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KINT 7695 - Politics of Development in Africa

Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 42

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies


Exposure to development theory, economic concepts and good grasp of statistics.

Course Description

There has been a fixation on describing Africa's performance in extreme terms: either hope or despair, hopelessness or rising. The complex reality of 55 entities is somehow forgotten to accommodate simplified views on the fastest growing continent. Yes, if the whole of the continent's performance is considered, Africa's economic growth, calculated since the turn of the century compares favourably. That is hardly the prevailing narrative. Narratives are deeply ingrained in history and perception, two elements that have not treated the continent fairly. To judge the fortunes of over a billion inhabitants mostly in terms of commodity prices is certainly an economic mystery, given the relative weight of trade in their real economies. To engage with complexity and help change the narrative it is important to revisit the key dimensions influencing Africa's development discourse, its political economy and its integration in the world. Institutions, policies and social dynamics should be re-examined. The course will start with a diagnosis of the political developments in the continent with emphasis on diversity and the need to distinguish different typologies. The entire course will then build on the importance of contextualization, using comparators, geographically and historically to situate African patterns, challenges and opportunities. The key elements for structural transformation in African countries will be assessed one by one. The course will end with a review of the institutional regional arrangements and critique them. Objective of the course: - To equip participants with up to date knowledge on African current developments and the prospects for structural transformation. - To enhance analytical skills through the questioning of prevailing narratives about the continent.


  • CHAO, Wei-Ting (Teaching Assistant, Phd Student)
  • LOPES, Carlos (Development Economist)

Pedagogical format

12 sessions of two hours each divided with one-hour presentation and one-hour seminar format discussion.

Course validation

The assessment of the course will be based on presentations by students and oral participation (50%) and case study group work (50%). Group work will consist of either detailed powerpoint presentations (with no less than 20 slides) or written papers (with approximately 25.000 words) accompanied by oral presentations - to be presented in last six sessions of the course.


Participants expected to accompany each session with prior recommended reading and identify early on a subject for joint group work to be presented in last six sessions of the course.

Required reading

  • Lopes, Carlos et al., Macroeconomic policy framework for Africa's Structural Transformation, Palgrave McMillan, London, 2017
  • McKinsey Global Institute, Lions on the move II: Realizing the potential of Africa's economies, McKinsey, 2017
  • ECA, Transformative Industrial Policy for Africa, ECA, Addis, 2016
  • AfDB/OECD/UNDP, Africa Economic Outlook, OECD, Paris, 2017
  • Oqubay, Arkebe, Made in Africa, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015

Additional required reading

  • Lopes, Carlos, Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors: Africa's transformation challenges, Palgrave McMillan, London, 2018 (forthcoming)
  • World Bank, Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness, WB, Washington DC, 2013

Plans de cours et bibliographies

Session 1: Diagnosing African Politics

For change to happen, the continent must resolve serious political issues. This includes the most important political challenge in Africa, the respect for diversity. Diagnosing current African political trends and scanning some of the controversies surrounding the issues of identity will be helpful. Most countries in Africa have limited capacities to undertake the wide range of measures required for a smooth transition from conflict to a path of peace, stability, and good governance – all of which are the chief ingredients of inclusive sustainable development. There seems to be a mythical dilemma revolving around which direction the continent should steer towards − constitutionalism, democracy, or development? Obviously, these three big 'ticket' items should not be rivals, and they can, certainly, be achieved in complementarity to each other. However, there are some pertinent questions that need to be asked – such as, does holding regular election equate to democracy, or can a larger debate on the pitfalls of constitutional debates in Africa help address some of the difficult links between rhetoric and reality.

Session 2: Assessing the "development discourse"

A combination of factors has contributed towards a diminishing role for ODA and the institutions that depend most of traditional forms of engagement. Private sector, philanthropy and new southern partners have allowed Africa to breath and become more assertive. Recent developments in the framing of global consensus - be it through the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change or the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development – are creating opportunities for the continent to become less reactive and participate more actively in the framing of global agendas. The domestic discourse on development had to adjust to a more informed citizenry, more established civil society movements and young activism, radically changing the political landscape.

Session 3: Defining Structural Transformation

Debates about prosperity in Africa tend to be marked by growth indicators. Most African economies do not have the strategies or the determination that is necessary for driving a successful economic structural transformation. As a result, limited change rendered so far has made many African countries vulnerable to inherent fluctuations of the international commodity markets, leading to significant growth volatility. This vulnerability to external shocks is due to several interacting factors linked to the 'absence' of an appropriate strategy (and some would argue a developmental state).

Session 4: Appropriate macroeconomic frameworks for structural transformation

Economic linkages between relevant macroeconomic policy variables and their relationship with key sources of growth and development need scrutiny. It is not a given that macroeconomic frameworks followed by African countries result from grounded analysis and are aligned with their development priorities. Studying cases of countries that defied orthodoxy helps demonstrate what are the real theoretical and empirical underpinnings and how much policy space countries do have to act on this front.

