DV518      Half Unit
African Development

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Laura Mann, CON.7.10


This course is available on the MRes/PhD in International Development. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

Taking the work of the Thandika Mkandawire as its inspiration, DV518: African Development applies a critical political economy approach to questions of economic and social development in African countries. It provides critical analysis of key development interventions and processes. It seeks to combine general theoretical overviews with country case studies illustrating the variety of experiences and trajectories. It does not aim to provide a comprehensive coverage of development issues or of regions. Course content will vary from year to year, depending on the specialities of staff.

At its foundation, DV418 engages with the challenge of structural transformation (rather than just economic growth) and on tracing inter-connections between local, domestic and international forces shaping African countries’ knowledge production and developmental prospects. In particular, it focuses on the role that knowledge and technology play in development, and how power shapes who benefits from that knowledge. The first half of the course lays a foundation in understanding the challenge of structural transformation in African countries while the second half looks at the contemporary technological changes reshaping that challenge, including topics on social policy, digitization, China in Africa and new technologies transforming agriculture.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Student on this course will have a reading week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

A plan for the research paper (1500-2000 words) on which the student will receive feedback and topic approval

Indicative reading

A detailed weekly reading list will be provided at the first course meeting. The following readings provide an introduction to the course:


1. Thandika Mkandawire and Charles Soludo, (1999) Our Continent, Our Future: African Perspectives on Structural Adjustment. Dakar/Trenton, NJ: CODESRIA / African World Publications.

2. Mkandawire, T. (2001) "Thinking About Developmental States in Africa." Cambridge Journal of Economics, 25(3): 289-313.

3. Mkandawire, T. (2005) “Targeting and Universalism in Poverty Reduction” Geneva: UNRISD. Available electronically here. Pages 7-23.

4. Mkandawire, T. (2010) "On Tax Efforts and Colonial Heritage in Africa" Journal of Development Studies 46(10): 1647-69.

5. Mkandawire, Thandika (2014) "The Spread of Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa." African Studies Review 57(01):171-98.

6. Mkandawire, Thandika (2015) "Neopatrimonialism and the Political Economy of Economic Performance in Africa: Critical Reflections." World Politics:1-50.

7. Mkandawire, Thandika. (2017) “State Capacity, History, Structure, and Political Contestation in Africa.” In M. A. Centeno, A. Kohli, D. J. Yashar, & D. Mistree (Eds.), (pp. 184-216).

8. Mann, L. (2014) “Wasta! The long-term implications of education expansion and economic liberalisation on politics in Sudan” Review of African Political Economy 41(142): 561-578.

9. Mann, L. (2017) ‘Left to Other Peoples’ Devices? A Political Economy Perspective on the Big Data Revolution in Development’ Development and Change 49(1): 3–36.

10. Mann, L. and G. Iazzolino (2019) “See, nudge, control and profit: Digital platforms as privatized epistemic infrastructures” Platform Politick, A Series, ITforChange, March 2019. Available electronically here.

11. Khan, M. H. (2000) “Chapter Two: Rents, efficiency and growth” In Rents, rent-seeking and economic development: Theory and evidence in Asia, 21-68.

12. Oqubay, A.  (2015) Made in Africa: Industrial Policy in Ethiopia Oxford: Oxford University Press.

13. Young, A. (2018) Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development, and State Formation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

14. Mamdani, M. (2007) Scholars in the Marketplace: The Dilemmas of Neo-Liberal Reform at Makerere University, 1989-2005. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA.

15. Gray, H. (2018) Turbulence and Order in Economic Development: Economic Transformation in Tanzania and Vietnam. Oxford: OUP.

16. Nyabola, N. (2018) Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet is Transforming Kenya London: Zed Books.

17. UNCTAD. Economic Development in Africa: From Adjustment to Poverty Reduction: What is New? Geneva: United Nations, 2002.

18. Vishnu Padayachee (ed), The Political Economy of Africa. London: Routledge, 2010.

19. Whitfield, L., et al. (2015). The Politics of African Industrial Policy: A Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, Cambridge Univ Press.

