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Democracy and Development in Africa

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Once labeled "the hopeless continent", the political and economic developments of Africa today suggest the exact opposite. Africa's economies are among the fastest growing in the world, with at least a dozen countries enjoying a growth rate of 6 per cent or higher for six or more years; furthermore, the number of democracies on the continent has risen from a mere three in 1989 to twenty-three in 2008. In this course, we will explore what preceded these positive developments in Africa, the drivers of these remarkable changes and whether or not they are sustainable.

The course focuses on the political, economic and social developments in Africa since 1960. We will begin by examining the nature of colonialism on different parts of the continent and particularly its legacy for economic and political development in independent Africa. The course will then address many of the paradigmatic issues of the 1970s and 1980s, specifically personal rule and patrimonialism, economic crises, development assistance and civil war. Finally, we will explore recent democratic transitions in Africa, the nature of democracy in various African countries, ethnic politics, the role of China in Africa and democracy's relationship, if any, to "growth-promoting" as opposed to "growth-killing" economic policies. As we move through Africa's political history, we will be confronted with several questions: what, if at all, has been the impact of colonialism on Africa? Has development aid had a positive or negative impact on economic growth? Why are the economic and political institutions of some African countries improving while others are not? Finally, are the social and political practices in Africa all that different from those of the "global north"? The course will provide students with a firm foundation in the paradigmatic themes and concepts in modern African politics, thereby serving as an introduction to the topic as well as to development studies more broadly.

By the end of the course, students will have accomplished three goals. First, students will possess a sophisticated understanding of and be able to intelligently discuss the major concepts, events and issues of African politics since 1960. Second, students will have improved their ability to successfully produce college-level papers with a compelling and defensible thesis. Third, students will have an enhanced ability to read, understand and critique social science research, both quantitative and qualitative.

There are no prerequisites for the course although an interest in African politics and development more generally is very much encouraged; indeed, students interested in working or traveling in Africa may find the course particularly appealing.