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Politics and Development: Africa




Admissions requirements

This course is designed for second year students and above. The class is expected to be highly interactive and involves small group presentations. It requires students to spend time reading the assigned literature and following current events in Africa to broaden their knowledge and contribute in class discussions.

Institutions of Governance & Development is strongly recommended.


This course is an introduction to Politics and Development of Africa. We will take an interdisciplinary, historical and regional approach to explore important and “big questions” in politics and development within the context of Africa. These questions include: Why have most African countries remained poor and susceptible to conflicts? To what extent are political outcomes in contemporary Africa a consequence of its history, society and geography? What role does the international community play in the development of African countries and societies? And when looking at post-independence outcomes, how do we know what’s caused by colonial legacies as opposed to what outcomes are caused by post-independence politics and policies? What are the implications of current democratization and growth trends in Africa? And what can be done to improve governance and political accountability on the Continent? This course will introduce students to these debates and questions. We will engage these questions of political development by using different examples from sub-Saharan Africa as our case studies. Particular emphasis will be given to topics such as historical legacies of colonialism, corruption and political accountability, civil war and conflicts, governance of natural resources, the role of international actors and foreign aid, democratization and elections, China-Africa relations, as well as technology and social media.

This course is structured in three parts. In the first part, we will review Africa's political history while giving special attention to pre-colonial institutions, historical legacies of slavery, and the impact of colonialism on the post-colonial development process. In the second part, we will unpack the challenges that post‐colonial African governments face as they attempt to manage ethnic diversity, economic reform and political institutions. We will conclude the course by exploring contemporary development themes, trends and patterns. As you can see, there is a lot to learn about Africa.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:

  • Have evaluated the most prominent theories on African political and economic development.

  • Have analysed the contributions of important organisations to the development of certain African countries.

  • Have constructed analytical arguments about development in Africa in different written and oral formats.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

There are two main teaching methods used in this course: lectures/seminars and tutorials.

Lectures/Seminars: The instructor will deliver a lecture based on the required reading twice a week. Lectures take place on Tuesdays and Fridays. Lectures will provide an overview of the dedicated topic for the week in question. Each class will begin with a brief question and answer period related to the readings or to previous lectures. This period will be followed by the lecture for the day. At the end of each lecture there will also be a brief period for questions from students. Come prepared to engage with your fellow students, instructor, and the material to be discussed. PowerPoint slides used in lectures will be posted on the course link.

Tutorials: The instructor’s lectures, presentations, readings, and in-class debates will be complemented with tutorials. The goal of tutorials is to provide a forum for students to discuss their thoughts and ideas in a seminar style. Students are expected to have done the required readings PRIOR to meeting and to be fully prepared to discuss them at length. Participation in the tutorial will be evaluated in terms of the relevance and pertinence of the student’s comments, and the extent to which they reflect knowledge of the required readings. Tutorials will be based on the key questions listed under the weekly topics. As you read the weekly resources and prepare for the tutorials, ask yourself the following questions: What concepts, ideas, facts, or examples do I find interesting and relevant in this article/chapter? What do I agree/disagree with? Does this article/chapter relate to anything I have read or heard lately? What additional questions need to be raised and answered?

Tutorials will be facilitated by two student leaders, each with special roles. Two of the facilitators will be selected from among your group and will change every tutorial session. One of you will become the discussion leader for one group session. During this session, the discussion leader will guide the discussion. The discussion leader is not supposed to solve the task or answer the tutorial’s questions, but instead will give as many people as possible a chance to contribute to the discussion. The discussion leader will also need to make sure the discussion stays on topic and that the group does not lose track of the task. As for the second facilitator, one among you will be selected to be the group’s secretary for the session. The secretary will prepare the minutes of the discussion. The minutes for the session are to be uploaded on the course link no later than 24 hours after the session.

