HONR 219W

Although some academics, policymakers, and journalists argue that Africa is “falling off the world economic map”, some processes and activities associated with the global criminal economy forge strong economic links between parts of Africa and the rest of the world. Illegal economic activity, and the global networks that allow it to flourish, can be described as criminal, deviant globalization, or perverse development. This course explores the more sordid manifestations of globalization and how they impact African development and influence the Global North’s perception of the continent. In the course, students critically analyze why many types of illegal activities are geographically concentrated in African countries. We investigate how the economic and social contexts in which illegal products/services are produced, sold, and used for profit vary across place. Since criminal activity tends to be opportunistic, the course considers both the role of demand in destination countries (often among the world’s most affluent) and supply in the sites of production (often within the world’s poorest places, including African countries). We focus on two illegal global production networks—the illegal trade in gemstones and wildlife—and two forms of illegal activities that disrupt legal flows of money and goods—maritime piracy and cybercrime. Examining these activities the through the lens of traditional development theories and Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach, this course explores the perverse incentives that contribute to some members of African societies becoming participants in the global criminal economy. We also explore the consequences of illegal economic activity on global economic integration, consumption patterns, and international security.