module specification

GI6064 - African Politics (2023/24)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2023/24
Module title African Politics
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 120
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
84 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Portfolio (3000 words)
Running in 2023/24

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

On this module you will have the opportunity to challenge assumptions about the problems of contemporary Africa and its place in the world. In particular, the module aims to: examine the problems of African security and development through a broad approach, involving political, social and global perspectives; place Africa within the larger theoretical frameworks and approaches to international relations; encourage consideration of the relative responsibilities of Africans and those who promote or benefit from an unequal global system; and explore the complexities of problem-solving in this context. It will also consider the opportunities and challenges for African countries in the 21st Century.

Prior learning requirements

None. Available for Study Abroad.


We will explore key developments in African politics including: the rise of nationalism and the process of decolonisation; issues relating to economic development in the region (LO1); the significance of ethnicity and the causes of conflict; independence from colonial rule and the nature of statehood in Africa; the neo-patrimonial theory of the African state (LO2); the role of identity and ‘traditional’ politics; the emergence of new social forces and the prospects for democratisation; and the contemporary state and the prospects for liberal development (LO3).

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Teaching consists of a weekly two-hour lecture/workshop, followed by a one-hour seminar. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos and the use of first-hand documents and websites. During the module seminars will combine a variety of methods including discussion based on pre-set questions, role plays, and presenting a briefing paper.

Blended Learning will be a key component of the module. Lecture notes and first-hand documents for use in class will be posted online, as will web links for academic and governmental websites, as well as video links. Questions for class discussion will be available from the beginning of the module via the Weblearn site, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth.

Class discussions and assessment will encourage reflective learning and provide the opportunity for students to develop key employability skills whilst encourage personal development strategies and independent learning. An activity week will also form part of the syllabus.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the problems of economic and political development in sub-Saharan Africa.
2. Critically assess the utility of various models and approaches in explaining these problems.
3. Debate the role and ethics of the global actors and the international system in African ‘underdevelopment’.
4. Undertake independent research into contemporary developments in African politics and speak and write about them effectively.

Assessment strategy

One summative piece of work in the form of a 3,000 word portfolio, comprising three pieces of written work, each of around 1000 words. Students choose from three of the following four formats:

  1. Write-up of the student’s seminar presentation: This should be written in comprehensible English, without abbreviations but may consist of headings and brief notes as long as it is clear how the student’s argument is developed and what evidence is cited.  Copies of handouts and powerpoints must be included.
  2. Book review: Students will be asked to review one book from a list provided by the module convenor. The review should analyse the book’s argument, its place in the literature and its significance.  It must be analytical and critical throughout, rather than narrative, and may involve comparison with other work in the field or assess the problems and/or advantages of the format chosen.
  3. Contemporary themes: This piece is a comparison of different approaches to contemporary problems as expressed in academic and more popular sources.  It is not a description of the ‘plot’ or the artistic merits of the source chosen but an analysis of the viewpoints, arguments and, if relevant, the prescriptions for change put forward.  Students are encouraged to focus on these aspects, referring where relevant to the potential audiences and how they affect the approach of the author. They must choose from one of the following: a) Democracy - Is the transition from one-party states to multi-party democracies in Africa now irreversible?; b) Conflict - To what extent could it be argued that civil wars in Africa are almost inevitable?; c. Liberal Development - To what extent have outside agencies committed themselves to effecting social change in Africa, why have they done so and what consequences has it had?
  4. Contemporary events: Students will analyse the basis of one of a series of contemporary issues particular African states face.  How do authors account for events?  Are there significant differences?  What are the arguments and on what evidence are they based?  How convincing are the arguments?  What is the significance of each position?