SOAS University of London

Department of Economics

Economic development of Africa: microeconomic approaches

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Final Year
Taught in:
Term 1

This module studies post-independence African development from the lense of microeconomics; it offers a broad view of the development path countries have adopted as well as it narrows down to offer insights on country-based policy. The module makes extensive use of econometrics models to show the results of impact evaluation analysis, gravity models and causality tests.

Each week is dedicated to a specific topic; each topic can be thought as a single-standing development issue or as a piece of the bigger development picture of Africa. The module analyses the main challenges countries are facing in terms of nutrition, diseases, over-population and energy access; in addition, the module will delve into the analysis of the key economic sectors -agriculture, manufacture and trade. Lastly, the role and the decisions of the key economic actors -households, firms and the government- will be presented too.

Critical discussions of the theoretical models, data and econometric techniques will merge into the analysis of real case studies to highlight the heterogeneity of the development experience of African countries.


Pre-requisite modules:

153400123 OR 153400130 OR 153400124

(Macroeconomic Analysis OR Microeconomic Analysis OR Issues in Development Economics)

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

LO1.    Understand the main theoretical debates and controversies related to the microeconomic dimensions of African economic development;

LO2.    Distinguish African economies with regard to their main microeconomic facts and characteristics (commonalities and differences) and have a good knowledge of relevant selected case studies on particular topics;

LO3.    Understand how distinct economic actors face different constraints and how this affects economic outcomes;

LO4.    Apply their knowledge to construct a critical analysis of the development issues for a particular African country.


Two-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

Some of the topics discussed include fertility and population growth, education, public utilities, the role of agriculture, global value chains, industrial finance, the informal economy and labour markets.

Method of assessment

One 3,000 word essay worth 50% of the total mark for the module, due Term 1. 

One 3,000 word essay worth 50% of the total mark, due Term 2.

Suggested reading

Bayliss, K. (2003). ‘Utility privatisation in Sub-Saharan Africa: A case study of water’. Journal of Modern African Studies, 41 (4): 507-531.

Bennell, P. (2002), “Hitting the Target: Doubling Primary School Enrolment in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015”, World Development, 30,7, July.

Chang, H.-J. (2009). 'Economic History of the Developed World: Lessons for Africa', lecture delivered in the Eminent Speakers Programme of the African Development Bank, 26 February, 2009.  Accessed at

Horner, R., Nadvi, K. (2017), “Global value chains and the rise of the Global South: unpacking twenty first century polycentric trade”, Global Networks, 18(2): 207-237.

Kenny, C. (2010), ‘Is Anywhere Stuck in a Malthusian Trap?’. Kyklos, 63: 192–205.

Kohler, H. P., Behrman, J. R., & Watkins, S. C. (2001). The density of social networks and fertility decisions: Evidence from South Nyanza District, Kenya. Demography, 38(1), 43-58.

Milberg, W., Xiao, J., Gereffi, G. (2014), “Industrial policy in the era of vertically specialized industrialization” In Transforming Economies: Making Industrial Policy Work for Growth, Jobs and Development, Geneva: ILO.

Ravallion, M. (2010). Mashup Indices of Development, World Bank Research Paper No. 5432. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

World Bank (2011) Learning for all: Investing in People’s Knowledge and Skills to Promote Development, Education Strategy 2020.  Washington.

Zezza, A., & Tasciotti, L. (2010). Urban agriculture, poverty, and food security: Empirical evidence from a sample of developing countries. Food policy, 35(4), 265-273.



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules