ASTK15398U COURSE: African politics

Volume 2015/2016


Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS


Course Description:

The Politics of Contemporary Africa provides a survey of post-colonial politics in the states of Sub-Saharan Africa, concentrating on the events since independence to the present. This course primarily focuses on the current issues of political and economic development within Africa. Such aspects as the state and state institutions, democracy, party systems, military coups and rule, bureaucracy and corruption, ethnicity, national and regional integration, political violence and civil conflict, as well as various economic strategies for development will receive primary attention. Below is a list of the required books.  Beyond the three books listed below (which should be acquired by the students), all additional required readings in the syllabus are available on ABSALON. 


  • Harbeson, John and Donald Rothchild (eds.), AFRICA IN WORLD POLITICS: ENGAGING A CHANGING GLOBAL ORDER (New York, NY: Westview Press), 2013, 5th edition.




  • Bach, Daniel and Mamoudou Gazibo (eds.), NEOPATRIMONIALISM IN AFRICA AND BEYOND, London, UK: Routledge, 2012 (260 pages)


  • Additional required readings are listed below. 


Competency description:

The course will provide invaluable skills and knowledge for anyone seeking to work in Africa and gain the practical ability to analyze the political, social and economic issues that face the continent today. Understanding these dynamics is invaluable for a wide range of careers, whether working for international agencies

Learning Outcome

‘The objective of this course is to enable the students to:
• Describe the evolution of post-colonial politics and economic development in Africa.
• Present the key theoretical orientations and understandings related to this evolution.
• Apply the major theories to actual cases.
• Compare and analyze the main theoretical trends relating to the political and economic evolution of the continent over the past sever decades.
• Combine and synthesize contributions to the current academic debates about the nature of the state in various African contexts.
• Evaluate the validity of the various theorists’ arguments.

Week 1 (116 pages)

Topic:  Approaches to African Politics


Harbeson, John, in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 1. “Engaging a Changing Global Order”, 3-14 (11 pages)

Brown, W. (2006) ‘Africa and International Relations: A Comment on IR Theory, Anarchy and Statehood’, REVIEW OF INTERNTIONAL STUDIES, 32(1), 119-143 (24 pages)

Coleman, James S. and C.R.D. Halisi, "American Political Science and Middle Africa:  Universalism vs. Relativity," AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW 26, 314, September/December, 1983, 25-62 (37 pages) 

Dunn, Kevin, “Tales from the dark side: Africa’s challenge to international relations theory”, JOURNAL OF THIRD WORLD STUDIES, 17(1), 2000, 61-90 (29 pages)

Smith, Karin, “Has Africa Got Anything to Say? African Contributions to the Theoretical Development of International Relations”, THE ROUNDTABLE, 98 (402), June 2009, 269–284 (15 pages)


Week 2 (95 pages)

Topic:  The Colonial Legacy andInstitutional Transfer


Young, Crawford, in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 2. “Emergence of the Post-Colonial State”, 15-34 (19 pages)

Acemoglu, Daron, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson. 2001. “The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation.” AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW, 91(5),1369-1401 (32 pages)

Coleman, James, “Nationalism in Colonial Africa” AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW, 3, 1954, 404-426 (22 pages) 

Crowder, Michael, “Indirect Rule: French and British Style,” AFRICA, 34, July 1964, 197-205 (8 pages)

Mizuno, N., “Colonial experience and postcolonial underdevelopment in Africa”, PUBLIC CHOICE, 141(3-4), Dec. 2009, 405-419 (14 pages)


Week 3 (171 pages)

Topic:   Identity Politics: Tensions and Conflicts


Kasfir, N. “Explaining Ethnic Political Participation”, WORLD POLITICS, 31, April 1979, 365-388 (23 pages)

Miles, William and David Rochefort. 1991. “Nationalism versus Ethnic Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa.” APSR. 85(2), 393-404 (11 pages)

