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Economy, Geography and Society in Africa


Admission requirements

This course is a compulsory element of the MA African Studies.

Please note that there is a limited number of spots available for this course. Students of the MA African Studies have priority over all others.


‘Emerging Africa’, ‘Africa Rising’ and other optimistic catchwords such as Inclusive Development have changed the image of the continent from a ‘hopeless’ case to a place of opportunities. And indeed, since 2000 Africa’s economic growth has been remarkably high and part of that is linked to the rising demand for Africa’s resources by the emerged economies from Asia and South America. But concurrently, inequality is rising and there are demands for more financial inclusion and social protection, supported by social movements, the so-called impatient youth, and considerations about the 2015 negative balance of trade, which may either be a blip in economic trajectory of Emerging Africa or signal of impending downturn. Many observers are concerned about issues of environmental sustainability, land grabbing, as well as food, nutrition and water security. In addition, there are also many places of insecurity and fragility, where the economy is in disarray.
In this course, students will do three things:
a) they study and discuss scientific literature about economy, geography and society in Africa in seven scientific sessions, led by Dr Akinyoade; some of the literature will also be studied to find out what research design the authors used and what the methods of enquiry and methods of presentation have been.
b) They listen to and discuss lectures given by prominent scholars based in the Netherlands on interconnected themes such as: 1- Africa’s population growth issues; 2- African migration; 3- Africa’s economic growth and financing development: past, present and future; 4- Inclusive development in Africa; 5- Africa’s South-South social and economic connections and what this means for Europe; and 6- Africa’s land resources and prospects for food security. The last session is a a debate session on Africa in 2050: Realities and myths of ‘Emerging Africa’.
c) They listen to and discuss with practitioners from the world of business, media, NGOs, and diplomacy in six sessions, for which students are assigned roles as chairpersons to prepare the debate, appointed as discussants to prepare propostions and make a concise report of the main findings. The practitioners’ input will be linked to the themes studied in the respective scientific sessions.

Course objectives

Knowledge and understanding

  1. Multidisciplinary knowledge of and insight into societies and cultures of Africa at an advanced level. The student will in particular obtain proven knowledge and understanding of the economy, geography and societies of Africa from a multidisciplinary approach.
  2. A thorough understanding of the societal relevance of the study subject.
  3. Advanced knowledge and understanding of the main theories, key concepts and methodological approaches and techniques of at least two of the following disciplines in relation to African Studies : Linguistics, Culture Studies, Anthropology, Geography, Political Science, History or Economics. Students will in particular obtain a good overview and understanding of the interconnectedness of the major issues concerning Africa’s current economic and governance situations, the diversity of its population and resources, and the social and environmental tensions that are emerging from the recent economic growth. Lectures given by academics and practitioners will espouse scientific and practical perspectives of the interconnectedness.

Applying knowledge and understanding

  1. The technical and cognitive skills to collect, select, analyse and critically evaluate data and academic literature, in order to formulate and test working hypotheses and to formulate an answer to research questions .
  2. The ability to work with a complex body of sources of diverse nature and to report on this analysis either orally and/or in written form. Students will be particularly equipped to read general scientific articles about Africa’s economy, geography and society, be able to understand the use of graphs, maps, tables and other forms of illustrations in these types of articles, as well as the way scientists in these disciplines do their research and present their findings.
  3. The ability to apply academic knowledge and insights to other professional domains, such as policy, development, business or journalism. Students will in particular acquire solid background on their respective African countries of research interest, and, can summarise the major academic debates and positions in the debate in a concise way that is acceptable by expert scientists and by committed practitioners.
  4. The ability to develop, arrange and execute a project in an unfamiliar country, to liaise with various stakeholders of a different nature, and the ability to work in a (culturally) unfamiliar professional environment. Students will be academically fortified to apply different methods from the disciplines [such as - Geography, Demography, Anthropology, Economics, Resources Governance] in new or unknown circumstances within the domain of African Studies, in order to solve problems, integrate knowledge and deal with complex matters.

Ability to formulate judgements

  1. Formulate judgements, based on a question or problem in the field of African Studies, even when the student has limited information due to lacunae in the data available
  2. Take into account social and cultural, academic and ethical aspects relevant to the analysis of complex questions and the formulation of judgements.


  1. Oral and written skills to clearly communicate the outcomes based on the student’s own academic research, knowledge, motifs, and considerations to professionals as well as the broader public.

Learning Skills

  1. Has the learning skills to continue further study at a professional level or to start a PhD program more or less independently, and of an autonomous character.
  2. Is able and aware of the necessity to keep abreast of relevant developments in the academic and practitioners field.
  3. Is able to assess where his/her own research/work can contribute to academic or practioners’ fields;


The timetable is available on the website of the MA African Studies
ResMA African Studies

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 140 hours (5EC)

  • Seminars: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 44 hours

  • Assignment(s): 14 hours

  • Preparation exam: 55 hours

  • Exam(s): 1 hour

Assessment method

Oral examination based on:

  • Attendance and participation in class (10%) (course objectives assessed 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9)

  • Written report, moderating sessions, formulating of propositions (20%) ((course objectives assessed 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 )

  • Quality of term paper (40%) ((course objectives assessed 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

  • Oral examination on course literature and term paper (30%) ((course objectives assessed 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • Information on course content

  • Submission of written work

Reading list

  • Stephen Ellis, 2011, Season of Rains. Africa in the World. London: Hurst & Company.

  • A reading list with online sources and some print copies will be made available prior to the start of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. A. Akinyoade Dr. Karin Nijenhuis

Onderwijsadministratie:van Wijkplaats

Coordinator of Studies: P.C. Lai LL.M. MSc