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Regional Specialization: West Africa


Admission requirements

Free and compulsory for students enrolled in the RESMAAS program and in the 1 year MA African Studies. Those from other MA programs and exchange students may be admitted with prior registration (contact coordinator).


West Africa, from Senegal to Chad and from the Sahara to the River Congo, is in many aspects a unique region. For the uninformed outsider West Africa’s culture stands out clearly in cultural expression through cloths, music, cultural heritage, compared to East and Southern Africa. Historically the Mali empire, Ghana, Songhay, diverse Fulbe empires, Oyo, Asante and Dahomey have formed and unified certain parts of West Africa, demarcating various cultural areas (Mande, Fulani, Diula, etc), and developing, or straddling, the division between the more Islamic parts of West Africa and the Christian/animistic southern parts. These frontiers are at the same time arbitrary as migration and mobility is an essential element of West African cultures. Furthermore West Africa is marked by a typical ecology of gradual transition from humid to (semi)-arid, which in turn defines to a certain extent the livelihood systems of these areas. Mobility for many reasons, i.e. trade, spread of religion, displacement, has shaped the West African society and geography. Colonization of the typical West African “trade-economy” type had a heavy impact on social formations and formed the prelude to today’s political situation, though not exclusively. Also the consequences of pre-colonial history are still present today. A comparison between Anglophone (British colonized) and francophone (French colonized) countries gives a unique perspective on the influence of colonial politics on these countries. Each country in West Africa formed after the colonial period has its own typical features, and one could situate them on a continuum from Arabized to African, from Anglophone to Francophone, from dry Sahel to dense forest countries.

Course objectives

The course provides knowledge about the region in terms of:

  • historical processes

  • current events

  • canonical studies

  • recent trends in research agenda’s


Mondays 10.00-12.00 hrs

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • The course comprises 10 EC and the total course load is thus 280 hrs

  • 36 hrs of these will be spent attending lectures (6 lecture of 2 hrs x for 3 regions)

  • 4 hrs will be spent in planning examination papers, determine topics, guidance on the structure and presentation

  • 100 hrs to be spent on studying compulsory literature: 100 pages literature per week

  • 140 hrs for writing a final paper

Assessment method

The final mark of the course is established by assessment of a paper submitted at the end of the course.
If a student fails to attain a pass on the basis of the paper evaluation, a second chance will be offered to rewrite the paper and resubmit for evaluation.


Course information and documents are made available for registered students via blackboard. Students submit the final paper via Blackboard and instructors place feedback and evaluation using this tool.


Reading list

A list of compulsory and recommended literature will be provided via Blackboard.


Enrollment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.


Contact information
Azeb Amha
Academic Coordinator
P O Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, NL
Tel. +31-71-527-3364


  • Among the instructors listed above, Dr. A. Akinyoade will be the course instructor and he will streamline the link among the various guest lectures, evaluate students’ papers and provide feedback on their essay.

  • It is expected that students read assigned literature before class and actively participate in the discussions.