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Unit information: The Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015/16

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Unit name The Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa
Unit code POLI21231
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Flint
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit considers the politics of the independent states of sub-Saharan Africa with particular emphasis on: the colonial legacy, the nature of the post-colonial state and its institutions; the nation-building projects of these states; and the movement towards democratisation in the 1990s. After a brief examination of the transfer of power to the independent states, the unit will also examine the diversity of regime types, ideologies, ethnic tensions and cultures that make up the 48 sub-Saharan states. Finally the OAU, inter-African relations and the possibilities of an 'African Renaissance' will be considered. The unit will necessarily concentrate on a number of key states and groups of states to be selected.


  • To introduce the political issues and debates relating to sub-Saharan Africa.
  • To discuss the nature of the post-colonial state in Africa and the significance of the colonial legacy.
  • To focus on aspects of African nationalism, nation-building, the movement towards democratisation in recent years and the international relations of the African states.
  • To elicit written and oral discussion of issues raised in the unit.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completing the unit the student will have developed the following:

  1. an understanding of the making of contemporary Africa.
  2. an ability to engage in scholarly seminar discussion on related topics.
  3. an ability to deliver a scholarly seminar presentation on an aspect of African politics.
  4. an ability to write in a scholarly way about African politics.

Teaching Information

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour seminar.

Assessment Information

Assessment: one formative seminar presentation, plus one 1,500 - 2000 word essay (25%) submitted in Week 6 and one 1, 500 - 2000 word essay (75%). The student will receive a feedback sheet for each of these. Detailed guidance will be provided to students in relation to each of these assessments so that they are clear about how to perform well in those assessments.

  • formative seminar presentation will assess the achievement of learning outcomes 1, 2 and 3.
  • 25% for the first essay. It will assess the achievement of learning outcomes 1 and 4.
  • 75% for the second essay. It will assess the achievement of learning outcomes 1 and 4.

Reading and References

  • Alex Thomson, An Introduction to African Politics, Second Edition (London: Routledge, 2004) JQ1872 THO. 304 pages.
  • Peter J. Schraeder, African Politics and Society. A Mosaic in Transformation, Second Edition (Belmont,CA.: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2004). DT353 SCH
  • Naomi Chazan et al, Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa, Third edition (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 1999). 543 pages. JQ1879.A15.
  • April A. Gordon & Donald L. Gordon (eds), Understanding Contemporary Africa, Third Edition (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2001).
  • Ian Taylor and Paul Williams, Africa in International Politics. External Involvement on the Continent (London: Routledge, 2004). DT30.5 AFR
  • William Tordoff, Government and Politics in Africa, Fourth Edition (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2002).