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The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa is headquartered in Dakar Senegal. It was established in 1973 as an independent Pan-African research organisation with a primary focus on the social sciences, broadly defined. It is recognised not only as the pioneer African social research organisation but also as the apex non-governmental centre of social knowledge production on the continent
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The Afropolitan Intellectual by Adekeye Adebajo

6. April 2020 - 16:27

Professor Adekeye Adebajo is Director of the University of Johannesburg's Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation in South Africa.

Thandika Mkandawire, who died on 27 March 2020 at the age of 79, was the ultimate Afropolitan intellectual. He was not only a dyed-in-the-wool Pan-Africanist, but a cosmopolitan citizen of the world. Born of a Malawian father and a Zimbabwean mother, he grew up in both countries, and then spent the rest of his life in the US, Zimbabwe, Senegal, and Europe. Also a Swedish citizen, he was married to a Swede, and died in Stockholm. As a young firebrand who came of age under British colonial rule, Mkandawire was involved in Malawi's independence struggle. He was arrested in 1960 after protesting against British prime minister, Harold Macmillan's visit to Blantyre on his “Winds of Change” tour of Africa. Thandika won a scholarship to study journalism at Ohio State University in the US, and was then exiled from Malawi for three decades by the country's erratic dictator, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

Mkandawire headed the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies (ZIDS) from 1982 to 1985, helping to train the country's first post-independence generation of social scientists. He helped to found the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar in 1978, which he headed from 1985 to 1996. CODESRIA produced some of the best research on the continent on issues of militarism, class struggle, social movements, and socio-economic development. But critics complained that this rich harvest was not well disseminated, and thus did not directly challenge literature on Africa in Western policy and academic circles. Others regarded CODESRIA as a cult of heretical leftist scholars who lacked ideological diversity. But the impact of the think-tank in promoting Pan-African discourses was never in doubt.

Mkandawire spent 1996 to 2006 leading the Geneva-based United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) which lacked the policy influence of the Addis Ababa-based UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), particularly under its flamboyant Nigerian head, Adebayo Adedeji. Thandika then went on to occupy the Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics (LSE) where his inaugural lecture, “Africa Must Run while Others Walk,” borrowed its title from Tanzania's Julius Nyerere. He ended his illustrious career at Sweden's Institute For Future Studies. He was also a Visiting Professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and a great admirer of Nelson Mandela.

One of Mkandawire's most celebrated articles was his magisterial Nyerere Lecture, “Fifty Years of African Independence,” delivered at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2013. In it, he stressed the commitment and courage of African nationalism in driving the continent's successful liberation struggle, while bemoaning more contemporary ahistorical approaches to assessing Africa's challenges which often dismissed the impact of slavery, colonialism, and the Cold War. Thandika was, however, equally unsparing in his criticisms of African civilian and military autocrats who manipulated fears of disunity to justify tyrannical rule. He further derided Western scholars who propounded pseudo-theories about the “routinization of charisma” to justify such autocracy.

Mkandawire observed that many of the draconian laws adopted by African leaders were inherited from colonial powers, further arguing that the Cold War's superpower patrons cultivated autocratic rulers. He highlighted the fact that African countries grew rapidly between 1960 and 1975, massively expanding education and health. He praised Africa's pragmatic decision to freeze colonial borders for reducing inter-state conflicts. Thandika countered the notion that Africans had simply retreated into national shells after independence, noting that Africa “is the most sung about, the most painted, the most sculptured and carved of any continent.”

Mkandawire wondered why Africa, like Asia, had not been able to produce “developmental states” that effectively promoted industrialisation. He, however, consistently insisted on the importance of democratic governance, and was critical of Western-backed “developmental” autocrats like Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, Ghana's Jerry Rawlings, and Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi who ran “choiceless democracies.” He further bemoaned the failure of African leaders to diversify their economies, and particularly castigated their inability to embrace genuine regional integration.

Thandika was one of the most eloquent critics of the World Bank and IMF's Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in the 1980s and 1990s. He noted that the Bretton Woods institutions had launched these diabolical experiments on African guinea-pigs involving large enforced cuts in health, education, and employment. These reforms often undermined democratic governance and fuelled social unrest. As Mkandawire noted, the main features of the SAPs involved massive increases in social inequality; neglect of infrastructure; lack of indigenous ownership of development programmes; technological dependence; the retrenchment of the state; and a damaging one-size-fits-all model. Thandika further stressed that Africa's economic recovery by 1995, was based on its exports to Asia doubling to 27%, and had not created sufficient employment. With the Chinese boom slowing, he cautioned against the fragility of Africa's “growth without development” approach and massive de-industrialisation, based not on greater production, but on higher prices.

Mkandawire played the role of the public intellectual for much of his life, courageously confronting the stereotyping of Africa by leading Western scholars who often produced “heavily-footnoted travelogue” and lazy analyses that lacked an empirical basis. There were no sacred cows or intellectual demigods spared in these often conceptually brilliant, elegantly lucid, but stinging critiques. Thandika methodically demolished British economist, Paul Collier's notorious thesis that African civil wars could be attributed more to the greed of rebel movements than to genuine group grievances. He described British academic Stephen Ellis's work on Liberia's civil war as “poorly veiled” racist writing that suggested that “there is something fundamentally wrong with African culture.” Mkandawire instead reminded readers of the urban roots of African rebel movements in explaining their brutality against rural peasants. He ridiculed American academic, Jeffrey Sachs, as a “poverty-reduction Band Aid guru” who moved seamlessly between Davos and the World Social Forum. He criticised the lack of empirical rigour in the work of American political economist, Robert Bates, and condemned the prejudiced “neo-patrimonial” analysis of scholars like Frenchman, Jean-François Bayart, and American, William Reno.

Mkandawire's career was devoted to restoring Africa's humanity. He was optimistic about Africa's next generation, though he worried about their “naïve cosmopolitanism.” Many have remarked on Thandika's sardonic wit. Despite his deep commitment and sharp academic jabs, he was an amiable bon vivant, often clad in the smart jackets so beloved of Western-trained African academics. Having lived most of his life in the global diaspora, Thandika was a strong believer in rebuilding bridges between Africa and its scattered descendants, noting that “a detatched diaspora would be like a head without a body.”

Not only did Mkandawire admire such historical figures as Edward Blyden, W.E.B. du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Bob Marley, he also felt that the 2018 blockbuster movie, Black Panther, “contributed in a spectacular way to the cultural underpinnings and imaginary of Pan-Africanism.” For him, “a new Pan-Africanism must be democratically anchored and based on notions of solidarity and collective self-reliance.” Tanzanian scholar, Issa Shivji, offered perhaps the most fitting tribute to his friend in 2013: “For Thandika the whole continent is his country...He is an African first, an African last and an African always. The Pan-African spirit resides in him.”

BusinessDay (South Africa), 6 April 2020; and Guardian (Nigeria) Forthcoming

Remembering Thandika Mkandawire, a Friend and an Indefatigable Scholar

6. April 2020 - 16:25

P. Anyang' Nyong'o
Kisumu, Kenya
April 3, 2020

I remember one weekend in Dakar, Senegal, when Thandika and I had had a long afternoon talking and having some beer in his apartment. We were discussing Marxist approaches to the study of African politics which Thandika thought was rather deficient, with “everything being reduced to relations of production however poorly understood.” The year was 1979, and the African Institute for Economic Planning and Development (IDEP) was at its highest point of radical intellectual fire power, headed by Samir Amin, the eminent political economist of the “accumulation on a world scale” fame. The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) had just been born literally on the ribs of IDEP, headed by Abdala Bujra, the well known Kenyan anthropologist. Thandika straddled between the two institutions, subsequently succeeding Bujra to ensure that CODESRIA became the spring board for most young African scholars as astounding social scientists.

I remember that afternoon very vividly. Thandika was full of innovative ideas and impatient with some pedantic social science scholarship on the African scene. I was surprised Thandika had hardly published on any of the innovative ideas he had which he expressed so convincingly. So I challenged him to stop being a typical African in love with the oral tradition and begin writing and publishing. It did not take long before he hit the road, leaving me miles behind in a very short time. Not long ago Thandika sent me the following mail:

“Here is an article I recently published in World Politics. Remember it is you who once challenged me to begin writing when we were in Dakar. I will never forget that.” The article was on “Neopatrimonialism and the Political Economy of Economic Performance in Africa: Critical Reflections” (World Politics, Vol. 67, No. 1, January 2015). I found this article perhaps one of the best analysis and critique of development theories in Africa, debunking theories of those who view the state as a pariah in Africa. Those who lump all African heads of state and government as “big men” out to eat state and society to the bone didn't sit pretty with Thandika in this article either. Seeing the future of Africa as foretold, doomed and bereft of any meaningful development almost for ever is something that could pass as propaganda but not social science.

On 25th of October 2013, Thandika wrote me as follows: “Early this year I met Willy Mutunga (later our Chief Justice) who reminded me of a meeting at your house where we drafted the principles of the Kenyan constitution. It is nice to see some things come true.”

Neither Willy nor I worked on these principles with any idea that after the constitution was promulgated we would occupy the positions that we eventually did. Thandika was, of course, miles away only to be happy eventually that his contribution to our struggle eventually paid some dividends in Kenya's social progress.

That is why Thandika could never accept a “one shoe fits all” view in of Africa's political economy. Not all African middle classes are “comprador” nor are all African states dependent in the same way on external forces. Class relations are historically given within social formations which can be subjected to analysis by the same theoretical models of political economy that are capable of bringing out their similarities and differences. This comes out very clearly in Thandika''s World Politics article I have referred to above.

When I was writing the “Introduction” to a book I recently published on “Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy in Africa: Choices to be Made”(Nairobi: Booktalk Africa, 2019), I remembered that sometime in the mid nineties, when we met as young Kenyan academics to discuss how we could advance the democratic struggle in our country, Thandika happened to be among us. As usual, he was always very ready to contribute productively to such discussions. We were so sure that the Moi regime was the only impediment between us and democracy.

But Thandika, always ready to be an intelligent gadfly at such times, posed the question: “Have you people thought about what kind of government you want to put in place after Moi which will be acceptable to the Kenyan people and which will achieve the democracy you seem to be looking for?”

From this statement one can see where Thandika's theory of the “national democratic and developmental state” as a progressive alternative to the presidential authoritarian regimes of the Moi type came from. He had a deep commitment to democracy rooted in popular acceptance by the people because it is, among other things, capable of paying democratic dividends.

On a light note. We used to drink a beer in Dakar called “flag”. For Thandika, these letters stood for “Front de Liberation Alcoholic de Gauche.” We were definitely leftist Africans committed to the liberation of our continent. But we were not always drunk!
Rest In Peace Thandika.

Thandika Mkandawire: In Memory of An Intellectual Giant

5. April 2020 - 14:29

By Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Vice Chancellor at United States International University - Africa

Thandika Mkandawire, the towering Pan-African Malawian-Swedish public intellectual died on March 27, 2020. The world of social thought, as Samir Amin, another departed luminary, called it, is so much poorer that he has left us, but so much richer that he lived for eight decades enlightening the world with his prodigious mind. Through his copious writings, engagements in numerous forums, and teaching in various universities he provoked and animated minds and imaginations for generations across Africa, the diaspora, and world at large. His extraordinary intellectual insights and incisive and surgical critiques of conventional, sometimes celebrated, and often cynical analyses of development and the African condition, to use a beloved phrase of the late Ali Mazrui, the iconic man of letters, were truly inspiring.

Thandika, as we all fondly called him, has joined our illustrious intellectual ancestors, whose eternal wisdom we must cherish and embrace in the continuing struggle for the epistemic, existential, and economic emancipation of our beloved continent.

When I think of Thandika, many images come to my mind, of the luminous beauty and brilliance of his mind. His passion for rigor and impatience with lazy thinking. His bountiful joy of living. His love of music and the arts. His boundless faith in Africa and equal opportunity dismissal for Afropessimism and Afro-euphoria. His devotion to Pan-Africanism and the diaspora. His deep sense of globalism. His lifelong and unromantic commitment to progressive causes. His generosity in mentoring younger African scholars. His exemplary leadership of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). And his remarkable modeling of the life of a principled public intellectual.

He is simply one of the most brilliant people I have ever known in my life. As my wife observed on several occasions, Thandika was the only person she witnessed who I was so enthralled by that I could sit and listen to for hours! To be in his company was to marvel at the power of the human mind for extraordinary insights and the joys of living for he was a bundle of infectious joviality, humor and wit. The breadth and depth of his intellectual passions and unwavering faith in Africa's historic and humanistic agency and possibilities was dazzling.

I had known Thandika years before I met him in person. I had heard of the fiery Malawian intellectual who as a young journalist had been been in the forefront of the nationalist struggle. Like many of us born before independence, his personal biography encompassed the migrant labor political economy of Southern Africa: he was born in Zimbabwe, and grew up in Zambia and Malawi. And like many smart and ambitious young people of his generation in the early 1960s, he trekked to the United States for higher education, as there was no university in Malawi at the time. He did not return to Malawi until 1994, after spending 32 years in exile, following the installation of a new democratic government.

He was a student in the United States in the 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement, and as an activist, he immediately saw the intricate connections between the nationalist and civil rights movements in Africa and the Diaspora. This nurtured his profound respect and appreciation of African American society, culture, and contributions, which was a bedrock of his Pan-Africanism in the tradition of Kwame Nkrumah and others. Also, like many activists of his generation the trajectory of his life was upended by political crisis in Malawi, known as the ‘Cabinet Crisis' that erupted a few months after independence in 1964.

The octogenarian, conservative and authoritarian Malawi leader, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, fell out with his radical younger ministers who preferred democratic politics and more progressive development policies. They were forced to escape into exile. Thandika was suspected of sympathizing with the ‘rebels' as Banda's regime vilified them, and his passport was revoked. Thus began his long personal sojourn into exile and the diaspora, and professional trajectory from journalism into academia. His exile began while he was in Ecuador on a project and unable to return to the USA he got asylum in Sweden.

His experiences in Latin America and Sweden globalized his intellectual horizons and reinforced his proclivities towards comparative political economy, a distinctive hallmark of his scholarship. They also reshaped his interests in economics, pulling him away from its dominant neo-classical paradigms and preoccupations, and anchoring it in the great questions of development and developmental states, areas in which he made his signature intellectual and policy contributions.

Thandika also immersed himself in the great debates of the 1960s and 1970s centered on Marxism, dependency and underdevelopment, African socialism, and the struggles for new international orders from economics to information.

The intellectual ferment of the period prepared him well to participate in African debates about the state, democracy and development when he joined the newly established Institute for Development Studies at the University of Zimbabwe in the early 1980s in the immediate euphoric aftermath of Zimbabwe's liberation victory. In 1985, he became the head of CODESRIA as Executive Secretary.

He joined CODESRIA in the midst of the draconian anti-developmentalist assaults of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) imposed on hapless and often complicit authoritarian African states by the international financial institutions working at the behest of the market fundamentalist ideology of neo-liberalism propagated by conservative governments in Washington, London, Berlin, Ottawa, and Tokyo.

Through his own comparative scholarship on regional economic histories, development paths, and the patrimonial state in Africa and other world regions especially Asia, as well as national and multinational projects commissioned by CODESRIA, he led the progressive African intellectual community in mounting vigorous critiques of SAPs. Moreover, his monumental work offered alternatives rooted in the historical realities of African economies and societies, the aspirations of African peoples, and the capacities of reconstructed African democratic developmental states.

In the late 1980s, when the gendarmes of neo-liberalism and apologists of Africa's bankrupt one party states were railing against democracy, or watching struggles for the ‘second independence' with indifference or suspicion, Thandika unapologetically called for democracy as a fundamental political right and economic necessity for Africa. He was particularly concerned about the devastation wrought on African capacities to produce knowledge through the willful dismantling of African universities and research capacities.

At a conference of Vice Chancellors in Harare in 1986, the World Bank infamously declared that Africa did not need universities. Mendacious studies were produced to show that rates of return were higher for primary education than for tertiary education. Rocked by protests against tyranny and the austerities of SAPs that dissolved the post-independence social contract of state-led developmentalism, African governments were only too willing to wreck African universities and devalue academic labor.

Under Thandika CODESRIA valiantly sought to protect, promote, and project an autonomous space for African intellectual development, for vibrant knowledge production. That is how I finally met Thandika in person. In 1989, CODESRIA established the “Reflections on Development Fellowship.” I was one of about a dozen African scholars that won the scholarship. My project was on “African Economic History in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.” This resulted in the publication of A Modern Economic History of Africa. Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century in 1993, which went on to win the prestigious Noma Award for publishing in Africa. Some regard this as my most important book.

Thus, I like many other African scholars who experienced the devastation of African universities during the continent's ‘lost decades' of the 1980s and 1990s are deeply indebted to Thandika and CODESRIA for ensuring our intellectual support, networking, sanity, and productivity. This is at the heart of the outpouring of tributes by African scholars for Thandika since his passing. He was not only one of the most important African intellectuals of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, he was also an architect of an African intellectual community during one of the bleakest periods in the history of the African knowledge enterprise. His intellectual and institutional legacies are mutually reinforcing and transcendental.

In August 1990, the recipients of the “Reflections on Development Fellowship” met for nearly two weeks at the Rockefeller Conference and Study Center, in Bellagio, Italy. I had not experienced an intellectual indaba like that before. Thandika dazzled the fellows, who included several prominent African scholars, with his incisive comments and erudition, legendary humor, and striking joyousness. Meeting him at Bellagio left a lasting impression on me. His brilliance was accompanied by his uncanny ability to put very complex thoughts in such a pithy way, rendering an idea so obvious that one wondered why one had not thought about it that way before.

Thandika was one of those rare people who effectively combined institutional leadership and intellectual productivity. This was the praxis of his reflexive life, in which administrative challenges inspired academic work. While at CODESRIA, he pioneered and produced important studies on structural adjustment, development, and African universities and intellectuals. In 1987, he edited the groundbreaking collection, The State and Agriculture in Africa; in 1995, he edited the comprehensive collection on structural adjustment, Between Liberalisation and Oppression; in 1999 he co-authored, Our Continent Our Future.

After he joined UNRISD, he continued working on his old intellectual preoccupations as he embraced new ones as reflected in his journal articles and book monographs. The latter include the co-authored, African Voices on Structural Adjustment (2002), and the edited, African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development (2005). Soon after joining UNRISD, which he led from 1998 to 2009, he launched a program on social policy that increasingly reflected his growing research interests. The articles include, "Thinking about Developmental States in Africa" (2001); "Disempowering New Democracies and the Persistence of Poverty" (2004); "Maladadjusted African Economies and Globalization" (2005); "Transformative Social Policy and Innovation in Developing Countries" (2007); "Good Governance': The Itinerary of an Idea" (2007); “From the national question to the social question” (2009), “Institutional monocropping and monotasking in Africa” (2010); “On Tax Efforts and Colonial Heritage in Africa” (2010); “Aid, Accountability, and Democracy in Africa” (2010); and “How the New Poverty Agenda Neglected Social and Employment Policies in Africa” (2010).

In 2009, he was appointed at the London School of Economics as the inaugural Chair in African Development. This gave him space to expand his intellectual wings and produce some of his most iconic and encyclopedic work as evident in the titles of some of his papers. They include “Running While Others Walk: Knowledge and the Challenge of Africa's Development” (2011); “Welfare Regimes and Economic Development: Bridging the Conceptual Gap” (2011); “Aid: From Adjustment Back to Development” (2013); “Social Policy and the Challenges of the Post-Adjustment Era” (2013); “Findings and Implications: The Role of Development Cooperation” (2013); “Neopatrimonialism and the Political Economy of Economic Performance in Africa: Critical Reflections” (2015); and “Colonial legacies and social welfare regimes in Africa: An empirical exercise” (2016). He also published monographs including the co-authored, Learning from the South Korean Developmental Success (2014), and a collection of lectures he gave at the University of Ghana, Africa Beyond Recovery (2015).

Following my encounter with Thandika at Bellagio, our personal and professional paths crossed many times over the next thirty years. The encounters are too numerous to recount. Those that stand out include CODESRIA's conference on Academic Freedom, held in November 1990 at which the “The Kampala Declaration on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility” was issued; and numerous CODESRIA conferences, workshops, and general assemblies including the one in 1995 where I served as a rapporteur. These forums were truly invigorating for a young scholar meeting the doyens of the African intelligentsia. Like many of those in my generation, I matured intellectually under the tutelage of CODESRIA and Thandika.

In return, when I relocated to the United States in 1995 from Canada, I invited Thandika or played a role in his invitation to conferences in the US. This included the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois in 1995 where I served as director of the center, and the 1996 US African Studies Association where he gave “The Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola Distinguished Lecture.” The lecture, later published in the African Studies Review entitled, “The Social Sciences in Africa: Breaking Local Barriers and Negotiating International Presence,” was a veritable tour de force. It brilliantly traced the development of social science knowledge production on Africa and offered a searing critique of Africanist exclusionary intellectual practices.

Later, when Thandika was head of UNRISD, he invited me to join the nine member Gender Advisory Group to work on a report on the implementation of the United Nations Fourth World Women's Conference held in Beijing in 1995. Out of this conference came the report, Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World published in 2005 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Beijing conference. In return, I also invited Thandika to contribute to my own edited collections, including The Encyclopaedia of Twentieth Century African History to which he contributed a fine essay on African intellectuals.

Our personal encounters were even more frequent and deeply gratifying. In the 1990s, I used to go to Dakar frequently, sometimes several times a year. On many occasions, Thandika hosted me or took me out to sample the incredible culinary delights and vibrant music scene of Dakar nightlife. I recall one night going to a club where Yousou N'dour was playing. It was an indescribable treat. In his customary insightful and pithy way, he made me understand the social vibrancy of Dakar. In contrast to the apartheid cities of Southern Africa from which we were alienated in the townships, Dakar is an old city whose residential patterns and social geography are deeply embedded in the rhythms of local culture.

Another memorable encounter was Christmas in the early 2000s where our two families and close friends spent the entire day at the lake in Malawi. As usual, he regaled us with jokes interspersed with acute observations on Malawian history, society, economy and politics. Last December, he and his dear wife, Kaarina Klint, were in Nairobi. What had been planned as a luncheon turned out into an engagement that lasted until dinner and late into the night. We had not seen each other for several years, although we had been in touch, so there was so much to cover. We excitedly discussed his forthcoming 80th birthday celebration, and the possibility of him joining our university as a Visiting Distinguished Professor.

It turned out to be our last meeting. But what a special day it was. Thandika was his usual self, affable, hilariously funny, and of course he made brilliant observations about African and global developments. Thank you Thandika for the privilege of knowing you and your beautiful mind. You will always be a shining intellectual light for your generation, my generation, and generations to come of committed, progressive African, diaspora and global academics, researchers, thinkers and activists.

Prof. Thandika Mkandawire's remarks at the 15th CODESRIA General Assembly

3. April 2020 - 15:45

This recording contains Prof. Thandika Mkandawire's remarks at the 15th CODESRIA General Assembly held in December 2018. Incidentally, the remarks were prepared as part of the session in honor of late Prof. Samir Amin. Both Samir and Thandika served respectively as first and third Executive Secretaries of CODESRIA. This has turned out to be the last major CODESRIA meeting at which Thandika spoke.

