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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED2455 State and Politics in Africa

20 creditsClass Size: 140

Module manager: Dr Alex Beresford

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Most African colonies became independent in the 1950s and 1960s amid hopes that this would be the prelude to an era of democracy and development. By the end of the 1980s, the continent was characterized by instability, authoritarianism, poverty, war and famine. In a small number of countries, the state itself had begun to disintegrate. And yet, a popular narrative that has emerged in recent years has been that of ‘Africa rising.’ In the wake of crisis and stagnancy in the Western world, positive GDP growth rates and the increasing frequency of elections in African countries are argued to herald an ‘African renaissance’. This module will evaluate the credibility of such narratives and analytical positions. It is a module designed for students who are interested in understanding the nature of politics in Africa and the many social, political and developmental challenges that continue to confront the continent.


On completion of this module, students will be able to analyse the nature of the post-colonial state in sub-Saharan Africa, the factors which differentiate it from other kinds of state, and the implications this has for understanding politics in Africa. Students will become familiar with debates about neopatrimonial ‘Big Man’ politics, where states are run to serve the private interests of globally connected African elites. By the end of the module students will be able to analyse how range of issues are threatening (or, in some cases, entrenching) the social and political status quo in African countries. Such issues will include democratisation, economic reforms, ethnic/racial politics, corruption, violence and civil society activism. Students will also become familiar with the nature and implications of external interventions on the continent, including those of the Western powers and, more than ever before, China.


First, the module will introduce students to the nature of the colonial state and the legacies that colonialism has had for contemporary Africa. It will explore how colonialism contributed to the formation of weak, externally dependent ‘gatekeeper states’ and neopatrimonial political systems characterized by patronage and the misappropriation of state resources. The module will then explore a range of issues shaping contemporary African politics, such as: race, ethnicity, economic reforms, democratisation, violence and conflict, corruption, civil society and the role of external powers (including both Western and ‘emerging’ powers such as China and India).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will be required to prepare for discussions in seminars through extensive reading of sources listed on the module reading list. In addition to this, students should spend time preparing for their assessments which should include finding and using sources not listed on their reading list.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

1 x seminar presentation; 1 x 1000 word formative essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3,000 End of Term essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:29:44


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