Posner, D., “The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Cleavages: The Case of Linguistic Divisions in Zambia”, COMPARATIVE POLITICS, 35(2), 2003, 127-146 (19 pages)

Young, Crawford, 2002. “Deciphering Disorder in Africa: Is Identity the Key?” WORLD POLITICS, 54(4), 532-557 (25 pages)

Reno, William in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 7. “The International Factor in African Warfare”, 150-172 (22 pages)

Manning, Carrie and Berg in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 10. “Bilateral vs. Multilateral Peacebuilding in Africa”, 211-236 (25 pages)

Lyman, Princeton in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 11, “Sudan: A Fragile “Peace””, 237-254 (17 pages)

Reyntjens, Filip in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 12. “War in the Great Lakes Region”, 255-284 (29 pages)


Week 4 (190 pages)

Topic:  Civil Society, Democracy and Authoritarian Regimes


Tripp, Aili Mari in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 6. “In Pursuit of Authority: Civil Society and Rights Based Discourses in Africa”, 124-149 (25 pages)

Bratton, Michael, "Farmer organizations and food production in Zimbabwe."  WORLD DEVELOPMENT 14(3), 1986, 367-384 (17 pages)

Abrahams, Ray, “Sungusungu:  Village vigilante groups in Tanzania”, AFRICAN AFFAIRS, 86(343), 1987, 179-196 (19 pages)

Tripp, Aili, “Gender, Political Participation, and the Transformation of Associational Life in Uganda and Tanzania.” AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW, 37(1), 1994, 107-131 (24 pages)

Harbeson, John in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 5. “Democracy, Autocracy, and the Sub-Saharan African State”, 83-123 (40 pages)

Ihonvbere, J., “Where Is the Third Wave?  A Critical Evaluation of Africa's Non-Transition to Democracy,” AFRICA TODAY, 43(4), Oct.-Dec. 1996, 343-367 (24 pages)

Diamond, Larry, “Elections Without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes,” JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, 13(2), 2002, 21-35 (14 pages)

Prempeh, H. Kwasi. 2008. “Presidents Untamed,” JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, 19(2): 109-123 (14 pages)

Roque, Paula Cristina, 2009. “Angola's Façade Democracy,” JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY, 20: 4, 137-150 (13 pages)


Week 5 (61 pages)

Topic: Power-Sharing Institutions


Koelble, Thomas and Andrew Reynolds, "Power-Sharing Democracy in the New South Africa," POLITICS AND SOCIETY, 1996, 24(3), 221-236 (15 pages)

Mehler, A., “Peace and Power Sharing in Africa: A Not So Obvious Relationship”, AFRICAN AFFAIRS, vol.108, no. 432, (July 2009), 453-473 (20 pages)

Cheeseman, N. and B. Tendi, “Power-sharing in comparative perspective: the dynamics of 'unity government' in Kenya and Zimbabwe”, JOURNAL OF MODERN AFRICAN STUDIES, vol. 48, no.2, (June 2010), 203-229 (26 pages)


Week 6 (260 pages)

Topic: Neopatrimonial Rule in Africa and Beyond…


Bach, Daniel and Mamoudou Gazibo (eds.), NEOPATRIMONIALISM IN AFRICA AND BEYOND, London, UK: Routledge, 2012 (260 pages)



Week 7 (292 pages)

Topic: The New Interactions?: Africa and the World


Taylor, Scott D,  GLOBALIZATION AND THE CULTURES OF BUSINESS IN AFRICA. FROM PARTIMONALISM TO PROFIT, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012 (268 pages)

Taylor, Ian in Harbeson and Rothchild, Chapter 13. “The Growth of China in Africa”, 285-309  (24 pages)

This course requires all participants to compose a significant research paper (“free assignment”) based on a topic from the course. More information will be provided in a handout in the first week of the course.
This course will combine several types of instruction and collaborative learning. This includes lectures, several videos, group discussions/work and student presentations.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 140
  • Exam
  • 38
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner