DV435      Half Unit
African Political Economy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Catherine Boone


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, MBA Exchange, MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This is an introduction to the study of contemporary African political economy, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa.  The goal of DV435 to set major questions of state, national economy, and development in historical, geographic, and international context.  Course readings and lectures stress marked unevenness in national and subnational trajectories and in the political-economic character of different African countries, drawing attention to causes of similarity and difference across and within countries.  Students completing DV435 will come away with a better understanding of the economic and social underpinnings of order and conflict in African states. 

There is a research-driven component to DV435: each student will read secondary literature, grey literature, and other sources to develop particular knowledge of two countries.  These will be used as "case studies" in assessed coursework to evaluate general arguments concerning the political economy of Africa, and to compare/contrast the historical trajectories of different African states.


20 hours of lectures and 15 hours of classes in the MT.


There will be a reading week in Week 6.


Formative coursework

Optional formative essay or similar written exercise due at end of October.

Indicative reading

Celestin Monga and Justin Yifu Lin, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Africa and Economics, Vol. 2, Politices and Practices (OUP 2015).

Morten Jerven, Poor Numbers: How we are misled by African development statistics and what we can do about it (Cornell U. Press, 2011).

Catherine Boone, Property and Political Order in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

David E. Bloom, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Paul Collier, Christopher Udry, "Geography, Demography, and Economic Growth in Africa," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, vol. 1988/ 2 (1998): 207-295.

Leigh Gardner, Taxing Colonial Africa: The Political Economy of British Imperialism (Oxford U. Press, 2012),

Fouad Makki, "Postcolonial Africa and the World Economy: The Long Waves of Uneven Development," Journal of World-Systems Research, 21/1 (2014): 124-146.

Benno J. Ndulu al, The Political Economy of Economic Growth in Africa: 1960-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Fred Cooper, Africa Since 1940 (Cambridge University Press [2002], 2019).

Marlous van Waijenburg. (2018) “Financing the African Colonial State: The Revenue Imperative and Forced Labor." J. of Economic History  78(1): 40-80.

Keith Hart, The Political Economy of West African Agriculture (Cambridge University Press, 1982).

Samir Amin, "Underdevelopment and Dependence in Black Africa: Origins and Contemporary Forms," Journal of Modern African Studies, 10.4 (1972): 503-24.

Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Africa and the Legacy of late Colonialism (Princeton University Press, 1996).

Said Adejumobi, ed.  National Democratic Reforms in Africa: Changes and Challenges (Palgrave Macmillian, 2015).

Kate Meagher, Identity Economics, Social Networks and the Informal Economy in Africa (James Currey 2010).

M. Anne Pitcher, Party Politics and Economic Reform in Africa's Democracies (CUP, 2012)

Thandika Mkandawire, "Thinking about Developmental States in Africa," Cambridge Journal of Economics, 25 (2001): 289-313.

Honwana, Alcinda,The Time of Youth: Work, Social Change, and Politics in Africa. Kumarian Press, 2012.


Essay (70%, 4000 words) in the LT Week 1.
Paper (30%) in the MT Week 8.

Summative short paper (30%,1000 words) due Week 8 of MT,  Essay (70%, 4,000 words) in the first week of LT.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 15.5
Merit 77
Pass 6.8
Fail 0.7

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2019/20: 57

Average class size 2019/20: 11

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information