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Seminars and Symposia

Seminars and Symposia

Issues in African Development Seminar Series examines critical concerns in contemporary Africa using a different theme each semester. The seminars provide a forum for participants to explore alternative perspectives and exchange ideas. They are also a focal activity for students and faculty interested in African development. In addition, it will prepare students for higher level courses on African economic, social and political development. The presentations are designed for students who are interested in the Africa and development, and Africa’s place in global studies, want to know about the peoples, cultures and societies that call Africa home, and explore development theories and alternate viewpoints on development.


 In the book Making Africa Work: A Handbook of Economic Success (2017) the authors Mills, Obasanjo, Herbst and Davis) argue that Africa faces a difficult, possibly disastrous future unless it acts quickly to consolidate democracy, liberalize its economies, invest in people and infrastructure, and ensure the rule of law. With the continent’s population projected to double to 2 billion within a generation, without  decisive actions to encourage long-term investments in industry, agriculture and manufacturing, the continent will be overwhelmed by urban and population growth.  As Thorbecke recently observed: “By 2035 Africa labor force will be larger than either that of China or India. By 2050, the African workforce will be larger than the combined labor force of China and India. In addition it will be a much younger, potentially much more productive labor force than the aging and declining Chinese labor force.” (2018)   If the right policies and institutional actions are taken, however, they will help to create the conditions for a high-growth demographic dividend.

The seminar series will seek to explore viable policy responses that can effectively address Africa’s developmental challenges.  Recent policy debates suggest that industrialization might not be the appropriate model for development in Africa.  Africa will also need to deepen structural and regulatory reforms, in order to address obstacles to the much needed structural transformation of African economies and societies. This, must be coupled with investments in energy, agriculture, infrastructure, education and social sectors.  Several development agencies including the African Development Bank argue that with the right policies, Africa possesses significant potential for a demographic dividend, spurred by the continent’s young population.  

Past Seminars
  • Development, Religious Extremism, Security, and the State in Africa (Fall 2015)
  • Natural Resources in Africa: Advancing Economic Development through Responsible Resource Management (Spring 2015)
  • Education and the Development of Human Capital: Outcomes for Development and Governance in Africa (Fall 2014)
  • African Economies: Structural Transformation and Sustainable Development (Spring 2014)
  • New and Emerging Challenges to Sustainable Development in Africa (Fall 2013)
  • The Developmental State and the Delivery of Public Goods and Services in Africa (Spring 2013)
  • Growth, Poverty, and Inequality: Confronting Social and Economic Development Challenges in Africa (Fall 2012)
  • Security, Land-grabbing and Conflict: Roles of Regional, Economic, and Political Organizations and NGOs in Addressing these Issues (Spring 2012)
  • Consolidation of Democracy in Africa: Governance, Accountability, and Elections (Fall 2011)
  • Trade and Foreign Direct Investment: China’s Engagement in Africa (Spring 2011)
  • Curse or Blessing? Natural Resources in the Economic Development of Africa (Fall 2010)