Thandika Mkandawire: A Tribute by Fred Hendricks

2. April 2020 - 15:00

“I'm kinda weary” is how Thandika Mkandawire suggested I remember his surname when we met for the first time in Dakar in the early 1990's at a CODESRIA workshop on Reflections on Development. He was the Executive Secretary at the time, but he shunned the grand chauffeur driven pomp which usually accompanied his seniority. Instead he drove around Dakar in a small beaten up Fiat. I was immediately struck by his endearing modesty and even though he was an extraordinarily busy man, he always gave you the sense that he had time for you. Hence, he was not only respected, but also loved by all of us who were mentored by him. I always felt enormously privileged to be in his accompany – his effervescent energy, his alive intellect, his wit and of course his joie de vivre were all infectious. We are inspired by him and we must honour his memory by continuing his scholarly search for solutions to our multifarious continental problems. It is impossible to do justice to Thandika's oeuvre in such a short tribute. What follows is attempt to capture a few vignettes of our interaction over the last thirty years which I hope demonstrate his breadth of scholarly and political interests but also his personal warmth.
Thandika, as he was widely known, dreamt of setting up a Centre for Reflection by senior African scholars in the country of his birth, Malawi, but his perspective was invariably pan-African. While recognising the fact that the colonial borders had not changed in any substantial way since independence, his search was for an African perspective of and by the continent in its entirety. With his encyclopaedic knowledge of the continent, he managed to embrace everybody from the furthest nooks and crannies of rural Africa to the bustling urban environments where he was most at home. Thandika was above all a man of ideas. More than anything else he loved to engage in debate and discussion and he always had an angle in argument which he could back up with his prodigious evidential knowledge of virtually everything, from political economy, to art and music, to history, culture and language. In particular he challenged dominant global discourses about Africa, many of which are informed by deeply racist attitudes parading as scholarly works. He eschewed these stereotypes and instead offered penetrating analyses grounded in African experiences, invariably connected with an abiding commitment to Africa's development in all its multifarious ways.
The very fact that everybody addressed Thandika by his first name speaks volumes about the manner in which he challenged the stultifying hierarchies in much of African academia. For him, it was not a matter of where you stood on the ladder at your university, as a junior lecturer, or senior professor, a dean or even a vice chancellor. What mattered was the force of your ideas and how you could marshal evidence and theory into an argument. He was thus much more than a mentor, but also an intellectual companion.
Thandika was born of Malawian parents, but he spent much of his early childhood as well adult life away from that troubled country, initially in Zimbabwe and Zambia following his migrant father and then, subsequent to periods of imprisonment in Malawi, in exile later to become a Swedish citizen, in line with his broadly social democratic approach to political economy.
The rich tapestry of Thandika's life requires a detailed intellectual biography, not only for his role in shaping ideas about Africa's development, but also in institution building globally. Starting off as a teenage journalist in Malawi to being a student of economics in the US, to entering the realm of academia in Stockholm as an economics lecturer to the decade as Executive Secretary of CODESRIA in Dakar, to his Directorship of UNRISD and finally to the chair of African Development at the London School of Economics, Thandika has made an inestimable impact. Younger scholars need to appreciate the full might of his ideas as well as the widespread influence of the institutions he built which only a lengthy all-encompassing account can accomplish.
Following the Reflections on Development Workshop in Dakar, I was in close contact with Thandika concerning the South African Sociological Review. In the wake of the demise of apartheid there was a flurry of mergers in professional associations. Sociology was not untouched by this euphoria. So the previously whites only and apartheid supporting Suid Afrikaanse Sosiologiese Vereneging (SASOV) merged with the anti-apartheid and non-racial, Association for Sociologists in Southern Africa (ASSA) to form the South African Sociological Association (SASA) in 1993. Since the merger effectively meant the jettisoning of this (XXX what?) active intellectual enterprise, I approached Thandika about the possibility of dropping “South” to form instead an African Sociological Review (ASR) into which the SASR could be incorporated. Thandika's response was, “Give me a proposal, and if the idea is good, we'll find the money for it”. Within a week I gave him a proposal and that's how the African Sociological Review was established, with his support and stewardship through the various CODESRIA Boards and Committees. A few years later one of my treasured memories is Thandika praising the ASR as having become the “flagship of CODESRIA” and it was his continued interest and encouragement which allowed the journal to flourish, especially by being a platform for intellectual arguments.
Our paths crossed several times at various CODESRIA meetings, workshops and General Assemblies, but in April 2007, the Humanities Faculty of Rhodes University awarded him a Senior Doctorate which is reserved for work which according to the Rhodes Calendar of 2020 “…constitute(s) a distinguished contribution to the advancement of knowledge in that field”. We are grateful to Jimi Adesina for encouraging Thandika to put a selection of his work forward for examination. The Faculty selected five external examiners from Africa, Asia and Europe and their reports were unanimously in favour of the award of the degree. The prestige of this accomplishment is evident in the fact that in the 114 year history of the university only two senior doctorates have been awarded in the Humanities Faculty. I was Dean of the Faculty at the time and to present Thandika for the conferment of the degree is etched in my memory.
Having ensured that the CODESRIA foundations were firmly rooted after being there for a decade, from 1986 to 1996, Thandika proceeded to become the Director of UNRISD where he transformed the research agenda towards a new broadside against dominant thinking in development, one linking social policy directly to emancipatory outcomes for the masses, captured in the notion of inclusive social policy. Premised on the Nordic experience, Thandika posited that it was imperative for Africa's development to be democratically grounded. As late industrializers the Nordic experience was vital for the continent and yet it was not integrated into development thinking at the time.
While at UNRISD Thandika launched a research project entitled Financing Social Policy, and he approached me to do a paper on Pensions in South Africa. Basically, he was interested to establish whether pension funds could be employed in development as had happened in Finland in particular. “But I know nothing about pensions” was my retort. “You'll learn” he said and so began a fascinating encounter with a brand new research area into the role of pensions in development. I will forever remain grateful to him for prodding me in this direction of understanding South Africa's political economy and its prospects for development. He mentored me along the way, suggesting readings and generally introducing me to new angles of research and I relished the opportunity he opened up for me.
CODESRIA hosted a commemorative conference in Lilongwe, Malawi in April 2016 under the theme, “Thinking African, Epistemological Issues: Celebrating the Life and Work of Thandika Mkandawire” in his honour. It was also the occasion to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Kampala Declaration on Academic Freedom. I felt very fortunate to be present and I used the occasion to highlight some of the many quotable quotes from Thandika's prodigious corpus, which I've used and in some instances even over-used demonstrating the wide impact of his thought. I will recall a few here to provide some context. For instance, “(W)e are probably the only part of the world about which it is legitimate to publish without reference to local scholarship”. At the time he was referring specifically to the so-called Kenya Debate about the role of the indigenous bourgeoisie in development in the context of global capitalism. More recently, he has broadened this insight to include other African countries as well. In an interview with Kate Meagher published in Development and Change he said, “It's still quite possible to write a whole book on Nigeria with no reference to Nigerian scholars”.
Lamenting the consequences of the lack of dialogue between scholars in the North and the South, Thandika says, “Any student of Africa is confronted by two research communities that rarely interact. This shows up in the hiatus between the currency of topics and the datedness of the bibliography in African writing on the one hand, and the dated content and current biographies of “Northern” writers on the other hand. A lot is lost in this gap”.
As far as the engagement with the state is concerned, Mkandawire makes the pointed statement that one of our big problems was the “failure of the political class to establish a productive and organic rapport with their own int:elligentsia/intellectuals” and that across the continent, only in Algeria and in apartheid South Africa did such an organic link develop between the two.
In July 2015, Thandika published a far-reaching Review Article in World Politics entitled “Neopatrimonialism and the Political Economy of Economic Performance in Africa: Critical Reflections” in which he provided a stinging critique of this so-called school of thought in the study of Africa. In response to this article, as editor of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies (JCAS), I organised a Colloquium in conjunction with the Human Sciences Research Council on African Perspectives on Global Corruption using Thandika's article as a centrepiece. While his article offered a crushing critique of neopatrimonialism as an explanation for Africa's poor economic performance, it did not directly offer an alternative analysis of corruption as one of the supposedly major factors. The proceeds of the colloquium were published Issue 36:4 in 2018. It leads with a wide-ranging interview with Thandika conducted by Nimi Hoffman, one of the co-editors in which Thandika gives a full explanation for why neo-patrimonialism is so deeply problematic.
In this Special Issue on Zimbabwe, Thandika offers yet another comprehensive account of the difficulties experienced in Zimbabwe's transition. He recognises the extreme polarisation in scholarship on Zimbabwe and points to how this has led to simplistic analyses of it failure. Instead, Thandika argues that a fuller understanding of Zimbabwe's recent history must take account of the multiple (5) transitions it has gone through over the last 3 decades and how this transition overload has weighed very heavily on the country. The article is vintage Thandika, always mindful of the broader context and eschewing the easy ahistorical answers usually proffered for Zimbabwe's predicament. It is indeed a great pity that he will not see it in print, but it will contribute to the huge archive he has bestowed on us and it is yet again a lesson on how to avoid “bad social science” which he so deplored throughout his life.
Thandika's emphasis on historical context induced him to develop a periodisation of various generations of African scholars and he counts himself as part of the first generation of students who were “airlifted” to study at universities abroad, mainly in the USA. The post-colonial university scene is vastly different to those early days, but it is well to remember this evolution now that Thandika's passing counts as the end of an era.
I wish to end this tribute to Thandika on a personal note. Thandika was my intellectual mentor, but we also spent many hours after the official meetings continuing our conversations, often leading to even greater insights. He was not averse to having fun and he was an enormously attractive man, especially away from the stiffness of the formal meetings. It was as if Thandika cherished these periods even more, where his creativity was let loose, bursting through volleys of articulation of the raconteur. And yet through all of this he still did not countenance sloppy thinking. His love of music shone through, whether it was in the backyard nightclubs of Dakar or meeting him at the Maynardville Amphitheatre in Cape Town towards the end of 2015 at an Abdulla Ibrahim concert. He sought a deeper appreciation of the diversity of African music and it is not surprising at all that one of his sons is a musician.
We have lost one of our intellectual giants and we feel bereft, but he will be the first to implore us to study and appreciate our continent in ways which allow for our voices to be heard not via slogans and cheap rhetoric, but instead by deep penetrating analyses, grounded in the African experience.

