Formal approaches that map and model social structure – known as Social Network Analysis or SNA – have spread across academic disciplines.

Thus far, however, the vast majority of these studies have been conducted in North America and Western Europe. In the rest of the world, where relational issues are just as important, the use of SNA to understand social structures is in its early stages.

In Africa, especially, very little is known of the ties that bind individual, groups and organizations, how they serve as channels for flows of material and information flows, and how they influence social, economic and political outcomes.

A tentative list of studies using SNA in Sub-Saharan Africa

Below, you’ll find a list of (relatively) recent papers that have used SNA to formally map and model social structures in Sub-Saharan Africa. This list is by no means comprehensive, so feel free to contact me if I missed anything.

Trade, entrepreneurship and manufacturing activities

  • Akoten, J.E., Otsuka, K. 2007. From tailors to mini‑manufacturers: The role of traders in the performance of garment enterprises in Kenya. Journal of African Economies 16(4): 564–595.
  • Barr, A. 2002. The functional diversity and spillover effects of social capital. Journal of African Economies 11(1): 90–113.
  • Berrou, J.‑P., Combarnous, F. 2011. Testing Lin’s social capital theory in an informal African urban economy. The Journal of Development Studies 47(8): 1216–1240
  • Bähre 2012. The janus face of insurance in South Africa: from costs to risk, from networks to bureaucracies. Africa 82(1): 150–167.
  • Burns, J., Godlonton, S., Keswell, M. 2010. Social networks, employment and worker discouragement: Evidence from South Africa. Labour Economics 17(2): 336–344.
  • Caria, A.S., Hassen, I.W. 2013. The formation of job referral networks: Experimental evidence from urban Ethiopia. Washington, D.C, IFPRI Discussion Paper 1282.
  • Chipika, S., Wilson, G. 2006. Enabling technological learning among light engineering SMEs in Zimbabwe through networking. Technovation 26(8): 969–979.
  • Fafchamps, M. 2001. Networks, communities, and markets in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for firm growth and investment. Journal of African Economies 10(2): 109–142.
  • Fafchamps, M. 2006. Development and social capital. Journal of Development Studies 42(7): 1180–1198.
  • Fafchamps, M., Minten, B. 1999. Relationships and traders in Madagascar. Journal of Development Studies 35(6): 1–35.
  • Fafchamps, M, Minten, B. 2002. Returns to social network capital among traders. Oxford Economic Papers 54: 173–206.
  • Hofmeyr, A. 2010. Social networks and ethnic niches: an econometric analysis of the manufacturing sector in South Africa. South African Journal of Economics 78: 107–130.
  • Ishiwata, A., Matouš, P., Todo, Y. 2014. Effects of business networks on firm growth in a cluster of micro‑enterprises: Evidence from rural Ethiopia. RIETI Discussion Paper 14.
  • Kuépié, M., Tenikue, M., Walther, O. 2015. Social networks and small businesses performance in West African border regions. Oxford Development Studies 44(2): 202–219.
  • Nordman, C.J, Pasquier-Doumer, L. 2015. Transitions in a West African labour market: The role of family networks. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics 54: 74–85.
  • Rooks, G., A. Szirmaic, Sserwangab, A. 2014. Network structure and innovative performance of African entrepreneurs: The case of Uganda. Journal of African Economies 21(4): 609–636.
  • Schöer, V., Rankin, N. Roberts, G. 2012. Accessing the first job in a slack labour market: Job matching in South Africa. Journal of International Development 26(1): 1–22.
  • Walther, O. 2015. Business, brokers and borders: The structure of West African trade networks. Journal of Development Studies 51(5): 603–620.
  • Walther, O. 2014. Trade networks in West Africa: A social network approach. Journal of Modern African Studies 52(2): 179–203.
  • Zook, S. 2017. Subsistence urban markets and incountry remittances: A social network analysis of urban street vendors in Ghana and the transfer of resources to rural villages. Georgia State University, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.

Agriculture, pastoralism, fisheries

  • Bandiera, O., Rasul, I. 2006. Social networks and technology adoption in northern Mozambique. Economic Journal 116: 869– 902.
  • Bodin, Ö., Crona, B., Thyresson, M., Golz, A.-L., Tengö, M. 2014. Conservation success as a function of good alignment of social and ecological structures and processes. Conservation Biology 28: 1371–1379.
  • Bourne, M., Gassner, A., Makui, P., Muller, A., Muriuki, J. 2017. A network perspective filling a gap in assessment of agricultural advisory system performance. Journal of Rural Studies 50: 30–44.
  • Caudella, M., Rotolob, T., Grimaca, M. 2015. Informal lending networks in rural Ethiopia. Social Networks 40: 34–42.
  • Conley, T.G., Udry, C.R. 2010. Learning about a new technology: Pineapple in Ghana. American Economic Review 100(1): 35–69.
  • Hauck J, Youkhana E. 2008. Claims and realities of community-based water resource management: A case study of rural fisheries in Ghana, in Nanang D.M, Nunifu T.K. (eds) Natural Resources in Ghana. Hauppauge, Nova Science: 143–163.
  • Isaac, M.E., Matouš, P. 2017. Social network ties predict land use diversity and land use change: a case study in Ghana. Regional Environmental ChangeDOI:10.1007/s10113-017-1151-3.
  • Isaac, M.E., Anglaaere, L.C.N., Akoto, D.S., Dawoe, E. 2014. Migrant farmers as information brokers: Agroecosystem management in the transition zone of Ghana. Ecology and Society 19(2): 56.
  • Isaac, M.E. 2012. Agricultural information exchange and organizational ties: The effect of network topology on managing agrodiversity. Agricultural Systems 109: 9-15.
  • Isaac, M.E, Erickson, B., Quashie-Sam, J., Timmer, V.R. 2007. Transfer of agroforestry practices and management techniques: Structure of informal advice networks. Ecology and Society 12(2): 32.
  • Mano, Y., Yamano, T., Suzuki, A. 2011. Local and personal networks in employment and the development of labor markets: Evidence from the cut flower industry in Ethiopia. World Development 39(10): 1760–1770.
  • Matouš, P., Todo, Y., Mojo, D. 2013. Roles of extension and ethno-religious networks in acceptance of resource-conserving agriculture among Ethiopian farmers. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 11(4): 301–316.
  • Mekonnen, D.A., Gerber, N., Matz, J.A. 2017. Gendered social networks, agricultural innovations, and farm productivity in Ethiopia. World Development, DOI:10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.04.020.
  • Spielman, D.J., Davis, K., Negash, M., Ayele, G. 2011. Rural innovation systems and networks: findings from a study of Ethiopian smallholders. Agriculture and Human Values 28: 195–212.

Development and policy

  • Bloom, E., Kummer, E., Reeves, M. 2006. Building Dynamic Local Service Provider Communities: A Value Chain Approach. Washington, D.C., USAID, Office of Private and Voluntary Cooperation (read).
  • Bloom, E., Reeves, M., Sunseri, A., Nyhan-Jones, V. 2008. Strengthening networks: Using organizational network analysis to promote network effectiveness, scale, and accountability. World Bank Capacity Development Briefs 28.
  • IRC 2016. Social Network Analysis Handbook. Connecting the Dots in Humanitarian Programs. International Rescue Committee, July (read).
  • OECD/SWAC. 2017. Cross-border Co-operation and Policy Networks in West Africa. Paris, OECD Publishing (read).
  • Rennkamp B, Haunss S, Wongsa K, Ortega A, Casamadrid E. 2017. Competing coalitions: The politics of renewable energy and fossil fuels in Mexico, South Africa and Thailand. Energy Research & Social Science 34: 214–223.
  • Schiffer, E., Mustapha, A.Y., Mustaph, A.L. 2012. Planning, budgeting and disbursing funds for newborn survival in Katsina State, Nigeria – a Net-Map analysis. Washington, D.C., Net-Map Toolbox (read).
  • Schiffer, E. 2012. Using Net‑Map to assess and improve agricultural innovation systems, in World Bank (ed.) Agricultural Innovation Systems: An Investment Sourcebook. Washington, D.C, The World Bank: 593–597.
  • Schiffer, E., Harwich, F., Monge, M. 2010. Who has influence in multi stakeholder governance systems? Using the Net‑Map method to analyze social networking in watershed management in northern Ghana. IFPRI Discussion Paper 964.
  • Walther, O., Renk, S. 2017. Can social network analysis inform African development policies? An application to food security, market analysis and gender. Dakar, World Food Program (read).


