Professor Thandika Mkandawire was born on 10 October 1940 in Gwanda, present-day Zimbabwe. He passed away on 27 March 2020 at a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. The annual memorial lecture was established in 2021 to honour and celebrate the works and memory of Professor Mkandawire. The memorial lecture is an initiative of the South African Research Chair in Social Policy, in partnership with the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).
At various times, Professor Mkandawire served as the Executive Secretary of CODESRIA (1986 – 1996) and the Director of UNRISD (1998 – 2009). In 2010 he was appointed the first Chair of African Development at the London School of Economics and served in that capacity until his passing in 2020. Professor Mkandawire received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees (both in Economics) from the Ohio State University, a Master of Science degree in Economics from Stockholm University, and a Senior Doctorate in Development Studies from Rhodes University in South Africa.
Professor Mkandawire was a prodigious and brilliant mind who made outstanding contributions to our understanding in the fields of Economics, Social Policy, Political Sociology, and Development Studies. His seminal contributions to the debates on democracy and the developmental state, economic restructuring, state/society nexus, and the idea of Transformative Social Policy shifted our understanding in these areas of knowledge and policymaking. Africa, for Professor Mkandawire, was the permanent locus of engagement with the rest of the world.
Professor Mkandawire was as adept in institution building as he was at generating seminal ideas. His periods as heads of CODESRIA and UNRISD fundamentally impacted the institutions. Added to his proficiency in seminal knowledge production and institution building is Professor Mkandawire’s role as a mentor and inspiration for innumerable younger colleagues. Professor Mkandawire was an Mwalimu per excellence.
The annual memorial lecture is intended to honour the memory of Professor Mkandawire and valorise his many intellectual contributions.