The Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance on the passing of Professor Thandika Mkandawire

The Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Professor Thandika Mkandawire, Senior Fellow, mentor and friend. The School would like to extend heartfelt condolences to Professor Mkandawire’s wife, Kaarina Klint, his children, grand-children, family and friends, many whom are former students.

An esteemed African intellectual, scholar and development economist, Professor Mkandawire most recently held the first Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics (LSE). He had previously served as Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and was a former Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). In 2016 CODESRIA co-hosted a conference in Mkandawire’s home country, Malawi, to honor his contribution entitled: “Thinking African, Epistemological Issues: Celebrating the Life and Work of Thandika Mkandawire”. The colloquium was “a collective celebration of a life; that of someone who has been a veritable gift to us as individuals and as a community.”

In October 2018 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from the University of York, Canada in recognition of his excellent record in scholarship and research in the area of development studies. The award citation noted Prof Mkandawire’s “international leadership, extensive experience in policy and advocacy, published works, and demonstrated excellence as an academic, in addition to your commitment to social justice”.

Thandika also had a long friendship with the School’s Professor Carlos Lopes, it started when they co-organized an event sponsored by CODESRIA in 1985 in Guinea Bissau where Lopes was the Director of the newly established National Institute for Research (INEP) and Thandika acted as a mentor for the young group of researchers trying to reflect on development challenges in the country. They kept a long intellectual collaboration that resulted in some joint publications. They served together in Geneva in the period 2007 to 2009, each leading one of the UN research institutions in the city (UNITAR and UNRISD).

The Mandela School’s Dr Marianne Camerer reflects on the time she spent with Thandika, as he is fondly known, during 2014-2016 when he was in residence at UCT and his inspirational role in shaping the regional integration focus of the Mandela School:

Reflection: My year of travels with Thandika Mkandawire by Marianne Camerer

Try keeping up with a 75-year-old. There is no rest for the wicked as we travel around the continent and engage, geographically, with the issue of African economic integration. The seven I’s as an entry point for discussing regional integration that I’d first heard of two years ago when I met Thandika at the Tralac conference in Cape Town in May 2014 where he gave the keynote address, are now known by heart: Initial conditions; Ideational factors; Individuals who play a very important role in African politics; Institutions (national and societal); Interests; Industrialisation as a measure of development; and the International context. Along the route the model to explain the challenges to integration is populated with more examples, and an 8th, “I”, Idiocy, is added.

Dr Marianne Camerer and Professor Thandika Mkandawire at Upper Campus, UCT, December 2014. [PHOTO: Kaarina Klint]

Our first conversation is about twins: I am a twin and his recently born twin grandchildren living in Pretoria give an inkling of an interest he and Kaarina might have to spend some time in SA. Can we make it happen? With support from the funders we manage to entice them, patient and ever gracious, through onerous visa processes (police clearance certificates for all the places he has ever lived) to come to Cape Town for some months in residence at the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice [now renamed the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance). And they did. As a visiting professor at UCT and Senior Fellow in Residence with the Building Bridges programme at the Mandela School.

Professor Thandika Mkandawire engaging UCT’s Black Academic Caucus on the issue of transformation at UCT. [PHOTO: Liam Cornell]

And the conversations continue, informally and more formally  at an experts meeting in Cape Town’s Townhouse Hotel in November 2014 on the political economy of African Economic Integration; at a policymakers roundtable in Somerset West in May 2015 on the obstacles to integration; and at three regional workshops in East, West and Southern Africa on the following themes: The role of domestic capital (Dar es Salaam, August 2015) co-hosted with the Uongozi Institute; Pan-Africanism, Culture, History and Ideas (Dakar, September 2015) co-hosted with CODESRIA and the final meeting on  Evidence and Accountability (Lusaka, November 2015) co-hosted with UNECA-Southern Africa. Through glorious African sunshine and pouring midnight rain we made it.

Expert meeting on African economic integration in Cape Town, November 2014, Thandika Mkandawire and Mxolisi Notshulwana [PHOTO: Liam Cornell]

Below are some more photos capturing some of the fun moments we had over the period November 2014 –December 2015 where GSDPP [The Mandela School] facilitated five meetings in four countries bringing together over 140 participants from over 20 African countries on various aspects of African Economic Integration. These meetings would not have happened without Thandika’s convening force of intellect, humor and extraordinary network, embracing old and young, experienced and novice, to exchange ideas on the intractable issue of how to integrate Africa both economically and politically in a way that engages current citizens’ imagination.

Professor Thandika Mkandawire at Linkoping House where the UCT’s Mandela School is housed, with Honorary Professor Trevor Manuel. [PHOTO: Marianne Camerer]


Professor Thandika Mkandawire keynoting the Experts Meeting on African Economic Integration, Cape Town, November 2014. [PHOTO: Liam Cornell]


Breakfast in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – with Prof Alan Hirsch and Dr Judith Cornell from former GSDPP, now named The Mandela School. [PHOTO: Marianne Camerer]


Regional Meeting on African economic integration, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Rest in peace Professor Thandika Mkandawire, the Mandela School will continue to honour your legacy. 

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