Economic development of Africa (UG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Final Year
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.


Pre-requisite Modules:

153400123 Macroeconomic Analysis OR 153400130 Microeconomic Analysis OR 153400124 Issues in Development Economics

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.


One hour lecture and a one hour seminar per week.

Method of assessment

AS1 70% / OR1 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.

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.

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.

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.

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



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules