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Centre of African Studies: People


Thomas Molony

Thomas Molony
Dr Thomas Molony
Senior Lecturer in African Studies
4.04 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 6976
Research Interests
African elections, African security, African politics, Tanzania, Kenya, East Africa, Swahili, Research methods in Africa, ICT in Africa, African Studies, African history, African biography, Security, Social media in Africa, Security

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Tom is on research leave until April 2021, and thereafter on sabbatical


BA Hons (Stirling); MSc (Edinburgh); PhD (Edinburgh)


After a period teaching at a secondary school in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Tom studied History at the University of Stirling, Scotland, with courses concentrating on pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial central and east Africa. He then moved to Edinburgh and completed the MSc in African Studies at CAS, with a dissertation on women in the informal sector in South Pare; the area of Kilimanjaro where he taught in the mid-90s. Tom then worked on African enterprise development at UNCTAD, Geneva, before undertaking his PhD, also at CAS. His doctoral thesis, 'Food, Carvings and Shelter: the adoption and appropriation of information and communication technologies in Tanzanian micro and small enterprises', is said to be the earliest academic study of the effect of mobile phones and the internet on business in an African economy, and is listed in the GSMA Development Fund’s Top 20 Research on Economic and Social Impacts of Mobile Phones in Developing Countries. Some of the findings from this study were written up during a postdoctoral fellowship ('Information and Communication Technology in the African Market'), held jointly at the Centre of African Studies and the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology & Innovation. All his funding at CAS was supported by the ESRC, as was his post as advisor on ICT in developing countries at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Westminster. Tom then moved to GAES at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he was a postdoctoral fellow working on 'ICT, Livelihoods and the Millennium Development Goals: Evidence from Africa'. Tom has served as a long-term election observer with The Carter Center for the 2008 presidential elections in Ghana, as a short-term observer for the European Union Election Observation Mission to Malawi in 2009,  for the Carter Center's 2013 election observation mission in Kenya, as a long-term observer for the European Union's 2014 Election Observation Mission to Malawi,  the EU's 2015 Election Observation Mission to Tanzania and, most recently, for the EU's 2017 mission to Kenya.

Current research

Tom is Principal Investigator of four UKRI-funded projects: 

  1. The UKRI GCRF/Newton Fund 'African Elections during the COVID-19 Pandemic' project. 
  2. The GCRF-funded 'Developing Data? Markets and Politics in a Digital Age' project. 
  3. The ESRC-DFID-funded 'Social Media and Security in Africa' project.
  4. The ESRC-funded 'Local Perceptions and Media Representation of Election Observation in Africa' project. (Starting in 2021.) 

Previous research project leads include as Principal Investigator of the British Library-funded Protecting the Archive of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa project, and as Key Investigator on the ‘Somali financial flows and transnational spaces between Kenya and Uganda’ project, under subcontract awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

His Edinburgh Research Explorer listing can be accessed here: 


Tom is convenor of the following courses: Research in Africa (PG), Swahili 1A (PG), Swahili 1B (PG), Swahili Language & Culture 1A (UG) and Swahili Language & Culture 1B (UG). 


Tom's current PhD students

  • Patrick Brobbey: 'Understanding Public Perceptions of the Role of the Judiciary in Elections: A case study of Kenya' 
  • Lauren Engels: 'The Politics of Fast Fashion: Analyzing the political dynamics of industrial policy in Kenya' 
  • Denis Galava: 'From Analogue Gossip to Digital Rumours: Social media and politics in Kenya' 
  • Patrick Mutahi: ‘Understanding Policing and Security Management in Two Informal Settlements in Kenya’ 
  • Kamau Wairuri: ‘Policing the Urban Margins: Citizen security, the police reform agenda and the crisis of urban governance in Nairobi’ 
  • Stina Moldrup Wolff: 'Making Cities, Making Citizens: Urban development, governance and citizenship in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania' 

Tom's previous PhD students

  • Dr Zac Baynham-Herd: 'Resolving the Conservationist's Dilemma: Using experimental approaches to investigate conservation conflict in an Tanzanian Wildlife Management Area'
  • Dr Clayton Boeyink: 'The Politics and Practises of Refugee Self-Reliance in Trifurcated States of north-western Tanzania'
  • Dr Sara Brouwer: 'Foodscapes, Wellbeing and the Daily Lives of Zimbabweans in Urban Southern Africa'
  • Dr Ismaila Ceesay: 'Aligners, Lovers and Deceptors: Aspirations and strategies of young urban hustlers in the Gambia'
  • Dr Crystal Courtney: 'Sustainable Africapitalism? Grassroots perceptions of Maasai Mara conservancies and their relationship with development'
  • Dr Ivan Cuesta Fernandez: 'Kilowatts, Megawatts and Power: Electric territorialities of the state in the peripheries of Ghana and Tanzania' 
  • Dr Tom Cunningham: ''Muscular Christianity': A social history of the body and the Church of Scotland Mission to Kenya, c1906-1937' 
  • Dr Gillian Davies: 'Rethinking Market-Based Development Approaches: Increasing access to energy goods and services for households in sub-Saharan Africa'. 
  • Dr Thomas Fisher: 'Chagga Elites and the Politics of Ethnicity in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania'. 
  • Dr Gianluca Iazzolino: ' 'Standing On One Leg': Mobility, money and power in East Africa's Somali networks'. 
  • Dr Sixta Kilambo: 'The Black Economic Empowerment Policy and Changes in Ownership in South Africa's Mining Industry'. 
  • Dr Robert Macdonald: 'Voter Behaviour in Tanzania: A qualitative study of the 2015 elections'
  • Dr Angelina Mattijo-Bazugba: 'The Politics of Gender Quotas: What accounts for the relative success of the gender quotas in the first Southern Sudanese elections?'. 

See also 'Topics interested in supervising', below. 

Publications: peer-reviewed academic

Baynham-Herd, Z., Bunnefeld, N., Molony, T., Redpath, S. and Keane, A. 2020. ‘Intervener trustworthiness predicts cooperation with conservation interventions in an elephant conflict public goods game’ [Open Access]. People and Nature, 2 (4), pp.1075-1084. 

Molony, T. and Macdonald, R. 2019. ‘Re-evaluating international observation of Kenya’s 2017 elections. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 13 (4), pp.601-620

SMPADwyer, M. and Molony, T. (eds.) 2019. Social Media and Politics in Africa: Democracy, Censorship and Security. London: Zed

including: Dwyer and Molony, 'Mapping the Study of Politics and Social media Use in Africa', pp.1-18;

Dwyer, Hitchen and Molony, 'Between Excitement and Scepticism: The role of WhatsApp in Sierra Leone’s 2018 Elections', pp.105-128.

(See also 'Social media is reinforcing political power structures in Africa more than it’s challenging them' in Quartz Africa)

Molony, T. 2019. 'Social media warfare and Kenya’s conflict with Al Shabaab in Somalia: A right to know?' [Open Access]. African Affairs, 118 (471), pp.328-51

Baynham-Herd, Z., Redpath, S., Bunnefeld, N., Molony, T., and Keane, A. 2018. 'Conservation conflicts: Behavioural threats, frames, and intervention recommendations' [Open Access]. Biological Conservation, 222 (June), pp.180–88

Molony, T. 2015. 'Julius Kambarage Nyerere: His formative years'. In Remembering Julius Nyerere in Tanzania: History, Memory, Legacy, ed. M.-A. Fouéré, pp. 65-72. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota

Molony, T. 2014 (2016, paperback). Nyerere: The early years. Oxford: James Currey

("old school historical research at its best" - Andreas Eckert, Humboldt University Berlin in 2017, 'Tanzania's First Leader', Journal of African History, 58 (3), pp.510-2, p.511. See also reviews by, inter alia, Richard Stupart at the LSE, and Prof Ian Taylor at St Andrews in The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.) 


Ny pbk cover

Molony, T. 2012. Editorial: 'ICT and Human Mobility: Cases from developing countries and beyond' [Open Access]. Information Technology for Development, 18 (2), pp.87-90

Molony, T. 2011. 'Bioenergy policies in Africa: Mainstreaming gender amid an increasing focus on biofuels' [Open Access]. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, 5 (3), pp.330-341  

Molony, T. and Smith, J. 2010. 'African Biofuels'. BioFuels Journal, Third quarter, pp.64 

Molony, T. and Smith, J. 2010. 'Biofuels, food security, and Africa' [Open Access]. African Affairs, 109 (436), pp.489-498 

Molony, T. 2009. 'Carving a Niche: ICT, social capital and trust in the shift from personal to impersonal trading in Tanzania'. Information Technology for Development, 15 (4), pp.283-301

Molony, T. 2009. 'Trading Places in Tanzania: Mobility and marginalisation in a time of travel-saving technologies'. In de Bruijn, M., F. Nyamnjoh, I. Brinkman (Eds.) Mobile Phones: The New Talking Drums of Everyday Africa, YaoundÉ/Leiden: Langaa/Afrika Studiecentrum, pp.92-109

Molony, T. 2008. 'Running Out of Credit: The limitations of mobile telephony in a Tanzanian agricultural marketing system'. Journal of Modern African Studies, 46 (4), pp.637-658

Molony, T. 2008. 'The Role of Mobile Phones in Tanzania's Informal Construction Sector: The case of Dar es Salaam'. Urban Forum, 19 (2), pp.175-186

Molony, T. 2008. 'Non-Developmental Uses of Mobile Communication in Tanzania'. In Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, Katz, J.E. (ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.339-352

Molony, T. 2007. 'I Don't Trust the Phone; It Always Lies: Social capital and information and communication technologies in Tanzanian micro and small enterprises'. Information Technology and International Development, (MIT Press) 3 (4), pp.67-83

Molony, T. and Hammett, D. 2007. 'The Friendly Financier: Talking money with the silenced research assistant'. Human Organization, 66 (3), pp.292-300

Molony, T., Richey, L. and Ponte, S. 2007. ''Darwin's Nightmare': A critical assessment'. Review of African Political Economy, 113 (34), pp.598-608

Recent Publications: reports and miscellaneous

Molony, T. 2011. 'Cultural expression in Tanzania' in World and Its Peoples - Sub-Saharan Africa, Volume 6 Eastern Central Africa and the Indian Ocean. New York: Marshall Cavendish, pp.835-836

Molony, T. and Smith, J. 2010. 'Biofuels in Africa: Growing complexities' in Africa Energy Yearbook 2010. Surrey: EnergyNet, pp.61-64

Molony, T. and Mussaffer, N. (eds.) 2010. 'Bioenergy Advance Market Commitments (AMCs) in Sri Lanka'. PISCES Policy Brief no.5. Nairobi: PISCES

Molony, T. 2009. 'Nyerere: The formative years' in Julius Kambarage Nyerere: Life, Times, Legacy. London: FIRST

Molony, T. 2009. 'Tanzania Palm Oil' in Practical Action Consulting, ed. Small-scale bioenergy initiatives: Brief description and preliminary lessons on livelihood impacts from case studies in Asia, Latin America and Africa, pp. 76-80. Nairobi and Rome: PISCES and FAO

Molony, T. and Smith, J. 2009. 'Sustainable Biofuels Crops and Access in Developing Countries'. PISCES Working Brief no.2. Nairobi: PISCES

Molony, T. 2006. ICT in Developing Countries. POST Note briefing document for members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Westminster 

Topics interested in supervising

Tom is happy to discuss dissertation/thesis proposals with students or potential students who have an interest in his research interests (see italicised text at top of this page).

If you are interested in being supervised by Thomas Molony, please see the links below for more information:

PhD In African Studies