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INT6050 Africa Then and Now (10 sp)

Africa tends to be associated with poverty, conflict and dictatorship. Is this a valid picture of a continent of 54 different countries and more than a billion people? The course Africa Then and Now gives you a thorough introduction to political and economic development traits in Africa. 

About the Course

Africa tends to be associated with poverty, conflict and dictatorship. Is this a valid picture of a continent of 57 different countries and more than a billion people?

In this course we look for answers to why Africa both has some of the world’s poorest countries and some of the fastest growing economies as well as reasons why more and more African countries move towards multiparty democratic systems of governance.

The course has a three-part structure consisting of (i) African history, (ii) country case studies which exemplify important continental trends, and (iii) relations with non-African states.

Knowledge of Africa’s history is integral to an understanding of the current situation on the continent. Therefore, a review of African history forms the introduction to this unit.

In particular, we will look at how Africa’s colonial as well as pre-colonial history informs the way African states and societies have developed since independence.

The main part of the course consists of a number of case study lectures. Students will become familiar with central historical, political and economic traits of these countries, and each case study has been selected to exemplify key trends currently shaping the continent.

We look at how ethnic and religious antagonisms and dependence on the export of natural resources negatively affects the governance system in Nigeria and we discuss the links between economic growth and democratic governance in Botswana, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

In another lecture we consider the significance of South Africa as a democratic “African super-power” with strong influence on the continent and beyond. Finally, we look at recent revolutionary change in North Africa, with a particular focus on Egypt.

The third part of the course is focussed on how old ties with former colonial powers and the United States on the one hand, and rapidly developing relations with China on the other hand, shape politics and economics on the continent.


    After completing this course, the student is expected to have acquired the following learning outcomes:


    • demonstrate a general knowledge of African history and the current situation in terms of political and economic factors
    • account for research findings within the topics of African development, demographic and political change on the continent, and the influence of external powers
    • understand the impact of colonialization on the African continent
    • identify and compare different cases exemplifying different economic, political and demographic trends


    • discuss the impact and lasting legacy of the Arab spring
    • evaluate the claims that there is a ‘battle for Africa’ between China and the West
    • employ critical thinking on current issues
    • problematise different aspects of trends in trade and aid, assessing its positive and negative sides
    • analyse conflict on the African continent in light of its history
    • discuss the significance of leadership to African development
    • evaluate claims of neo-colonialism on the African continent


    • actively participate in discussions on how negative trends in Africa may be reversed and positive trends strengthened
    • gain general knowledge about the African continent as a whole and particular regions and countries specifically
    • discuss the current state of development, hereunder economic development, in specific countries highlighted in this course


    • country report; memo: 500 words (pass/fail) 
    • compulsory participation in discussions in the digital classroom. 


    • take home exam (individual essay); memo: 2500 words (+/- 10 % excluding front page and reference list) (60 % of the grade, grading system A – F) 
    • 3 hour written exam (40 % of the grade, grading system A – F)