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African Studies

Contact Us

Allison Janos, Academic Program Coordinator
1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Suite 628
Washington, DC 20036
+1 (202) 663-5676


Africa is a dynamic continent, experiencing rapid population growth, economic transition and political change. The African Studies program specializes in the history, politics and comparative analysis of African states as well as emerging issues of development, governance, and security.

Become an Expert

Understand the challenges of democratization and governance, urban growth, civic activism, economic change, political affairs, and conflict within and between African countries. Through study trips, internships, and opportunities for independent research, students have opportunities to gain hands-on, practical experience across Africa.


Featured Courses

Gain a broad understanding of the political, social, and economic dimensions of African affairs since the late 19th century.


Political Economy of African Development

This course examines the political context of Africa’s post-colonial development and considers the historical evolution of African economies from the colonial era, and the structural and institutional features of economic development since independence.

Students will review the evolution of economic policy and the nature of political regimes and the incentives of political and economic elites and popular constituencies, as well as examine the genesis of economic crisis and attempted reform.


Africa’s Security Challenges: The Military, Governance, and Insurgencies

This course introduces students to Africa’s current and emerging security threats, and identifies and examines ways to resolve these challenges in a holistic manner so as to sustain security, stability, and development.

The course provides: (1) An overview of the sociopolitical and historical security landscapes of Africa; (2) A critical examination of the drivers of insecurity in Africa, an analysis of governance practices and assessment of contested democratic transitions and violence; (3) An analysis of the role that the mismanagement of resources, foreign actors and international cooperation have played in maintaining, perpetrating or changing the security dynamics and trends. Students will take a closer look at Western engagement and regional cooperation in the fight against extremist groups such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, and how their policies impact regional peace and development.


Contemporary African Politics

This course offers a conceptual and historical overview of politics in Sub-Saharan Africa since independence.

Students will examine the social basis of politics, the nature of political actors, and the institutional context and major tendencies in political thought and ideology. The class will also review regime types and strategies of rule; analyze central themes and processes in African politics, including clientelism, ethnicity, authoritarianism and democracy; and discuss important cases and trends.


Conflict and the African Great Lakes

This course introduces students to the main issues affecting peace, stability, and development in Africa’s Great Lakes region, which has become synonymous with conflict.

Students will look at the last five decades of genocides, ethnic violence, land disputes, civil war, cross border conflict and a multi-national war that has impacted Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo due to one or many of these destabilizing factors.

Learn From the Best

Study with world-class experts who are renowned for their scholarship, influence, and networks.

Peter Lewis

Warren Weinstein Chair of African Studies, Director of Africa and Middle East Programs

Chiedo Nwankwor

Lecturer and Director of SAIS Women Lead

Deborah Bräutigam

Bernard L. Schwartz Professor in International Political Economy, Director of China-Africa Research Initiative

Mvemba Dizolele

Adjunct Lecturer

In the News

Big promises, few results: Chinese farms falter in Uganda.

Deborah Bräutigam cited in The Christian Science Monitor, 9/10

Are we missing the boat somewhere?

Deborah Bräutigam cited in Liberian Observer, 7/10

Pompeo's view of glory disgraces U.S. diplomacy.

Deborah Bräutigam quoted in Xinhua, 6/15

No evidence of Chinese debt traps in Africa.

Deborah Bräutigam interviewed on The China Africa Project podcast, 6/15

Ramaphosa’s bold pick for public works minister of South Africa.

Adjunct Lecturer of African Studies Anthony Carroll wrote for Council on Foreign Relations, 6/4

Can the Belt and Road become a trap for China?

Deborah Bräutigam cited in Project Syndicate, 5/22

SDG Knowledge Weekly: Update and Perspectives on Belt and Road Initiative.

Deborah Bräutigam cited in International Institute for Sustainable Development SDG Knowledge HUB, 5/2

Advance Your Career

Gain the intellectual framework and analytic skills necessary to enter a variety of roles across the public, private, multilateral, and nonprofit sectors.

Recent Internships

  • Albright Stonebridge Group
  • Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center, Abuja
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • US Department of State
  • UN Women
  • World Bank Group


Recent Employers

  • African Development Bank
  • Albright Stonebridge Group
  • Eurasia Group
  • HSBC
  • McKinsey & Company
  • South African Reserve Bank
  • United Nations


Build Your Network

Join a diverse, accomplished, influential community of scholars, practitioners, alumni, and students working across sectors in 140 countries around the world.

Students work with the Abuja Digital Institute for Northern Nigerian Women by training female entrepreneurs in northern Nigeria on digital skills to promote their participation in Nigeria’s rapidly growing digital economy.

Nigerian novelist and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi sits down with African Studies’ Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor to discuss ways to empower women in Africa and around the world.

Vice Admiral Michael T. Franken of AFRICOM visits the school to discuss strengthening the security capabilities of African nations.

The program hosts a conference on The Political Economy of Gender and Women’s Empowerment in Africa.

Developing Expertise on Africa

"I knew that I wanted to focus on Africa, and Johns Hopkins SAIS impressed me as one of the few schools that had a stand-alone African Studies program."

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Gaining Insights on Africa’s Economic Growth

"The African Studies Program has provided me with an impressive platform for research on the economic relationships among African countries."

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Oct 17 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm Room B616, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Navigating the World's Fast-Growing Economies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Implications for Africa

Landry Signé is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution. He joins the Africa Growth Initiative where his research focuses on the...

Oct 24 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm Room B616, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Can We Talk Our Way out of Development Problems? An Experiment from Niger

"Multi-stakeholder dialogues" are fashionable in the development community, ostensibly providing venues for deliberative democracy and political accountability. But do they actually improve civic engagement, government responsiveness, and other outcomes they...

Nov 6 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm Room 736, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW

The Regional Politics of an African Peace Deal: The Greater Horn after the Eritrea-Ethiopia Rapprochement

Michael Woldemariam is an associate professor of International Relations at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies. He also serves on BU’s graduate faculty of Political Science and is a faculty...

Beyond the Classroom

Our flexible curriculum empowers students to apply regional expertise to solve complex policy problems. Formal learning is bolstered by mentoring, experiential opportunities in Africa, and unrivaled internship opportunities.

Study Africa Up Close

Study trips are frequently sponsored during intersession and summer periods. Recent trips have brought students to Africa to analyze issues including constitutional development in South Sudan, China's engagement in Cameroon, education in conflict areas, and youth unemployment in South Africa.

Africa Association

The go-to resource for Africa connections. Learn and share about traveling, researching, living, and working in Africa. Help plan student-led programs on issues of development, health, international relations, and emerging markets on the continent.

World-Class Events

The school's academic programs and research centers regularly host expert policymakers, CEOs, heads of state, and scholars to campus. Students are encouraged to explore topics of interest by attending lectures, presentations, and special programming.

Student Government Association

Serve as the liaison between the student body and administration, offering ideas for programming at the school and selecting guest speakers for the faculty research seminar series.