  • Walther O, Leuprecht C, Skillicorn D. 2018. Networks and spatial patterns of extremist organizations in North and West Africa, in Walther O, Miles W. (eds). African Border Disorders. Abingdon, Routledge: 60-86.
  • Skillicorn D, Walther O, Zheng Q, Leuprecht C. 2018. Spatial and temporal diffusion of political violence in North and West Africa, in Walther O, Miles W. (eds). African Border Disorders. Abingdon, Routledge: 87-112.
  • Walther, O., Christopoulos, D. 2015. Islamic terrorism and the Malian rebellion. Terrorism and Political Violence 27(3): 497-519.
  • Walther O, Tisseron A. 2015. Strange bedfellows: a network analysis of Mali’s northern conflict. The Broker, Dec 18 (read).


  • Adams, A.M., Madhavan, S., Simon, D. 2002. Women’s social networks and child survival in Mali. Social Science & Medicine 54: 165–178.
  • Adams, A.M., Madhavan, S., Simon, D. 2006. Measuring social networks cross-culturally. Social Networks 28(4): 363-376.
  • Blanchet, K., James, P. 2012. The role of social networks in the governance of health systems: The case of eye care systems in Ghana. Health Policy and Planning 28(2): 143-156.
  • Helleringer, S., Kohler, H.-P. 2007. Sexual network structure and the spread of HIV in Africa: evidence from Likoma Island, Malawi. Aids 21(17): 2323-2332.
  • Helleringer, S., Kohler, H.-P. 2005. Social networks, perceptions of risk, and changing attitudes towards HIV/AIDS: new evidence from a longitudinal study using fixed-effects analysis. Population Studies 59(3): 265-282.
  • Kamya, C., Shearer, J., Asiimwe, G., Carnahan, E., Salisbury, N., Waiswa, P., Brinkerhoff, J., Hozumi, D. 2017. Evaluating global health partnerships: a case study of a Gavi HPV vaccine application process in Uganda. International Journal of Health Policy and Management 6(6): 327-328.
  • Mulawa M, Yamanis T, Hill L, Balvanz P, Kajula L, Maman S. 2016. Evidence of social network influence on multiple HIV risk behaviors and normative beliefs among young Tanzanian men. Social Science and Medicine 15: 35-43.
  • Shearer, J.C., Dion, M., Lavis, J.N. 2014. Exchanging and using research evidence in health policy networks: A statistical network analysis. Implementation Science 9(1): 126.
  • Shearer, J.C. 2015. Policy entrepreneurs and structural influence in integrated community case management policymaking in Burkina Faso. Health Policy and Planning 30(suppl_2): ii46-ii53.
  • Wonodi, C.B., Privor-Dumm, L., Aina, M., Pate, A.M., Reis, R., Gadhoke, P., Levine, O.S. 2012. Using social network analysis to examine the decision-making process on new vaccine introduction in Nigeria. Health Policy and Planning 27(suppl_2): ii27-ii38.
  • Yamanis T, Dervisevic E, Mulawa M, Conserve D, Barrington C, Kajula L, Maman S. 2017. Social network influence on HIV testing among urban men in Tanzania. AIDS and Behavior 21(4): 1171-1182.
  • Yamanis T, Fisher J, Moody JW, and Kajula LJ. 2015. Young men’s social network characteristics and associations with sexual partnership concurrency in Tanzania. AIDS and Behavior 20(6): 1244-1255.

Technologies and communication

  • Kusimba, S.B., Yang, Y., Chawla, N.V. 2015. Family networks of mobile money in Kenya. Information Technologies & International Development 11(3): 1-21.
  • Lamb, J.N., Moore, K.M., Norton, J., Omondi, E.C., Laker-Ojok, R., Sikuku, D.N., Ashilenje, D.S. and Odera, J., 2016. A social networks approach for strengthening participation in technology innovation: Lessons learnt from the Mount Elgon region of Kenya and Uganda. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 14(1): 65-81.
  • Miller, B.P., Shrum, W. 2011. The gender digital divide in the research sectors of Ghana, Kenya, and Kerala: Are women more connected over time? Gender, Technology and Development 15(1): 25-52.
  • Shrum, W, Mbatia P.N., Palackal, A., Dzorgbo, D.B.S., Duque, R.B., Ynalvez, M.A. 2011. Mobile phones and core network growth in Kenya: Strengthening weak ties. Social Science Research 40(2): 614-625.


  • See Karen Garrett’s team at University of Florida.

And of course:

  • Mitchell, J.C. (ed.) 1969. Social Networks in Urban Situations. Analyses of Personal Relationships in Central African Towns. Manchester, Manchester University Press (see Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis here).