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Democratisation Processes in Contemporary Africa



During the third wave of democratization in the 1990s, many Sub-Saharan African countries transitioned from dictatorships and one-party states to multi-part electoral democracies. The initial increase in democracy scores quickly flattened out, however, and democratization on the continent can be considered ‘stunted’. In this course, we focus on the reasons for this democracy gap and address questions such as: how do historical processes, including colonization and decolonization, influence democratization today? To what extent is the high level of cultural diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa an explanatory factor for stunted democratization? How do economic structures and development interact with democracy? What is the role of international actors in boosting or undermining democracy? How can violent conflict be a cause and a consequence of both authoritarianism and democratization? And how can social movements, opposition forces, and ordinary citizens spur regimes towards more inclusive governance?

Students will not only learn about major theories and perspectives related to these questions but also engage with them through application in an interactive manner in this small-scale seminar course. The number of spaces is limited. This course is an advanced course within the political science discipline and students are expected to have prior knowledge of basic political science theories and perspectives as well as qualitative and quantitative research designs and methodologies. The focus lies on Sub-Saharan Africa, though students who are more interested in North-Africa will find many approaches learned in the course also applicable to this region. No prior knowledge of either region is required.

Attendance for this course is mandatory.

Course objectives

  1. Students will acquire insight into the major developments in Sub-Saharan Africa since the 1950s until today.
  2. Students will gain a thorough knowledge of major concepts and approaches in African Politics and how to critically engage with them.
  3. Students will learn to apply theoretical insights to new empirical examples.
  4. Students will strengthen research skills including critical reading of academic texts, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and academic writing

Mode of instruction

Class sessions (1h45min) take place twice a week for a period of 8 weeks. Classes include short lectures as well as individual and group in-class assignments.

Assessment method

Several written and oral assignments (including research assignments, simulation exercise + reflection, class debates, a book review). The syllabus with more detailed information will be posted on Brightspace 2 weeks before the start of the course.

Reading list

The reading list and the course syllabus will be posted on Brightspace before the start of the course. Students are expected to follow political news on Africa throughout the course, by following newsletters such as: This Week in Africa, African Arguments, The Conversation Africa, Africa is a Country.


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