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Economy, Geography and Society in Afrika


Admission requirements

BA degree


‘Emerging Africa’, ‘Africa Rising’ and other optimistic catchwords have changed the image of the continent from a ‘hopeless’ case to a place of opportunities. And indeed, since 2000 Africa’s economic growth has been remarkably high and part of that is linked to the rising demand for Africa’s resources by the emerged economies from Asia and South America. At the same time, inequality is rising as well and there are demands for more ‘inclusive development’, supported by social movements and by an inpatient Youth. And many observers are concerned about issues of environmental sustainability, land grabbing, and food, nutrition and water security. And there are also many places of insecurity and fragility, where the economy is in disarray. In this seminar, students will do three things:
a) They study and discuss scientific literature about economy, geography and society in Africa in seven scientific sessions, led by Prof. Ton Dietz and Dr Karin Nijenhuis; the literature will also be studied to find out what research design the authors used and what the methods of enquiry and methods of presentation have been.
b) They listen to expert lectures and discuss these lectures with them: 1: Africa’s population issues: Dr Akinyinka Akinyoade; 2: Africa’s economic growth and financial resources: Prof. Chibuike Uche; 3: Africa’s South-South connections: Dr Mayke Kaag; 4: Africa’s land resources and prospects for food security: Prof. Han van Dijk; 5: Africa’s water resources and resource conflict management practices: Dr Marcel Rutten; 6: Prospects for inclusive development: Prof. Ton Dietz and 7: Africa’s innovative capabilities: Dr André Leliveld.
c) They listen to practitioners from the world of business, media, NGOs, and diplomacy in six sessions, for which (groups of) students prepare the debate and make a concise report of the main findings. The practitioners’ input will be linked to the themes studied in the scientific sessions.
All literature and all sessions will be in English; however, the students and lecturers will be encouraged to also include Francophone, Lusophone and Arabophone Africa.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students

  • have a good overview of the major issues concerning Africa’s current economic situation, the geographical diversity of its demography and geography, and the social and environmental tensions that the recent economic growth cause;

  • can read general scientific articles about Africa’s economy, geography and society, being able to understand the use of graphs, maps, tables and other forms of dissemination in these types of articles and the way scientists in these disciplines do their research and present their findings;

  • have a good idea about the way Dutch practitioners working with and in Africa perceive Africa’s problems and possibilities, and the way they discuss and disseminate their experiences;

  • and they can summarise the major debates and positions in the debate in a concise way, that is acceptable by expert scientists and by committed practitioners.



Mode of instruction

Seminar form, with introductory lectures, and expert-led debates with intensive student input; seven scientific debates and six practitioners debates.

Course Load

Total: 140 hours

  • Writing paper: 56 hours.

  • Attendance: 36 hours (7×2 hrs lectures and 5×2 hours debate with practitioners; and one or more sessions in which students present their ideas about their paper and present their paper).

  • Preparing for class/reading literature: 36 hours.

  • Preparing presentations (debate with practitioners) and written summaries of discussions: 12 hours.

Assessment method

Oral examination based on:
 Attendance and participation in class (10%)
 Knowledge of the literature (30%)
 Quality of the preparation and leading of a debate and of the written report of a debate (10%)
 Quality of the paper (50%)
The paper should be an individual paper of seven pages (2100 words) about an African country, in which students present their analysis of ‘growth and inclusion’ issues for that country, focusing on 2000-2015. The paper should be explicit about demographic, economic and social aspects of the growth and inclusion debate, and should also present geographical detail. It should contain graphs, tables and maps, and an assessment of the recent literature about growth and inclusion in that particular country.
Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the teacher, and a second oral examination has to be done.


Blackboard will be used for this course:

  • Information on course content

  • Submission of written work

This course is supported by Blackboard. Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course. Please see:

Reading list

A list of reading materials for each class will be made available to the students before the first class.


Enrollment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.

Prospective students, please check the Study Abroad/Exchange website
for information on how to apply.


Teacher Prof. Dr. Ton Dietz