SOAS University of London

Department of Economics

Economic development of Africa: microeconomic approaches

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

This module studies post-independence African development from the lense of microeconomics. Each week is dedicated to a specific topic, analysing certain key economic sectors and/or the role and decisions of key economic actors such as households, firms and the government. Critical discussions of theory and data are completed by case studies that 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

Core Reading:

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

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.

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

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

Andreoni, A. and Chang, H.J. (2017), “Bringing production and employment back into development: Alice Amsden’s legacy for a New Developmentalist agenda. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 10(1): 173-187.

Cramer C., C. Oya and J. Sender (2008). ‘Lifting the blinkers: a new view of power, diversity and poverty in Mozambican rural labour markets’. Journal of Modern African Studies, 46, 3: 361-392 or its short version Cramer, Christopher, Carlos Oya and John Sender (2008), ‘Rural Labour Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa: A New View of Poverty, Power and Policy’, Centre for Development Policy and Research Policy Brief #1.  Available from


Additional Reading:

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

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

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.

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

Kessides, I. (2004). Reforming infrastructure: Privatization, regulation, and competition. Washington DC: World Bank and Oxford University Press.

UNCTAD (2016), The Trade and Development Report (TDR) 2016: Structural transformation for inclusive and sustained growth, Geneva: UNCTAD. (Chapter 5)

Barrientos, Stephanie and Andrienetta Kritzinger, "Squaring the circle: global production and the informalization of work in South African fruit exports," Journal of International Development, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 81-92, (2004).



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules