GV335      Half Unit
African Political Economy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sarah Brierley and Dr George Ofosu


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course is capped at 2 groups.

Course content

This class is an introduction to the study of contemporary African political economy. The goal is to set major questions of state and economy 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, and introduce students to theories that aim to identify causes of similarity and difference across and within countries. Students will come away with a better understanding of the possibilities and limits of structured, focused comparisons in comparative politics, and with an introduction to political economy approaches to questions of late development. They will also develop substantive knowledge of the political economy of sub-Saharan Africa and analytic tools to describe and make sense of its diversity.


This course provides a combination of classes and lectures totalling 20 hours in the Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes. There will be a reading week in LT Week 6.

Formative coursework

There will be one 1,200 formative assignment (short essay). 

Indicative reading

Texts used may include all or part of the following:

Katherine Baldwin. The Paradox of Traditional Leaders in Democratic Africa. Cambridge University Press.

Catherine Boone, Property and Political Order in Africa: Land Rights and the Structure of Politics (CUP 2014).

Fred Cooper, Africa Since 1940 (Cambridge U. Press).

Jeffrey Herbst, States and Power in Africa (Princeton 2000).

Prempeh, H. Kwasi. "Presidents untamed." Journal of Democracy 19.2 (2008).

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

Andrew M. Mwenda Roger Tangri, Patronage politics, donor reforms, and regime consolidation in Uganda African Affairs (2005).

Nicolas van de Walle, African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979-1999 (Cambridge University Press 2001).


Essay (75%, 3000 words) in the ST.
In-class assessment (25%) in the LT.

For the in-class assessment: Students will be asked to serve as a seminar discussant during the term. On these weeks the discussant will write a two or three-page memo that discusses the readings in a comparative perspective. In the last class meeting, each student will give a 5-minute overview of his/her plans for the final course essay.

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: Government

Total students 2019/20: 17

Average class size 2019/20: 17

Capped 2019/20: Yes (15)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication