tanzanian government policies enabling government institutions to initiate their own 'public-private partnerships' (PPPs) with non-state 'partners' such as NGOs, private businesses, investors, missionary organizations and others; and the hospital's early successes in attracting (a few) partners. Unlike familiar global PPPs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Tanzania's PPP policy allowed health facilities to initiate their own partnerships in order to improve public services. Drawing on longitudinal ethnographic research in one government hospital, this article traces successful, failed and fraught partnership initiatives through which public-sector health workers tried to improve hospital infrastructure and capacity. In tracing institutional aspirations and local workers' efforts to achieve them through homegrown PPPs, this article highlights the contingency and malleability of public and private spheres operating within public health service provision in Tanzania, as well as the opportunities available to health workers and the constraints involved in attempting to improve hospital care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-228
Number of pages20
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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