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Leiden University

Federalism & Decentralization: Evaluating Africa's Track Record

Leiden University via Coursera

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In this political science course you will learn about the twin concepts of federalism and decentralization. You will develop an understanding of the core ideas that federalism and decentralization rest on, and study the building blocks that make them both work. Following a general overview of both federalism and decentralization, we will examine a number of case-studies from Africa where federalism and decentralization have been changing the continent’s political landscape in the last twenty years, coinciding with unprecedented levels of economic growth.

What is federalism and how is it different from decentralization? What are the core ideas behind these concepts? Do federalism and decentralization enhance democracy, governance and diversity? Is that why virtually all countries south of the Sahara are now either federal or decentralized? We will be looking at Africa's track-record in order to answer these questions.

By the end of the course, you will have acquired a general knowledge of federalism/decentralization and additional empirical knowledge of a number of African cases. Upon completion you will also acquire the ability to unpack and understand a variety of potential consequences of federalism/decentralization reforms in the developing world.


  • Welcome to this course. The Three Promises of Federalism and Decentralization
    • Great that you are joining us. In this course you will learn about Federalism & Decentralization in Africa. Before you start, we invite you to first go through our intro module and introduce yourself in the forum to meet your fellow learners. If you encounter any difficulties while studying, please let us know in the forum. For technical difficulties or questions regarding the course certificate, you can always contact the Coursera Learner Helpdesk. Good luck & we hope you enjoy studying in this course. In this first module you can also find the introduction video and an exploration of the three promises of Federalism and Decentralization.
  • Core Ideas in Federalism and Decentralization
    • This module will cover important concepts such as shared-rule and self-rule, autonomy, multiple identities and distributed authority. Don't forget to keep up with the readings for optimal understanding and application of this week's material. Do you have any questions, statements, remarks or other points you would like to discuss? Do not hesitate to post them in the Discussion Forums and a staff member or other course participants will be able to help you out.
  • The Building Blocks of Federalism and Decentralization
    • In this module we will discuss the various legal, political, and social foundations of federalism and decentralization. As you can see, this topic requires a true interdisciplinary perspective.
  • Federalism in Post-Conflict Societies
    • In previous modules, you've learned the theory behind federalism and decentralization, as well as the most important concepts and building blocks, This module, we will look at three case studies to acquire insight into how federalism and decentralization work in practice: Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia.
  • Decentralization, Democracy and Economic Development
    • While previous modules focused on federalism, Module 5 is all about decentralization. We will analyze the related but different dynamics decentralization presents. In particular, we will focus on the economic implications of decentralization on Africa. We will cover various perspectives that highlight state capacity, international factors, design of decentralized institutions, unintended long-term consequences, and uncodified home-grown practices of local governance.
  • Critical Issues in Federalism and Decentralization
    • This module will cover critical issues in Federalism and Decentralization, and will bring the knowledge and insights from previous modules together. The notion of state capacity will be unpacked into political, administrative, infrastructural, and economic components. We will also evaluate the relative importance of international know-how and local traditions.

Taught by

Jan Erk


4.0 rating, based on 4 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 131 ratings

Start your review of Federalism & Decentralization: Evaluating Africa's Track Record

  • Anonymous
    The Course of Federalism and Decentralization: Evaluation Africa's Track Record is one of the most valuable educational course i have attended. I can say, this course is a very prepared courses in terms of course context, resources, instructions and course framework. the knowledge and concept was very relevant and updated.

    I would like to thank to Dr, Jan Erk for his for his tireless contribution to the course. Everyone will appreciate your effort.
  • Anonymous
    Excellent course. It gave me a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of how government works in Africa. Detailed and accessibly presented, would absolutely reccomend to anyone interested.
  • Deepak Jois

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