Contemporary Political & Economic Issues: An Annotated List of Books, Simulations, Videos and Lesson Plans for Teaching

Compiled by Barbara Brown, Ph.D.,
Director of the Outreach Program
For many more teaching resources:

All materials listed below can be borrowed for free
Monday-Friday 9am- 5pm.
N.B.: We recommend phoning or emailing first to make sure that we haven’t stepped out.

Key Useful Books

Edge, Wayne. Global Studies: Africa. Eleventh Edition. McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2006.A great book with four pages on each African country. Also contains sections with two dozen short interesting articles on contemporary topics. The book could work well as your “crib sheet”. The book is reissued bi-annually with updates in the country section and new articles in the final section.

Freund, Bill. The Making of Contemporary Africa. The Development of African Society Since 1800 Second Edition. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998. (last chapter is especially recommended). The Making of Contemporary Africa provides a succinct introduction to the history of modern Africa, incorporating a refreshing reinterpretation of developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as a critical appraisal of the best scholarship of recent years.

Gordon, April A. and Donald L. Gordon. Understanding Contemporary Africa. Third Edition. Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1998. This book contains many fine chapters, each on a different key topic, such as economies of Africa and Africa’s International Relations.

Martin, Phyllis M, and Patrick O’Meara. Africa. Third Edition. Indiana University Press, 1995. (esp. the last five chapters on the economies of Africa today and on African politics). [This] volume provides an overview of the continent and its history with special emphasis on the significant themes that relate to Africa as a whole, including the development of early humans, social change, colonialism, and African systems of thought.

McBrier, Page. Beatrice’s Goat. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001. For grades 1-4. Heifer International has created a fine teaching guide for elementary skids on development, using the true story of one family in Uganda. A video is also available, including a segment about this Ugandan family: The Promise. Heifer International, Dick Young Productions, Ltd., 1995.

NB: Terrific novels and short stories also exist on these themes. Please contact us for recommendations.

Simulations & Curriculum Guides

Decisions, Decisions: Building a Nation. Tom Snyder Productions, Inc. For Grades 5-12. Students are given typical scenarios and play different roles as they struggle to make good decisions for their country. Each student has a detailed “playbook” to help think through what a good decision might be. It turns out there are no easy answers!

Singleton, Laura and Caroline Starbird. Get it! Global Education to Improve Tomorrow. Heifer International, 2004. For grades 6-8. A lively, comprehensive, age-appropriate curriculum unit on key development issues.

Keller, Edmond, Epifania A. Amoo-Adare, Robin N. Johnson, and Judith Stevenson. GlobalLink-Africa Curriculum & Teacher Guidelines. The Regents of the University of California, 2005. Text accompanied by a CD. For grades 9-12.

Freedom in Our Lifetime: South Africa’s Struggle. Choices for the 21st Century Education Program, Watson Institute for International Studies, 2003. For high school students. Students are introduced to pre-colonial and colonial South Africa and the development of apartheid. Students have the opportunity to evaluate decisions made by anti-apartheid activists and to reflect on South Africa’s transition to a post-apartheid society.

Hanging By A Thread: Trade, Debt and Cotton in Tanzania. Leeds Development Education Centre, 1992. For ages 13-19. It focuses on issues of international trade and debt using cotton production in Tanzania as a case study.

Help, Handout or Hinderance: U.S. Support for the Developing World. Choices for the 21st Century Education Program, Watson Institute for International Studies, 1995. For high school students. This curriculum evaluates our country’s relationship with poor countries, particularly the effectiveness of foreign aid, trade benefits and other economic levers. Students debate the prospects for exporting the American values of democracy, free enterprise, and human rights.

Modern Africa. Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 1996. For high school students. This unit engages students in the history of Africa through a process of self-discovery and interactive pedagogy. The unit is filled with dynamic activities that make this history come alive for students who might otherwise find the subject remote, boring, or inaccessible. Each activity is highlighted with a visual symbol alerting you to the specific teaching approach.


Mambety, Djibril Diop. Hyenas. 1992. 113 min.
A scorned woman returns to her village as the richest woman in the world and offers the villagers a trillion dollars to execute the man who betrayed her. An adaptation of the Swiss parable, “The Visit of the Old Woman,” this drama is a biting satire of today’s Africa— betraying the hopes of independence for the false promises of (Western) materialism. For grades 10-adult.

Ellis, Glenn. Delta Force. 1994. 54 min.
This powerful documentary discusses the ecological, economic and social turmoil caused by Shell Oil and the Nigerian government in Ogoniland. Graphic footage and powerful interviews (including with murdered poet Ken Saro-Wiwa) make this film highly provocative and informative. For grades 9-adult. Depicts violence that may upset some students.

Famine and Chronic Persistent Hunger, A Life and Death Distinction. The Hunger Project, 1989. 11 min.
This video makes graphically clear, by focusing on different case studies of Third World nations, the critical distinction between famine and chronic hunger— and what needs to be done to end each. The video shows that it is persistent which we need to focus on, as it kills many more people than famine. For grades 6-adult.

A Woman’s Place. PBS Documentary. 1998. 60 min total, though the Africa segment is 20 min.
This video tells the intimate stories of women from three countries who are fighting to balance the scales of power so that “a man’s world” is also a woman’s place. Throughout history, a woman’s place has been prescribed by culture and custom but, in recent times, laws have begun to challenge the old belief systems. Can new laws change old ways? This is the central question explored in this one-hour documentary as it travels to rural South Africa, middle America and Bombay, India, to meet women who put a face on the conflict between tradition and change. Each segment is 20 min long, ideal for classroom showing. For grades 8-adult.

Wambu, Onyekachi. Hopes on the Horizon. Blackside, Inc. 2000. Six independent segments of 20 min each.
For grades 10-adult.
Through on-camera interviews and video footage of key events, Hopes on the Horizon chronicles the rise of major movements for social justice in six African countries during the 1990’s: Benin, Nigeria, Rwanda, Morocco, Mozambique, and South Africa. Each country segment is 20 minutes long, ideal for classroom showing. Comes with discussion guide.

The Avoidable Famine. Yorkshire Television, 1998. 20 min.
For grades 10-adult.
Sudan, the largest nation in Africa, has produced enough food for its own needs plus export. In the 1980’s changing crops and farming techniques produced famine and stripped the land. This film examines the reasons behind these changes and looks at how the Sudan has responded to the destruction of a traditional way of life. Accompanied by study materials.

Basil Davidson. The Story of a Continent: Africa. 1984. 57 minutes each program.
Author of over 30 books on Africa, Basil Davidson guides viewers through history and across a continent to discover the richness of Africa’s cultures. Eight programs span the years from early civilization and centuries of slavery to colonial rule and independence. Archival film, interviews, eyewitness accounts, and dramatic reconstructions emphasize the achievements of the African people and the importance of their history.