Tribute to Thandika Mkandawire by Hawa Diao Fal

2. April 2020 - 14:10

It is with great sadness that I learnt the sad news of the passing of Dr Thandika Mkandawire, who had demonstrated great professionalism in managing CODESRIA, but was also a great humanist, with a strong sense of family. He nurtured us as colleagues and we used to work in a warm and peaceful environment, in mutual respect. He helped us fulfill many of our dreams, and improved our daily lives and well-being.

Thandika, Abdou Aziz Ly, and myself, Hawa Diao, walked into CODESRIA on Tuesday 4th November 1979. From that moment on until he left office, he had remained the same: a major scholar and a great humanist, whom we can never thank enough.

To his family, Andrew (André) and Joshua, and his wife Kaarina, I would like to extend my deepest condolences.

To Abdalla Said Bujra, former Executive Secretary, to Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Ahmed Mohhidin, Taladidia Thiombiano, to Jimi Adesina, Adebayo Olukoshi, Ebrima Salll to the whole community of researchers, I would like to express my most sincere condolences.

May Thandika Khandawire rest in Heavenly Paradise, in the company of all our lost ones. Amen

Tribute to Thandika Mkandawire

1. April 2020 - 15:47

By Tukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo

I am expressing here a deep anguish for losing a pan-African intellectual and brother!

I am profoundly sad to receive the news of the passing of Thandika Mkandawire, a comrade and genuine pan-African scholar/organic intellectual. Africa and the world have lost a genuine critic of liberal economics as prescribed by the Washington Consensus and adopted in the African conditions.
I was invited by Cadman Atta Mills to join CODESRIA in 1984 when I was teaching political science and chairing the Department of political science at University of Liberia in Monrovia.

I was warmly welcomed to CODESRIA by a core of critical scholars such as Samir Amin, Bernard Founou-Tchuigoua, Thandika Mkandawire, Cadman Atta Mills, Peter Anyang, Mahamood Mamdani, Abdoulaye Bathily, to cite only a few. Since then, I have worked on various research projects closely with Thandika Mkandawire in CODESRIA after Cadman Atta Mills left Dakar to Washington, DC.

Over the years, from Dakar, to Harare, Algiers, Casablanca, Abidjan, Nairobi, Kampala, I was involved in various workshops, conferences and research projects in which Thandika Mkandawire played a central role as a mentor. He believed in African paradigms making and in production of African responses to world events. A critic of world history and modernization school of thought, he strongly believed in the role of African organic intellectuals in rethinking Africa within a framework of Academic freedom.

One of the programs in which his perspective became mostly articulated is on Structural Adjustment Program (SAPs). I was selected, among more than 15 other African scholars, to work on this project as a researcher; and we produced a comprehensive interdisciplinary body of knowledge on the SAPs and their social, economic and political consequences in Africa. Thandika Mkandawire was passionate and proud of our collective response to the SAPs. The outcome of this work was published by CODESRIA as a pioneering thought and intellectual response originated from African scholars.

Whether it was a project on social movement or governance, he was intellectually present in most of the programs I was involved in at CODESRIA before he moved to other professional positions.

His commitment for knowledge creation and distribution as the foundation of policy making and his search for African paradigms are some major aspects of his legacy.

In the Bantou philosophy and cosmology, good people and their blessed spirits do not go far away after changing their physical stations. Thandika Mkandawire has joined the world of permanency as an ancestor watching over his communities.

May his Soul rest in peace forever.

Transcendental Thandika: Tribute to a Global Pan-African Luminary

1. April 2020 - 15:43

By Steve Sharra

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In 2011, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) had planned to hold a colloquium in Malawi, to celebrate the lifetime contributions of Professor Thandika Mkandawire to global knowledge. The colloquium was being co-organised together with the University of Malawi, and the Archie Mafeje Research Institute of the University of South Africa (UNISA). The dates for the conference were 2-4th May. Three weeks before the colloquium, CODESRIA issued a statement announcing a postponement of the event. The reason for the postponement was “gross violations of academic freedom” in the University of Malawi. CODESRIA wanted to express solidarity with University of Malawi Chancellor College lecturers, who were on strike.

The strike was triggered by an event that happened on the evening of 12th February, 2011. Then Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service, Mr Peter Mukhito, had summoned University of Malawi political scientist, Professor Blessings Chinsinga. Professor Chinsinga was teaching a public policy course, and to illustrate a point, he used an example from the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, referred to as the Arab Spring. One student in the class, a police officer, reported Professor Chinsinga to his supervisors in the police service. The ensuing academic freedom strike lasted beyond an academic year.

The colloquium eventually happened five years later, from 11th to 14th April 2016, in Lilongwe. It was themed “Thinking African, Epistemological Issues: Celebrating the Life and Work of Thandika Mkandawire.” I had just joined the Catholic University of Malawi a month earlier. Participants came from different parts of the world, totalling 21 countries, according to the programme. There were 48 presentations, spread over 13 sessions. There were two keynote addresses, one by Thandika Mkandawire himself. It was my fifth or sixth time to meet Thandika in person, someone I had first heard about some 26 years earlier. The story of how I first heard about Thandika is one I feel compelled to narrate.

In narrating the story of my encounters with Thandika, I will describe how he brought me into his fold, inviting me to two of the institutions that shaped and defined his life's work. I will discuss why Thandika's work was important for Africa and the for the world, and conclude with thoughts on the legacy he has left for the engaged academy in Malawi and beyond.

Let me start toward the end of my secondary school days. My secondary school English teacher, Mr Lot Dzonzi (who would later become Inspector General of Police, and afterwards Malawi's Deputy Ambassador to the UN), wanted me to think of myself as a serious writer. He would take me to his friends who were writers and were teaching at the University of Malawi's Chancellor College. He encouraged me to introduce myself to other writers as well. I met Prof Steve Chimombo (RIP), who introduced me to Dr. Anthony Nazombe (RIP), both of whom were lecturers in the Chancellor College Department of English. I frequented their offices and showed them my poetry and fiction, which they generously gave feedback on. This was in 1989, and I was 18 years old. One such afternoon, I sat in Dr Nazombe's office as he went through a poem I had written. We discussed several things, and at some point he mentioned the name Thandika Mkandawire, whom he said was Executive Secretary at CODESRIA. As a teenage secondary school leaver, this did not mean very much to me, until about a decade later.

In August 1997 I arrived in Iowa City, in the American midwest, to attend the University of Iowa's International Writing Programme (IWP). It was the third time a Malawian writer was attending the programme. Edison Mpina (RIP) was the first Malawian, in 1982, and Steve Chimombo followed in 1983. A Malawian who was finishing his PhD in Comparative Literature at Iowa, Dean Makuluni, introduced me to an email listserv for Malawians in the diaspora, called Nyasanet. These were very early days of the Internet. Dean Makuluni helped me open my first ever email account and subscribe to Nyasanet, the first ever Malawian social media space. I soon found that Thandika was a prominent voice on the forum, sharing all kinds of content on Malawi's history, African politics, and global economics.

In 1998, Kofi Annan (RIP), then UN Secretary General, appointed Thandika as Executive Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). It was very big news, and I wrote a news article on it. It was published by The Nation newspaper back home. Later in 1998 I started graduate school at Iowa, and began taking a strong interest in Thandika's academic work. That interest continued throughout my graduate school years. We exchanged quite a few emails with Thandika throughout that period.

Back in Malawi working on a teacher professional development project, Thandika sent me an email, sometime in 2011. He was alerting me to a programme the London School of Economics (LSE) was establishing. It was the Programme for African Leadership (PfAL), and LSE was inviting applications for the first cohort of fellows. To establish the programme, LSE had received a generous donation from one of its alumni, Firoz Lalji, a Ugandan based in Canada. Thandika wanted to make sure I did not miss the opportunity. I applied, and in 2012 became one of the inaugural LSE PfAL fellows. Thandika was one of our lecturers, and he focused on an area he had done pioneering research in and had become globally renowned for, developmental states. We had lectures from other world leading scholars in areas that included social policy, human rights, climate change, women, gender and population, and leadership ethics.

In the course of the programme, Thandika took me to his office in the LSE Department of International Development, where we had long chats on various matters. One evening we took the tube and went to a fancy London restaurant where we had dinner and a long conversation. To date, PfAL has trained more than 400 young Africans, including three other Malawians. PfAL is now part of a larger initiative under the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at the LSE.

From November 2014 to December 2015 Thandika was Visiting Professor and Senior Fellow in Residence in the Building Bridges programme, in the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (later renamed Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance). With the facilitation of Dr Marianne Camerer, programme director for the Building Bridges programme, Thandika gave a series of lectures, and ran regional workshops around the broader theme of African Economic Integration. The workshops were held in Dakar, Lusaka and Dar es Salaam, and involved up to 120 participants from 20 African countries. For the Dakar workshop, Thandika and Marianne invited twenty-one scholars, in October 2015. I was at the University of Botswana at the time, where one of the courses I was teaching was on curriculum and language policy in Africa. My presentation was titled “Breaking the Deadlock: Language, Integration and the African Renaissance,” in which I argued about the importance of African languages in the journey toward the African Renaissance.

In his reaction to my presentation, Thandika observed how African languages were enjoying a new lease of life, through mobile phone companies who used local language themes in various promotions of their products. Thandika was a firm believer in the importance of African languages in African development. One testimony for that is a 2005 book he edited, titled African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development. Amongst the chapters in the book is one by Ngugi wa Thiong'o, on the promotion of African languages as the challenge of Pan-Africanist intellectuals in the era of globalization. Another one is by Beban Sammy Chumbow, on the language question and national development in Africa.

Before I left Dakar to return to Gaborone, I had a conversation with Thandika, in which he told me about why he had invited me to the workshop. In the course of the workshop, Thandika had shared several stories about his time in Dakar in the 70s and then again in the mid-80s through to the mid-90s. That was when he served as Executive Secretary of CODESRIA. Thandika wanted me to appreciate the role CODESRIA played in Africa's intellectual life and research agenda. Having brought me to CODESRIA's headquarters, it was important that I respond to and participate in as many CODESRIA events as possible. It would be a great thing for me to become a paid-up member, he added.

Thandika would repeat that exact advice about getting involved with CODESRIA when we met again, five months later. That was in April 2016, in Lilongwe, during the colloquium to celebrate his life and work. He said had wanted me to participate because it was another CODESRIA event.

I eventually paid my membership to CODESRIA in 2018. That year, CODESRIA held its 15th General Assembly, in Dakar, Senegal, a triennial event. When Thandika saw from the programme that I would be attending and presenting a paper, he sent me an email in which he asked me to bring recent issues of Malawi's daily newspapers and magazines. I brought him copies of The Nation, the Daily Times and their weekend versions, and The Lamp magazine. He always kept up to date with what was going on in Malawi.

I arrived in Dakar on the afternoon of Saturday, 15thDecember, 2018. The following day, Sunday the 16th, David Nthengwe, a Dakar-based Malawian working for the United Nations, came to pick me up from my hotel. We joined Thandika and his wife Kaarina Klint, at Le Cabanon, a pleasant restaurant overlooking the shimmering, expansive West African Ocean (otherwise known as Atlantic). As we got up to go to the lunch buffet, I noticed that everyone left their phones and tablets on the table. I tagged at David and asked if it was safe to leave our gadgets on the table. "Very safe. Nobody would steal them here." He said. "You mean here at this restaurant, or..." Before I could finish, David replied: "I mean here in Senegal. People don't steal in this country." I was very surprised. "How do you build a country like that, with no thieves?" I asked. "Now that's a very good question. Let's ask Thandika."

We asked Thandika how it was possible that people didn't steal in Senegal. Thandika thought it was because Senegal had not gone through the brutality and hardships other African countries had gone through. "When people are treated kindly by their governments, they treat each other kindly too. They do not become violent criminals" (paraphrased). We spent much of that afternoon listening to Thandika talk about his youth in Zambia and Malawi, his secondary school days at Zomba Catholic (Box 2), his active participation in the struggle for Malawi's independence, his journalism days at the Malawi News in the early 60s, and many other fascinating topics. He told us about how Aleke Banda turned down a scholarship to go and study for a degree at Harvard, opting to work on the forefront of the struggle for Malawi's independence.

He told us about his studies in the US, becoming stateless in Ecuador during a research trip, and ending up in Sweden where he was offered citizenship. It was chilling to hear him say he still met, in Sweden, one of the people who betrayed him, leading to Kamuzu Banda's order to strip Thandika of his Malawian citizenship. He retold a story he had told me back in 2016 in Lilongwe. While living in Dakar in the 70s and again in the 80s, a group of Malawian government officials came to study for their masters' degrees. Thandika taught some of the courses in the programme.

On completing their degrees, the Malawians would not dare take their masters theses with them back to Malawi. Kamuzu Banda's machinery was notorious for putting people into detention without trial for things they had written, even for research purposes. One of the former students from the 70s came to meet Thandika in Lilongwe in 2016. “Do you remember the story I told you about those Malawians who came to Dakar for their masters' degrees, but left their theses behind for fear of Kamuzu?” He asked me, pointing toward a Malawian who had come to greet him. “He was one of them.” We all burst out into a loud laugh.

Amongst the most memorable sessions at the 2018 CODESRIA General Assembly was a tribute to the late Professor Samir Amin, an Egyptian Pan-Africanist and political economist who died on 12th August that year. Many scholars present spoke about Prof Amin and his contributions to African institutions, scholarship and freedom. An entire special issue of the CODESRIA Bulletin was dedicated to reflections on Amin's life and work. As Director of the African Institute for Economic Development Planning (IDEP) in Dakar, Amin gave CODESRIA an institutional home and a foundation. He became CODESRIA's inaugural Executive Secretary, and amongst the people he worked with in the early years, was Thandika.

That evening of Thursday, 20th December, 2018, the penultimate day to the end of the 15th CODESRIA General Assembly in Dakar, Thandika spoke last and closed the Samir Amin tribute session. He said no one had shaped his life the way Samir Amin did. He spoke about how he first met Amin in Stockholm, Sweden. As a student in Sweden, Thandika had penned a rather critical review of Amin's book and sent it to Amin, not knowing Amin would be coming to Stockholm. Amin came to Stockholm, and Thandika invited him home. They discussed Thandika's review, among other things. “Samir Amin was opposed to typologies but ironically he wrote the best treatment of typologies in African economies,” said Thandika.

He went on to say Amin was both Marxist and nationalist, something that was hard for the left, including for people like Kwame Nkrumah and Claude Ake. Said Thandika: “The worst sin you could commit with Samir Amin was not to be nationalist. You could be a bad Marxist, do bad class analysis, but you could set him off if you were not nationalist in the sense of defending Africa and Africa's interests. We will miss Samir Amin. The world will miss Samir Amin in that sense.”

As of April 2016, Thandika had ninety-one publications to his name, according to the programme document CODESRIA printed for the colloquium to celebrate Thandika's life and work. There were twenty pieces he had written in various outlets; twenty-four book chapters; thirty-five journal articles, and ten books he had authored or edited. He published a few more works after that, but was spending much of his time working on a book which he wanted to be the most definitive expression of his overall thoughts on how international financial institutions had shaped development economics and African economies.

A good overview of Thandika's thought over the decades can be found in two events. The first is his inaugural lecture when he became Professor and the first ever Chair of African Development at the London School of Economics. He gave that lecture on 27th April, 2010. Titled ‘Running while others walk: knowledge and the challenge of Africa's development,'
it was a much-anticipated event. Thandika argued, in the lecture, that Africa's development problems were problems of knowledge and the undermining of African expertise and experience. He argued for broader systems of education and knowledge, observing that human capital models and education for all campaigns were too narrow to deliver the transformation that Africa needed.

Thandika blamed the problems of African development on types of biases, including anti-education, anti-intellectual and anti-elite biases. The aid establishment had created a reward system that favoured consultancy reports over peer-reviewed journal articles, effectively sidelining home-grown African knowledge. “A people's existence is not defined only by their material conditions but also by their ideas and moral views. Africans do not live by bread alone. That said, bread matters,” said Thandika in the inaugural lecture.

He argued that the crisis of African development, brought about largely by neoliberal policies, was related to the crisis of African universities. He called on Africanists at Western institutions such as the LSE to support their African colleagues “against the ravages of the consultancy syndrome that rewards reports over refereed academic papers.” He further asked Western academics to support African academics against what he termed the “criminal negligence” of African governments that gave way to pressures to commercialise education systems.

Another occasion that provides one with a brief yet comprehensive narrative of Thandika's intellectual biography is an interview he gave to Kate Meagher, published in a 2019 issue of the journal Development and Change, from the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. The interview was published under the title ‘Reflections of an Engaged Economist: An Interview with Thandika Mkandawire.' In the discussion, Thandika articulated his views on what two decades of structural adjustment policies had done to African economies. He said compared to the American Great Depression of the 1930s, the period of structural adjustment policies in Africa lasted much longer. We should call it, he suggested, the Great African Depression.

Three decades after the SAPs, per capita incomes in Africa were yet to return to those of the 70s. The World Bank, he observed, had been expressing mea culpasover their policies on infrastructure, higher education, state institutions, sequencing of policies, and policy ownership, among others. “If you have that many mea culpas, you create an economy, and that economy behaves in a particular way. These are some of the legacies we should be looking at to understand African economies, not just colonial or pre-colonial legacies.”

Thandika was equally critical of African governments as he was of “their peripatetic international advisers”. But there was a distinction: “The latter could always walk away from the scene of crime, while African policymakers were left with the smoking gun.”

Thandika said he was critical of both “Hopeless Africa” and “Africa rising” tropes, which he said neglected the history of their legacies and consequences on current realities. Whereas the Great Depression in the West had led to many new economic ideas, in Africa the neoliberal hegemony had blocked any new thinking. Arguing that SAPs had eroded capacities of African states to capture rents from commodity booms, he used the example of Chile which made $35 billion from copper, while Zambia made only $200 million from its copper. The erosion of human capital led to the neglect of higher education, resulting in the brain drain, and in the incapacitation of African institutions.

As currently practiced, Thandika was critical of social policy in Africa, which he said was largely donor-driven, and did not link to socio-economic transformation. He said donors had been very clever in “using the little money they give to leverage the entire policy regime.” He urged African governments to seriously focus on domestic resource mobilization. “No amount of foreign capital will satisfy the needs of the continent,” he said. The majority of global savings, 61 percent, goes to the United States. China was able to industrialise through domestic savings, relying on foreign investment only for technology, not capital. SAPs had subdued Africa's aspirations and had limited the continent's visions, said Thandika. Thandika's numerous works provide greater detail to this and many of his ground-breaking ideas, but it is not the purpose of this piece to get into that kind of detail.

As I draw to the conclusion of this tribute, I would like to return to my last meeting with Thandika, and then back to the 2016 colloquium and the legacy it created for Malawi's academic space. My last in-person meeting with Thandika was in December, 2018. On the day I arrived in Dakar for the CODESRIA General Assembly, I bumped into him in the lobby of the King Fahd Palace Hotel, the venue of the conference. We exchanged greetings, and I handed over to him the newspapers and magazines I had brought from Malawi. I asked him about the book he had said he had been working on for some years. He beckoned for us to sit down on a chair. He took out his laptop, opened a document, and went to a page with a graph. That graph, he said, showed how much African economies had been growing from the time of independence, up to the time of the SAPs. The decline was dramatic. He said he still had some work to do on the manuscript before it could be complete.

After the colloquium to celebrate Thandika's life and work in 2016, I returned to campus at the Catholic University of Malawi with a new determination. It had been a phenomenal week celebrating Thandika and engaging in fascinating conversations about higher education in Malawi and in Africa. There had to be a way of continuing with those conversations, at least for the Malawians.

On 28th April 2016, I sent out an email to twenty-five friends and colleagues working in universities in Malawi and abroad. I asked them if there was an association of Malawian university lecturers, and if there was an online forum where they shared ideas. It seemed there were none. I shared with the colleagues an idea about creating a google forum, to be called Higher Ed Malawi. A handful of them responded and encouraged the idea. “I think the forum is a brilliant idea but you may have to have a light touch moderation to avoid sectarian capture,” was Thandika's advice. He became an active presence on the forum.

To date, the forum has just over 400 participants, drawn from universities and colleges in Malawi and beyond. In June 2018, Malawian academics from the forum organised the first ever international higher education conference, under the theme ‘Higher Education in the 21st Century.' As the conference came to an end, the organising committee was reconstituted, and converted into a task force charged with the responsibility of creating the Universities and Colleges Association of Malawi (UCAM). The new committee is organising the next international higher education conference, to be held later this year.

Admiring the breadth, depth and originality of Thandika's ideas, I have sometimes wished I had become a development economist myself. But Thandika was much more than a development economist. He transcended disciplinary boundaries. He was a transdisciplinary intellectual and provided penetrating insights into complex global problems. I have attempted to follow his path by being an eclectic reader and lifelong student of ideas.

