Dr Sean Maliehe

Research Associate

[email protected]


PhD (History, University of Pretoria); MA (History, National University of Lesotho); BA Development Studies and Environmental History (National University of Lesotho)

Short Biography:

Sean is an economic historian and ethnographer of commerce, money and mobile phones in southern Africa (Lesotho and South Africa, Diepsloot). For 6 years, he was a research fellow in the Human Economy Programme, Centre for Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria. It was through the programme that he completed his doctoral studies with the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies (2012-2015) and did his first postdoctoral fellowship (2016-2018). He joined the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies in January 2019 as a postdoctoral research fellow under the ‘Making of Modern Southern Africa’, a research project led by Prof. Thula Simpson.

Research Areas:

Sean is interested in the role of the people, money, markets, technology, law, bureaucracies and institutions in the making of the southern African region. He has two major research areas of focus. a) He works on the economic history of the Basotho – the black indigenous people of Lesotho. He is currently completing his book on the economic history of these people (1820s-2020). b) He works on the development of mobile phone-based financial innovations in southern Africa. He conducted his ethnographic fieldwork among the immigrants in Diepsloot Township (2017) and in Lesotho (2016 and 2018).

Recent Publications:

“A history of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 1976-1993”, South African Historical Journal, 70: 4(2018).

With John Sharp, “The digital world and a human economy: mobile money and socio-economic development in Africa”, Development Finance Agenda, 4:2(2018).

“A human economy and mobile money in Africa: Lessons from South Africa”, CODESRIA Bulletin, 3&4(2017).

“The rise and fall of African indigenous entrepreneurs’ economic solidarity in Lesotho, 1966-1975”, African Economic History, 45:1(2017).

“Money and markets for and against the people: the rise and fall of Basotho’s pre-colonial economic independence, 1833-1930s” in Keith Hart (ed.) Money in the Human Economy (Oxford: Berghahn Press, 2017).

"Survival in post-mining communities in southern Africa: women and entrepreneurship in Lesotho", in T. Salverda, A. Hollington, S. Klob, N. Scheinder and O. Tappe (eds), Hope for the Future: Efforts and ideas to improve the current economic predicament (2016). 

“An obscured narrative in the political economy of colonial comm erce in Lesotho, 1870-1966”, Historia, 59:2 (2014).



With Keith Hart, “Africa in the 21 st century: building a human economy”, keynote speech delivery at the David Livingstone Bicentenary, Africa and world history: a life and legacy reconsidered, Livingstone, Zambia, 19-21 April 2013.

With John Sharp, “The digital world and the human economy: mobile money and socio-economic development in Africa”, keynotes address delivered at the Continental Seminar of the Association of African Central Banks, N’Djamena, Chad, 14-16 May 2018.

“Mobile money networks in Diepsloot (South Africa): structure, hierarchies and the law”, paper presented at the Digital Finance in Africa’s Future Colloquium, University of Johannesburg, Institute for Advanced Study, 22-26 October 2018.

“The informal economy and migration: experiences from the Southern African region”, paper presented at the ‘Workshop and Conference on the EU-Africa migration conundrum in a changing global order’, hosted by the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn), University of Pretoria, 3-4 September 2018.

“Economic marginality and jurisprudential vulnerability: an evaluation of the position of immigrant mobile money agents in Diepsloot”, conference paper presented at the Young Scholars’ Initiative, Africa Convening, Harare, Zimbabwe, 16-18 August 2018.

“The 2015 amendment of the Financial Intelligence Centre’s Act and the development of mobile money in South Africa”, paper presented the Wits Humanities Graduate Centre Guest Lecture Series, University of the Witwatersrand, 28 May 2018.


Published by Ian Macqueen

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