Session 5: Industrialisation for latecomers

African countries have been struggling to establish manufacturing capacity commensurate with their levels of development and employment needs. Their commodity dependence and poor infrastructure have been rightly blamed for the low levels of Manufacturing Value Addition. However, what would be required to boost industrialisation when the needs are so great, automation and other technological developments are dominating the discussion and value chains have become so complex? Probably part of the answer can be found on leapfrogging possibilities generated by sophisticated strategies.

Session 6: Green industrialization

Africa may be accelerating its industrialization at a time there is arable land scarcity and costs of renewables are matching traditional fossil fuels. These factors favour the continent, if properly harnessed. The potential for use of frugal innovation and the need for competitors to engage in costly retrofitting offer windows of opportunity that should be explored. They may close fast if positioning and good policies are not pursued vigorously. Climate agreements and new economy are poorly understood by policy makers requiring a more robust contribution from specialists and academics to make green industrialization a real option.

Session 7: Agriculture and structural transformation

There have been few success stories of agricultural revolution delinked from industrialization. The debate in Africa has been marked by socially sensitive approaches to agriculture (such as drought resilience, food security, poverty alleviation and resilience of small-holder farmers) rather than focus on the economic dimensions. As a result, efforts by ODA to boost productivity have mostly failed. Private sector interventions have been successful but not scaled to the levels needed by growing and more urbanized population. Sectoral approaches ignorant of forward and backward linkages to value chains have produced meagre productivity gains. The debate on the structural dimensions of agricultural transformation needs has become urgent.

Session 8: Demographic megatrends

Africa's youth bulge is normally associated to a demographic dividend, enticing comparisons with successful policies to address equivalent phenomena in other regions, particularly South-East Asia. Little attention is paid to the fact that Africa's accelerated population growth has an unprecedented historical speed, its doubled by the fastest urbanization growth ever and is happening when the rest of the world population is ageing. Moreover, the average age below 20 generates daunting employment challenges at a time of serious technological threats to conventional manufacturing job-intensive models.

Session 9: Cities and urban spaces

The fastest demographic growth is seconded by an equally fast urbanization rate. The megalopolis model is going to be followed by a few agglomerations. However, the majority of cities in Africa will adjust to other more unknown patterns, influenced by the informal transactions, identity preservation and land access constraints. The imported smart city approach is too superficial to address the emerging complexity. Inequality of access to goods and services will create polarized spaces that will expand opportunities for a few and marginalization for the majority.

Session 10: Trade and investment landscape changes

Many may be fixed on what WTO manages to approve, very little, when the real developments are taking place around the proliferation of bi and multi-lateral treaties. Current trade negotiations in Africa are fragmented and paying little attention to lost opportunities resulting from lack of regional integration. The complexity of trade systems necessitates deeper understanding of the value chains, the future of commodities, the role of intellectual property and the importance of trade facilitation and financing. These key factors as well as fiscal considerations are important to attract the right FDI and sustain economic transformation efforts. The strategies key African trade and investment partners may have for Africa should mobilize African countries to develop a similar approach and develop its own strategies.

Session 11: Reinventing the Pan African ideology and praxis

The African Union Agenda 2063 is part of a more ambitious attempt to reform the pan-African institutions with more emphasis on the economic dimensions of integration and to prepare an enhanced African role in global affairs. Understanding the complexity of current architecture, its limitations, ambitions and pitfalls is essential. Pan-Africanism as an ideology as captured the imagination of Africans for more than 70 years. Time for a rethink may be necessary. Without it, it will be difficult to promote structural transformation country by country.

Session 12: African narratives

The continent's fortunes tend to be associated with polarized views of either hope or despair, hopelessness or rising. The complex reality of 55 entities is somehow forgotten to accommodate simplified views on the fastest growing continent. To review such attitudes requires understanding complexity. It is also important to know what to average and the quality of the statistical evidence and data accuracy. As a wrap-up to the course the session should provide an opportunity to check what changes in perception the participants experienced as a result of deeper immersion into the African problemata.

Biographical Information

Carlos Lopes is currently Honorary Professor of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice. He has taught at different Universities around the world, published extensively on Africa and development studies and belongs to a dozen Boards, including the Geneva Graduate Institute. He was until December 2017 Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University. He has occupied several leadership positions at the United Nations including Representative in Zimbabwe and Brazil, Director of Development Policy at the UNDP, Director of the UN System Staff College, Executive Director of the UN Training and Research Institute, Political Director for Secretary General Kofi Annan and 8th Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa at the level of UN Under-Secretary General. Professor Lopes has received many awards, including 3 Honoris Causa PhDs, permanent membership of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences and has been a recurrent feature on the most influential Africans listings. He has a PhD in History from University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne.