Undergraduate Modules: POL3001 - The Political Economy of Africa

Module Code

POL 3001

Module Title

The Political Economy of Africa


Level 3


Semester 1 (Autumn)


20 credits

Taught by:

Professor Graham Harrison, Professor in Politics

Module Description:

The module investigates the inter-relations between state power and economic change in Africa. The conceptual focus of the module is the nature of development in Africa. The underlying interest of the module is in the way Africans’ well-being is affected by state action and international order. Accordingly, the module covers topics such as trade, conflict, and poverty. Conceptually, the module explores the nature of capitalist expansion in Africa, both in terms of changes within countries and in terms of connections to the global political economy.

Module Aims:

This module aims to provide in-depth knowledge and critical analysis of African political economy. By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of some of the most important issues in Africa’s contemporary development.
  • Apply conceptual tools to the above to country cases and issues, based in understandings of capitalism in Africa.
  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including understanding complex concepts and theories, exercising critical judgement, making effective oral and written presentations, utilising specialist primary and secondary sources, and deepening the capacity for independent learning.

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently and as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple data sources; constructing coherent arguments; and preparing written reports and verbal presentations.

Module Schedule:

1 Studying Africa
2 Africa and Globalisation
3 Agrarian change
4 Gender and development
5 The political economy of AIDS/HIV
6 The political economy of resources and conflict
7 Aid
9 Africa and China
10 Trade
11 Developmental Governance?

Teaching Methods:

  • 11 * 2 hour seminars


  • Essay - 50% of mark
  • Seminar Project- 50% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 20-30 page module handbook
  • Dedicated module intranet site.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Opportunities for Further Study:

There is also the opportunity to deepen your knowledge by undertaking a supervised research project module an agreed topic arising out of work done on POL 3001. Students meet with their tutor individually for tailored one-to-one supervision and tuition, which will enable them to undertake research and be assessed on the basis of a 7,000 word project.

To find out more about the research project modules on offer, click here

Indicative Reading:

Allen, C. (1995) ‘Understanding African Politics’, Review of African Political Economy, 22(65), pp. 301-320.

Appiah, A.K. (1993) In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. New York, NJ: Oxford University Press.

Iliffe, J. (1996) Africans: The History of a Continent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jerven, M. (2011) ‘Users and producers of African income: Measuring the progress of African economies’, African Affairs, 110 (439), pp. 169-190.

Steinberg, J. (2008) Three Letter Plague. London: Vintage.

Young, T. (2010) Africa. A beginner’s guide. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.

What our Students Say:

"I really enjoyed this module, and particularly liked the variety of activities within the seminars. It was also good to be able to have more choice in what I read for each seminar, rather than having lots of core readings for each week."

"This has genuinely been one of the most interesting modules I have studied thus far at the University of Sheffield"

"Overall I have enjoyed the module. The reading was accessible and interesting. Graham Harrison was also very helpful and keen to offer advice on reading or essays."