DV418      Half Unit
African Development

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Laura Mann CON. 7.10


This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Management (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Economic Policy for International Development, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in Human Rights, MSc in Human Rights and Politics, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies, MSc in Political Economy of Late Development, MSc in Political Science (Global Politics), MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Urbanisation and Development and Master of Public Administration. This course is not available as an outside option.

Please note that in case of over-subscription to this course priority will be given to students from the Department of International Development and its joint degrees (where their regulations permit).

Course content

Taking the work of the late Thandika Mkandawire as its inspiration, DV418: African Development applies a critical lens to questions of economic and social development in African countries. It focuses on the role that knowledge and technology play in development and takes a multi-disciplinary approach, combining theory from economics, economic sociology, and science and technology studies (STS) to the topic. Students are not required to have any background in economics to follow and enjoy the course.

The first two weeks explore why foreign scholarship and donor agendas have become so dominant in framing how development is understood in African countries, and how the more transformative visions of the independence era were dismantled by structural adjustment policies and the attack on African civil servants, middle class professionals, business owners and institutions of higher education and science. We encourage students to look beyond the donor-led vision of poverty reduction and think about development as ultimately being autonomy and self-determination. Students are then given a solid foundation into some of the core processes that strengthen this autonomy; 1) domestic resource mobilisation (or the strengthening of domestic sources of finance in place of aid), 2) structural transformation (or the shifting of the workforce out of commodity production into more knowledge-intensive activities) and 3) transformative social policy (or the linking of poverty reduction to broader nation-building and development goals). Students are asked to grapple with the challenges and contingencies of such policy-making: the difficulties of balancing competing demands across regions and class interests, the pressures of domestic political contestation in shaping long-term planning and the risks posed by the global economy in the form of price swings and long-term commodity cycles. The final weeks of the course confront new emerging trends such as the growing penetration of digital technology firms and connectivity into African markets as well as the emergence of new donors such as China, Korea and Brazil. In all cases, we ask students to scrutinise how these new developments reshape the task of structural change.

As part of the course, students are encouraged to apply course insights to their own research interests, working in teams to produce podcasts on preferred topics. Past episodes have included examinations into the influence of important African intellectuals, discussions about the roles African research institutions have played in reshaping development agendas and analysis of how the political economy of measurement and quantification shapes African countries’ access to finance and creditworthiness. Prospective students are invited to listen to these podcasts to get a feel for the course. In place of student presentations in seminars, students are instead invited to take part in seminar activities designed to apply theory in practical ways. The course also features the ‘World’s Most Exciting Gameshow about Savings, Taxes and Investment’ a quiz show deigned to make a really important but seemingly dry topic fun. Overall, the course aims to provide students with a really solid understanding about the challenges of African development in the world today but also a critical yet still optimistic vision for the future.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars in the WT. Seminars will be at at or upwards of 90 minutes duration and lectures will be at or above 2 hours duration. There will also be a revision session in early ST.

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

Formative coursework

Students will write a 1,500-word essay chosen from a list of questions drawn from the first half of the course, to be submitted by the Monday at 12:00 of the reading week.

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. Mkandawire, T. (2004) “Disempowering New Democracies and the Persistence of Poverty” In Globalisation, Poverty and Conflict Dordrecht: Springer. Pages 117-153.

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

3. Mkandawire, T. (2014) “The Spread of Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa” African Studies Review 57(1): 171-198.

4. Pritchett, L. (2015) “Can Rich Countries Be Reliable Partners for National Development? Centre for Global Development Essays, February 3rd 2015.

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

6. 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.

7. Mamdani, M. (2007) Scholars in the Marketplace: The Dilemmas of Neo-Liberal Reform at Makerere University, 1989-2005. Dakar, Senegal: CODESRIA. Pages 255-269.

8. 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.

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

10. 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.

11. Oqubay, A.  (2015) Made in Africa: Industrial Policy in Ethiopia Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pages 241-277.

12. Barrientos, S. (2019) Gender and Work in Global Value Chains: Capturing the Gains. Cambridge, UK; Cambridge University Press.

13. Cramer, C., Di John, J. and J. Sender (2018) “Poinsettia Assembly and Selling Emotion: High Value Agricultural Exports in Ethiopia”, AFD Research Papers Series, No. 2018-78, August.

14. Kleibert, J. M. and L. Mann (2020) “Capturing value amidst constant global restructuring? Information-technology-enabled services in India, the Philippines and Kenya” The European Journal of Development Research, 32(4): 1057-1079.

15. Carbone, G. (2011) “Democratic demands and social policies: the politics of health reform in Ghana” The Journal of Modern African Studies 49: 381-408.

16. 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.

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

18. 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.

19. Adesina, J. O. (2020) “Policy Merchandising and Social Assistance in Africa: Don't Call Dog Monkey for Me” Development and Change, 51(2): 561-582.

20.  Andreoni, A. and S. Roberts (2020) “Governing data and digital platforms in middle income countries: regulations, competition and industrial policies with sectoral case studies from South Africa. Digital Pathways at Oxford Paper Series; no. 5. Oxford, United Kingdom.

21. Mann, L. and G. Iazzolino (2021) “From Development State to Corporate Leviathan: Historicizing the Infrastructural Performativity of Digital Platforms within Kenyan Agriculture” Development and Change, 52(4): 829-854.

22. Azmeh, S., Foster, C. and J. Echavarri (2020) “The International Trade Regime & the Quest for Free Digital Trade” International Studies Review 22(3): 671-692.

23. 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 46(161): 480-495.

24. Lin, J.Y. and Y. Wang (2014) “China-Africa Co-operation in Structural Transformation: Ideas, Opportunities, and Finances” Working Paper 2014/046. WIDER Working Paper.

25. Carmody, P., Taylor, I. and T. Zajontz (2021) ‘China’s Spatial Fix and “Debt Diplomacy” in Africa: Constraining Belt or Road to Economic Transformation?’, Canadian Journal of African Studies, pp. 1–21.

26. Brautigam, D. and T. Xiaoyang (2011) ‘African Shenzhen: China’s Special Economic Xones in Africa’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, 49(1), pp. 27–54.

27. Cheru, F. and A. Oqubay (2019) ‘Catalysing China–Africa Ties for Africa’s Structural Transformation: Lessons from Ethiopia’, in China-Africa and an Economic Transformation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Exam (60%, duration: 3 hours) in the spring exam period.
Podcast (40%) in the ST Week 2.

The podcast will be a group podcast project.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 16.1
Merit 66.5
Pass 16.8
Fail 0.6

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2022/23: 27

Average class size 2022/23: 9

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: 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

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication