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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED2455 State and Politics in Africa

20 creditsClass Size: 120

Module manager: Dr Alex Beresford

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

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 contemporary politics in Africa and understand the nature of the post-colonial state. Students will become familiar with the legacies of the violent and rapid processes of state formation in Africa and their lasting impact on the sovereignty of African states. They will be able to understand some of the enduring legacies of colonialism for contemporary politics, including dependency, uneven development, racial capitalism, ‘arbitrary’ borders, ‘neo-colonialism’, gender and class inequalities, and ethnic-identity politics. Students will understand developments in democratic politics in Africa, including the progress towards constitutional liberal democracy. They will be encouraged to identify some of the challenges to consolidating democratic norms and practices, however, including the global and national dynamics of corruption, authoritarian renewal, violence, and social inequalities. They will also be encouraged to consider how contemporary geo-political rivalries between former colonial states and emerging powers influence contemporary power dynamics and political struggles in Africa


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: 25/08/2023 11:46:05


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