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Centre of Development Studies



Helena Pérez Niño is a Lecturer in Political Economy of Development. Before joining the Centre for Development Studies, Helena was a lecturer at SOAS University of London. She received her PhD in 2015 with a dissertation on the social relations of production in export agriculture in the Mozambique-Malawi borderland. Helena was an ESRC postdoctoral fellow at SOAS; a research fellow at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) in the University of Western Cape in South Africa as well as a visiting researcher at the Institute of Social and Economic Studies (IESE) in Mozambique. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Southern African Studies. Before her doctoral studies, Helena worked for UNICEF, UNHCR and different NGOs in Colombia and Angola.


Helena’s research focuses on the political economy of development and the historical processes of agrarian change and structural transformation, particularly in Southern Africa. In parallel with her core interest on the articulation of agricultural producers and workers with global production networks, she has conducted research on migrant labour, export logistics, natural resources and foreign aid.

Helena’s current work looks at the expansion in Southern Africa of tobacco leaf produced in contract farming arrangements and its implications for agricultural export sectors, rural development and processes of class formation. Contract farming solves some of the constraints in the articulation of producers and markets and helps trading and processing firms secure stable supplies of commodities. However, by socialising the costs and risks of commodity production, contract farming tends to accelerate processes of social differentiation and it throws into sharp relief the contradictions between capital and labour.

Her ESRC-funded project ‘Opportunities and conflicts in rapid agricultural growth: creating awareness and policy engagement with contract farming in Southern Africa’ studied the expansion of contract farming in tobacco leaf whilst linking corporate strategies and state policies into a class-based analysis of agricultural production and exchange in Southern Africa.


Key publications: 

Pérez Niño, H., (2019). ‘Labour migration in Africa since 1900’. In A. Eckert, U. Nwokeji, & S. Bellucci, eds. General Labour History of Africa, Volume I: The Age of Capitalism (1900-2020). ILO- International Institute of Social History. James Currey.

Pérez Niño, H. (2017). ‘Migrant workers into contract farmers: processes of labour mobilization in colonial and contemporary Mozambique’, Africa, 87(1), pp. 79–99. doi: 10.1017/S000197201600070X.

Pérez Niño, H., (2016). Class dynamics in contract farming: The case of tobacco production in Mozambique. Third World Quarterly, 37(10), p.1787-1808, DOI:10.1080/01436597.2016.1180956.

Pérez Niño, Helena and Le Billon, Philippe (2016). The effects of foreign aid on political settlements: the case of Mozambique and the contrast of Angola. In Hagmann, T. and F. Reyntjens (Eds). Development without democracy: foreign aid and authoritarian regimes in Africa. Zed Books.

Pérez Niño, Helena (2015). The rise of tobacco agriculture in Mozambique: questions and challenges for a transforming sector. In Castel-Branco, C. N., N. Massinge and C. Muianga (Eds). Questions on productive development in Mozambique. IESE: Maputo (English and Portuguese editions).

Pérez Niño, Helena (2015). The road ahead: the development and prospects of the road freight sector in Mozambique, a case study in the Beira corridor. In Castel-Branco, C. N., N. Massinge and C. Muianga (Eds). Questions on productive development in Mozambique. IESE: Maputo (English and Portuguese editions).

Pérez Niño, Helena and Le Billon, Philippe (2014). Foreign aid, resource rents and state fragility in Mozambique and Angola. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. November 2014 656: 79-96.

Goodhand, J., P. Meehan and H. Pérez-Niño (2014) Drugs, (dis)order and agrarian change: the political economy of drugs and its relevance to international drug policy. Occasional publications, NOREF.

Pérez Niño, Helena and Le Billon, Philippe (2013). Foreign aid, resource rents and institution-building in Mozambique and Angola (No. 2013/102). WIDER Working Paper. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER.

Teaching and Supervisions

  • Paper 43: Development Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa (course co-ordinator with Jon Phillips)
  • Paper 1: Development economics (contributor)
  • PhD methodological course (course co-ordinator with Jon Phillips)
  • Helena contributes to other courses in the Centre and is the MPhil Course Director for Development Studies 2019/20
BA (Universidad Nacional de Colombia);
MSc, PhD (SOAS University of London)
Currently not taking PhD students and not available for MPhil dissertation supervision
Dr Helena  Pérez Niño