Finally, each tutorial session is going to be coordinated by a chair (i.e. the course instructor), who will take a fairly passive role if things are going well. The task of the chair is to monitor the discussion and join in only when needed. Examples of when the chair will interject are as follows: when the discussion is going in a wrong direction or gets focused on a trivial point; when the group is proceeding on the basis of faulty knowledge; or when group members behave uncooperatively. You will notice the chair a little more vocal during the first sessions while you are still getting used to the tutorial system. But if all goes well, you will hardly feel the presence of the chair after the first few sessions. The discussion leader and secretary are positions that you can volunteer for on a weekly basis. This is a fun task, but if you find no other motivation please note that it counts positively and significantly towards your participation grade. In the rare event that there is no volunteer, the instructor can assign students to take on these roles.


Class & Tutorial Participation, 15%
Map Quiz, 15%
Response essays, 20%
Country Expertise Exercises, 20%
Term Paper/Essay (due 12 June), 30%

Active Class and Tutorial Participation (15%): This means coming to class prepared to engage in thoughtful discussion, and being able to ask good questions at least as much as being able to answer them. Quality of participation is more important than quantity, but these two are often correlated. Do not be afraid to speak up if you have something meaningful to say, and do not wait too long to do it. Shyness increases with time; so do not let it sink in. Remember, tutorial is a good place to debate theory and policy and to discuss issues in greater depth. Besides, when a student’s grade falls on the borderline at the end of the semester, I will review the student’s attendance, mastery of the readings and active participation before deciding which way the grade will go.

Map Quiz (15%): You will take a map quiz in class. You will be asked to identify from memory several African countries by filling in a blank map. You must also know each African state’s population size, capital, president and former colonizer. This exercise is designed to ensure that students are familiar with the countries we will discuss in the course.

Response Essays (20%): The purpose of these essays is to provide brief, but critical analysis of the week’s readings and to use them to respond to the questions posed each week on the syllabus. Response essays should be no longer than 750 words including footnotes but not bibliography. You can write up to four response essays, the best two will be considered for your grade.

Country Expertise Exercises (20%): Over the course of the semester, each student will become the class expert on one African country. Your task is to follow the news in that country, complete assignments relating to issues in your country and course themes, and conduct research into your country’s political history and institutions. Countries will be assigned by the instructor on the second day of class with additional information.

Term Paper/ Essay (30%): Students will be required to complete and turn in twelve to fifteen pages essay (Max. 2,500 words). The research question for this essay will be communicated during the course. The essay should reflect the student’s ability to clearly articulate and logically develop a thesis and reference relevant scholarly literature to support the thesis of the essay. All submissions will need to be submitted electronically via the course link. Essays will be graded on the following aspects:

  • Formal Requirements: This aspect includes requirements on the completeness and comprehensibility of the text, correct use of language, the presence of an easily discernible structure, and correct usage of sources and reference style. This will make up 30% of the grade.

  • Understanding of the Topic: This aspect includes the identification of elements, concepts and debates related to the topic. Your performance here amounts to 30% of the grade.

  • Quality of your Argumentation: The most important aspect of the assessment is based on the inherent logic of your argument and the skilfulness of its presentation. It is not enough to get the facts right, they have to be connected in a logical way with the use of theories. This counts as 40% of the grade.

Outline: It is strongly encouraged, but not compulsory, that you discuss the outline of your essay with the instructor. This is a chance to see how your ideas are developing, assess whether the argument is hanging together and receive some comments and suggestions about what, if any, gaps need to be filled.

Plagiarism: Like most universities around the world, Leiden University College imposes very strict penalties on academic fraud, particularly on plagiarism. Your essays will be subject to automatic plagiarism checks when handed in, and the instructor will do a manual check as well. Consequences of plagiarism can be as severe as permanent expulsion from the course or even programme. Please make sure that all sources in your written assignments (both directly quoted and used indirectly) are referenced in the text and listed in the bibliography.

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

There is no course reader for this class. The literature for each seminar and tutorial meeting will be provided digitally. Students are required to print the literature themselves and bring to class. The following texts are useful as general introductions to the subject of politics and development of Africa:

  • Moss, Todd (2018), “African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors”. Lynne Rienner Publishers.

  • Englebert, Pierre and Kevin C. Dunn (2014), “Inside African Politics.” Lynne Rienner Publishers.

  • Herbst, Jeffrey (2014), “States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control.” Princeton University Press.

  • Iliffe, John (2007), “Africans: The History of a Continent.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Ayo Adedokun (

Office hours: By appointment