20. Obamba, M. O. (2013) “Uncommon knowledge: World Bank policy and the unmaking of the knowledge economy in Africa” Higher Education Policy 26(1): 83-108.

21. Naidu, V. (2019) “Knowledge Production in International Trade Negotiations is a High Stakes Game” Africa at LSE Blogpost, June 14th 2019. Available electronically here.

22. Cramer, C. and Johnston, D., Oya, C. and J. Sender (2015) “Fairtrade Cooperatives in Ethiopia and Uganda: Uncensored” Review of African Political Economy 41 (1): 115-S127. (9 pages)

23. Perez, C. (2009) “Technological revolutions and techno-economic paradigms” Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34(1): 185–202.

24. Murphy, J. T., Carmody, P. P. and B.B. Surborg (2014) ‘Industrial transformation or business as usual? Information and communication technologies and Africa’s place in the global information economy’, Review of African Political Economy, 41(140): 264–283.

25. UNCTAD (2007) “Reclaiming Policy Space: Domestic Resource Mobilisation and Developmental States” Geneva: UNCTAD. Available electronically here. Pages 6-54.

26. Di John, J. (2005) "The Political Economy of Taxation and Resource mobilisation in sub-Saharan Africa," in Padazachee (Ed.) The Political Economy of Africa. London: Routledge. Pages 110-131.

27. Ndikumana, L. and J. K. Boyce (2003) "Public debts and private assets: explaining capital flight from sub-Saharan African countries" World Development 31(1): 107-130.

28. Usman, Z. (2018) “The ‘Resource Curse’ and Constraints to Reforming Nigeria’s Oil Sector“ In Levan and Ukata (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Nigerian Politics Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pages 520-545.

29. Selolwane, M. D. (2007) "Statecraft in Botswana: Renegotiating Development, Legitimacy and Authority," In Agbese and Ge Kieh Jr. (Eds.) Reconstituting the State in Africa Basingstoke: Palgrave. Pages 33-47.

30. Clapham, C. (2018) "The Ethiopian developmental state" Third World Quarterly 39(6): 1151-65.

31. Saunders, R. and A. Caramento (2018) "An extractive developmental state in Southern Africa? The cases of Zambia and Zimbabwe." Third World Quarterly 39(6): 1166-90.

32. Hickey, S. (2008) “Conceptualising the Politics of Social Protection in Africa,” in  Social Protection for the Poor and the Poorest:  Concepts, Policies and Politics Barrientos, A. and D. Hulme (Eds.) Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. Pages 247-263.

33. Ouma, M. and J. Adesina (2019) “Solutions, exclusion and influence: Exploring Power Relations in the Adoption of Social Protection Policies in Kenya” Critical Social Policy 39(3): 376–395.

34. Ulriksen, M. S. (2012). "Welfare Policy Expansion in Botswana and Mauritius: Explaining the Causes of Different Welfare Regime Paths." Comparative political studies 45(12): 1483-1509.

35. Gabor, D. and S. Brooks (2016) “The digital revolution in financial inclusion: international development in the fintech era” New Political Economy 22(4): 423-436.

36. Dafe, F. (2019/2020) “Ambiguity in international finance and the spread of financial norms: the localization of financial inclusion in Kenya and Nigeria” Review of International Political Economy. In press.

37. Suri, T. and W. Jack (2016) “The long-run poverty and gender impacts of mobile money” Science 354(6317): 4–9.

38. Bateman, M. Duvendack, M. and N. Loubere (2019) “Is fintech the new panacea for poverty alleviation and local development? Contesting Suri and Jack’s M-Pesa findings published in Science” Review of African Political Economy. In press.

39. Breckenridge, K. (2005) “The Biometric State: The Promise and Peril of Digital Government in the new South Africa,” Journal of Southern African Studies 31(2): 267-282.

40. Murphy, J. T., Carmody, P., and Surborg, B. (2014) “Industrial transformation or business as usual? Information and communication technologies and Africa's place in the global information economy” Review of African Political Economy 41(140): 264-283.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication