Sustainable Development in Africa Graduate Credit Certificate Program

Person-in-ChargeKidane Mengisteab
Program CodeSDVAF
Campus(es)University Park

Climate change has become a serious challenge to sustainable development worldwide. The African continent seems to have been disproportionately impacted by climate change. In addition to global warming, the African continent is facing rapid population growth, rapid urbanization, rapid growth of extractive industries, and rapid deforestation. All these developments have created an alarming rate of environmental degradation.The continent also has low adaptation capacity to global warming and is already producing a growing number of environmental refugees. This 12-credit Certificate in Sustainable Development in Africa aims to engage graduate students with the issues, debates, and analyses related to sustainable and equitable development in Africa. Students will learn about the key global and regional drivers of environmental degradation, how the environmental degradation has impacted African societies, and how Africa may develop effective adaptation mechanisms to withstand or even reverse the degradation process. This certificate will provide students an opportunity to engage with current topics from a specifically African perspective, and it foregrounds competency in the UN Sustainability Goals in line with similar priorities in Penn State Global and the Sustainability Institute. Students will receive training in development theory and practice to understand the place of Africa in global environmental change. Students will learn to critically analyze the complex interrelationships and trades offs between development and environmental costs. Students can choose to focus on an area of study such as: resource extraction (e.g., mining) and governance, food and agriculture, water, renewable energy (e.g., solar), and development practice. Students are encouraged but not required to pursue study abroad and embedded travel opportunities on the African continent with a specific focus on sustainability.

Effective Semester: Fall 2023
Expiration Semester: Fall 2028

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies. International applicants may be required to satisfy an English proficiency requirement; see GCAC-305 Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Students enrolled in graduate programs at Penn State University and non-degree students currently not enrolled in a graduate degree program my apply to the African Studies Program for admission to this certificate program via the Graduate School application. The requirements for admission for students in degree programs include relevant academic background and a GPA of 3.0.  Admission requirements for non-degree applicants include relevant academic background, work experience, and a GPA of 2.5 and above.

Certificate Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in Graduate Council policy GCAC-212 Postbaccalaureate Credit Certificate Programs.

To earn a graduate certificate in sustainable development in Africa, a minimum of 12 credits of graduate and 400 level courses is required. No more than 3 credits may come from individual studies, and no more than 6 credits may come from 400 level courses.

Required Courses
6 to 9 credits from the following courses:6-9
Key Issues in African Studies
Migration, Urbanization, and Policy in the Developing World
Environment and Livelihoods in Africa
Political Economy of Energy and Extractive Industries in Africa (Oil and Mining)
War and Development in Africa
3-6 credit from the following relevant African Studies courses, or focal topic course offered by other units:3-6
Individual Studies
Extractive Industries in Africa
Globalization and Its Implications
Youth Civic Development
International Agricultural Development Seminar
Forest and Conservation Economics
Global Agricultural Systems
Agroforestry: Science, Design, and Practice
Human Use of Environment
Total Credits12


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Critically analyze key factors that impact adversely sustainable development in Africa as well as in the rest of the world.
  2. Appraise Africa’s environmental degradation and its impacts on African societies.
  3. Analyze and evaluate different policy measures of adaptability to environmental changes and sustainable development in Africa.