Economic development of Africa (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Economics

Module overview

This module explores economic development in post-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa, bringing together macroeconomic and microeconomic perspectives. The overarching aim is to analyse and unpack key dimensions of the processes of economic development across Sub-Saharan African countries taking a critical and pluralist approach. The module presents theoretical and policy-relevant debates that are of interest not only to those who want to learn about Sub-Saharan Africa specifically but also to those who are seeking to develop a global understanding of economic dynamics.

Beginning with the macro picture and then moving to selected micro topics, the module reverses the logic that processes of economic development are micro-founded and instead seeks to contextualise individual/household decisions and behaviours in a broader understanding of the political economy, geographic and historical context. Each week is dedicated to a specific topic, ranging from the role of the state in economic development, policy reforms and conditional lending of international financial institutions, industrial policy, international trade and mechanisms of financing development, to households, agriculture, labour markets, health and education.

The teaching approach is informed by three principles. First, historical and geographical contextualisation is key because Sub-Saharan Africa is not a country and the diversity across countries and regions will be highlighted throughout the module by using several empirical examples and case studies. Second, each topic is structured around older foundational and current debates that provide an overview of different perspectives; thus, we take a critical and pluralist approach. Third, we seek to give space to knowledge and expertise of scholars and practitioners from African countries or based in African countries through a comprehensive reading list and invited speakers on selected issues.

Finally, this module puts a strong emphasis on the decolonising academic knowledge agenda, not only in giving as much as possible voice to scholars and experts from Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in situating economic theories and facts related to Sub-Saharan Africa in an historical perspective and critically assessing how they may have been shaped by colonial legacies.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


  • LO1. Understand the main theoretical debates and controversies related to the macroeconomic and microeconomic dimensions of economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa;
  • LO2. Know the main macroeconomic and microeconomic facts and characteristics (commonalities and differences) of Sub-Saharan African economies, both at a general level and through selected case studies;
  • LO3. Understand the various factors and constraints that shape the development paths of Sub-Saharan African economies;
  • LO4. Apply the general knowledge to construct a critical analysis of the development issues for specific Sub-Saharan African countries.




1-hour lecture and 1-hour tutorial




Week Topic Lecturer
1 The role of the state in economic development Dr Alice Sindzingre
2 International Financial Institutions’ policy reforms Dr Alice Sindzingre
3 Industrialisation and industrial policy Dr Alice Sindzingre
4 International and regional trade Dr Alice Sindzingre
5 Financing development: aid, FDI and debt Dr Alice Sindzingre
6 The many determinants of growth Dr Alice Sindzingre
7 Households and inequality Dr Sara Stevano
8 Agriculture: small-scale farmers and agribusiness Dr Sara Stevano
9 Labour markets and economic informality Dr Sara Stevano
10 Health and education Dr Sara Stevano

Method of assessment 

AS1 - 70% / AS2 - 30%

Suggested reading

Akyüz, Yilmaz and Charles Gore (2001). African Economic Development in a Comparative Perspective, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 25(3), May, 265-288.

Amanor, Kojo Sebastian (2009). Global Food Chains, African Smallholders and World Bank Governance. Journal of Agrarian Change, 9(2), 247-262.

Atolia, Manoj, Prakah Loungani, Milton Marquis and Chris Papageorgiou (2018). Rethinking Development Policy: Deindustrialization, Servicification and Structural Transformation, Washington D. C., International Monetary Fund, working paper 18/223.

Aryeetey, Ernest (2002). Feature: Taking Africa Seriously: A Case for Enhanced Resource Flow to Facilitate Development and Reduce Poverty. Journal of African Economies, 11(2), 282-307.

Brautigam, Deborah, Xiaoyang Tang and Ying Xia. (2018). What Kinds of Chinese ‘Geese’ Are Flying to Africa? Evidence from Chinese Manufacturing Firms, Journal of African Economies, 27(suppl.1), August, i29–i51.

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

Diao, Xinshen, Kenneth Harttgen and Margaret McMillan (2017). The Changing Structure of Africa’s Economies, World Bank Economic Review, 31(2), June, 412–433.

Geda, Alemayehu (2018). The Emerging Pattern of African Economic Engagement with China and the Rising South: Implications for Africa’s Structural Transformation, Journal of African Economies, 27(suppl. 1), August, i52–i90.

Jerven, Morten (2011). The Quest for The African Dummy: Explaining African Post‐Colonial Economic Performance Revisited. Journal of International Development, 23(2), 288-307.

Johnston, Deborah (2013). Economics and HIV: the sickness of economics. Routledge.

Kentikelenis, Alexander E., Thomas H. Stubbs and Lawrence P. King (2016). IMF Conditionality and Development Policy Space, 1985-2014, Review of International Political Economy, 23(4), 543-582.

O'Laughlin, Bridget (2013). Land, Labour and the Production of Affliction in Rural Southern Africa. Journal of Agrarian Change, 13(1), 175-196.

Ossome, Lyn (2014). Can the Law Secure Women's Rights to Land in Africa? Revisiting Tensions Between Culture and Land Commercialization. Feminist Economics, 20(1), 155-177.

Pickbourn, Lynda and Léonce Ndikumana (2018). Does Health Aid Reduce Infant and Child Mortality from Diarrhoea in Sub-Saharan Africa?, Journal of Development Studies, 55 (10), 2212-2231.

Rodrik, Dani (2018). An African Growth Miracle?, Journal of African Economies, 27(1), January, 10–27.

Tsikata, Dzodzi (2016). Gender, Land Tenure and Agrarian Production Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, 5(1), 1-19.

Unterhalter, Elaine and Amy North (2011). Responding to the Gender and Education Millennium Development Goals in South Africa and Kenya: Reflections on Education Rights, Gender Equality, Capabilities and Global Justice. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41(4), 495-511.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules