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GEOG212 Transformations in Developing Countries

Semester One, 18 points

Lectures: Tuesday & Thursday: 1pm – 1.50pm
Tutorials: one 50 minute tutorial fortnightly

Course Coordinator: Professor Tony Binns –

This course critically examines the nature of various transformations in the 54 countries of Africa. In the early 21st century, Africa remains the world’s poorest continent, with roughly half the population living on less than 1.25 US$ per day, and an average life expectancy of just 59. For decades, the continent has been associated with food shortages, natural disasters, civil war, corruption, environmental degradation and poverty. Compounding this is the pervasive view that development interventions in recent years have failed to improve the living standards of the poor.

Initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s development, the G8 meeting, the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, and the UK Commission on Africa, have propelled Africa into the political and media spotlight. Rather than reaffirming negative stereotypes, however, recent attention has focused more on Africa’s diversity and complexity, the inter-related nature of development issues, and the potential of Africa to make a positive contribution to its own development needs.

This course should appeal to students from wide academic backgrounds. In the context of the renewed interest in Africa, it explores the reasons behind Africa’s present condition and examines a number of key development issues such as environmental degradation, health, rural and urban livelihood strategies, community-based development, conflict, aid and trade. The course seeks to challenge stereotypical perceptions of Africa and, through the use of specific case studies, identifies strategies that promote equitable and sustainable human development.

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A critical study of major rural and urban development issues and problems in developing countries.

The paper provides a wide-ranging introduction to development and change across the African continent. Environmental, political, economic and social patterns and processes are considered and future development strategies are critically evaluated.

Paper title Transformations in Developing Countries
Paper code GEOG212
Subject Geography
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,092.15
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,004.75

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GEOG 102 or 108 points
GEOG 382
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Science
The content of the paper assumes that students have undertaken at least one introductory paper at University that covers related topics.
Teaching staff

Course Coordinators : Professor JA (Tony) Binns and Professor Etienne Nel

Paper Structure

Part 1 Introduction

  • Introduction to the course
  • Africa's diversity
  • Africa's historical record

Part 2 Rural Africa

  • Rural Livelihoods
  • Pastoralism
  • Wetlands and irrigation

Part 3 Urban Africa

  • Patterns and processes in African urbanisation

Part 4 Key Issues

  • Conflict and post-conflict
  • Famine and famine relief
  • Health and welfare

Part 5 Urban Africa

  • Development strategies
  • Local economic development
  • African Union and regional collaboration
  • Future development priorities

Assessment is 60% internal (on-going during the semester) and 40% external (final examination)

Teaching Arrangements

2 lectures per week and 5 x 50 minute tutorials scheduled over the 13 weeks of semester

Binns, T., Dixon, A. and Nel, E. (2012) Africa: Diversity and Development. London, Routledge, ISBN: 978-0-415-41368-8
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Communication, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • An understanding of the key concepts in development
  • An appreciation of the physical and human diversity in Africa
  • An understanding of the development challenges facing Africa in the 21st century
  • An ability to evaluate development problems and processes in Africa using a wide range of primary and secondary materials.

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 9-13, 15-22
Thursday 14:00-14:50 9-13, 15-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
T1 Monday 11:00-11:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T2 Monday 12:00-12:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T3 Monday 13:00-13:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T4 Tuesday 09:00-09:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T5 Tuesday 11:00-11:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T6 Tuesday 15:00-15:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T7 Wednesday 12:00-12:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T8 Wednesday 15:00-15:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21
T9 Thursday 11:00-11:50 10, 12, 15, 18, 21