As one whose main thrust is curriculum and the education of teachers, and latterly public policy, I have drawn insights from Thandika's views on human knowledge. I have used epistemological lenses to develop a sociological perspective of knowledge production for the purpose that Julius Nyerere ascribed to education in Africa. Nyerere ascribed two purposes to education. One was the process by which a society passes on to the next generation the knowledge and values it holds to be important. The other was a duty to contribute to society and to the greater good of humanity. Thandika fulfilled both purposes, and he has passed on the mantle. May his kind, gentle and compassionate soul rest in peace.

Tribute to Thandika Mkandawire, A Beloved Teacher

28. März 2020 - 13:25

By Wachira Maina

I am utterly distraught to learn from my friend Walter that my favourite political economist and teacher, Thandika Mkandawire, has died. My intellectual development took a different direction when I found Thandika Mkandawire after Graduate School, first, through his edited 1987 book “The State and Agriculture in Africa,” and subsequently through the brilliant work he did on Africa's economic development, World Bank policies and the African state in the 1990s and throughout the 2000s. I am certain that if I had not come across Thandika when I did, my intellectual development would have veered off in a completely different, almost certainly less fulfilling direction.
I was - at the time- young, restless, and, intellectually, very adventurous. Graduate school had lit a spark in me. But it had left me somewhat jaded. I had suddenly realized that I did not care for legal doctrine. I liked - and still like- law's forensic tools - but I found doctrine sterile: it was either noisily obvious or complicatedly trivial. This was especially so when lawyers launched into voluble disputations on some arcane point. True, jurisprudence had real insight but then jurisprudence is academic law. Most of the rest of law is applied, or to put it differently, law is to jurisprudence what accounting is to economics.

There I was then: June 1993, a newly-minted graduate bristling that my training till then had neither asked nor answered the questions that had taken me to graduate school. I wanted to know what to do when those sworn to implement them regularly ignored them. I did not know what incentives or disincentives to put in place to discourage dictators or corporate chiefs from stealing public money. Could such incentives and disincentives be legally designed? I wondered why theories of sovereignty did not address the ways in which economic prescriptions by multilateral agencies subverted people's control over governments in debtor countries. I knew what the rule of law was and could speak and write with great eloquence about its characteristics. Yet if you asked how institutional design might help secure it, I could not answer you. This background is necessary to explain just what a profound effect Thandika had on me.
My journey towards acquiring the perspectives and tools that would eventually help me grapple with these questions begun in two places, with Thandika Mkandawire's “The State and Agriculture in Africa” and with all-night, whisky-inspired debates and arguments with David Ndii at Invergara Club. (David won't like these confidential disclosures!) Thandika gave me different perspectives on how to understand the state. In this book, I learnt to look into and to question the fiscal basis of the state, any state. That is to say, I learnt to ask how a state raises revenues because, it turned out, as I learnt still later, that revenues and where they came from shaped how the state treated citizens. Does the state raise revenues from taxes or from mineral rents? States that live off taxes –called merchant states - must have some implicit understanding with the key tax-paying groups in society. For this reason, such states are more likely to be more inclusive. States that live off rents- called rentier states- rest on narrow bargains between politicians and the companies involved in extraction. Mineral economics are essentially off shore economies: Governments in state that have such economies don't care for public support. They survive by repression or co-optation, that is, by buying off opponents.
This analysis opened my eyes to much that I had missed and sent me scurrying in all directions to find more materials. Now I could explain why mineral and oil rich countries were so fragile or so dictatorial. I now knew why populations in those countries were often poor: politicians would rather squirrel the money to tax havens than invest in public services.
Mkandawire's was always brilliant: He had an uncanny ability to illuminate a subject and to upend received wisdom with a simple vignette. I remember being extremely impressed by Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis brilliant work on conflict. Collier and Sambanis had put the old canard that African conflicts are caused by ancient ethnic hatreds and grievances with a series of empirical studies arguing that most conflicts could actually be explained by greed, that is, most of them were driven by scramble for lootable resources. Thandika was not persuaded and though I do not know whether he ever wrote an essay that directly responded to this thesis he wrote a number of penetrating essays that very cleverly chipped away at the argument. His 2002 deceptively low-key essay, “The Terrible toll of Post-Colonial ‘Rebel Movements' in Africa: Towards an Explanation of the Violence against the Peasantry” is particularly on point. Mkandawire asked a simple question, “Why are African rebel movements so violent towards peasants?” He returned the answer, which felt so intuitively right to me, that it was because they rebels were invariably urban elites who had migrated their disputes to rural Africa. This was astonishingly obvious when I thought about it. Until 2007, Kenyan elites squabbling over the presidency always took their blood letting to rural areas.
Perhaps Thandika's most influential work- with colleagues like Bayo Olukoshi – was his 20 year interrogation of the neo-liberal stipulations of the World Bank's – first as Structural Adjustment Programmes and then as Poverty Reduction Strategies - sold to Africa and the developing countries as the Washington Consensus- during his days at CODESRIA and later at United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UNRISD, where he served as Director from 1998 to 2009. He was completely vindicated by the dramatic unraveling of the Washington Consensus in the 2008 financial crisis.
Thandika and a handful of African scholars fought long and hard to liberate Africa's development debate from the stranglehold of the so-called North American Africanists. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s these Africanists were extremely influential in western policy circles. Though their advice was regularly sought, Thandika was deeply disenchanted with their work. This work problematized under-development in Africa as a result of neo-patrimonial politics with neopatrimonialism being understood in segmental and hierarchical terms. The standard explanatory model has the President and his ‘tribes-mates' sitting as patrons atop the state, their hands on the public kitty, serving a web of grateful clients who repay him with loyalty and votes. On this view, Africa was under-developed because these neopatrimonial webs undermined or eroded rational policy making.
Thandika Couldn't abide this empirically bankrupt argument. He felt that the Africanists were selling snake-oil to policy makers in the Washington and London. He noticed – as did other African scholars that Africanist circles were not only hermetically sealed against African perspectives, they had also become intellectually incestuous - liberally quoting and cross-referencing each other. They were not promoting debate, they were more like congregants at a neo-liberal wake. Thandika thought that the neopatrimonial perspective – though highly privileged and valued in donor circles –offered nothing analytically. And even worse, had no predictive value.
Thandika's interpretations of the possibilities of democracy in Africa were always original, cautiously optimistic and always refreshing. He had genuine flashes of insight. He made me question much that I thought self-evident. He hated complacency. I was privileged to participate in many fora with him. I remember, in particular, a discussion panel I shared with him and Prof. Anyang Ny'ongo in Accra Ghana in April 2014 during the “Pan-African Conference on Inequalities in the Context of Structural Transformation.” It was the first time that I got a really good chance to chat with him. What humility, what gentle persuasion and what intellectual charm. I have been lucky to meet many intellectual giants in my life. The truly great like Louis Henkin-my Constitutional Law Professor in Graduate School - and Thandika Mkandawire are the ones that teach you effortlessly and joyously.

God speed you along. Here is Laban Erapu's Elegy to walk you to the underworld:

When he was here,
We planned each tomorrow
With him in mind
For we saw no parting
Looming beyond the horizon.
When he was here,
We joked and laughed together
And no fleeting shadow of a ghost
Ever crossed our paths.
Day by day we lived
On this side of the mist
And there was never a sign
That his hours were running fast.
When he was gone,
Through glazed eyes we searched
Beyond the mist and the shadows
For we couldn't believe he was nowhere:
We couldn't believe he was dead.
Adios Maestro.

CODESRIA Survey on Women and Young Girls

28. März 2020 - 13:21

Survey Focus Areas

CODESRIA is currently undertaking research on African Women and Girls in Shrinking Civic Space, and is administering this survey to understand the participation of women in civic spaces, factors and barriers that affect their participation (in particular physical and structural violence) and strategies women and girls employ to overcome these barriers.

The survey also seeks to assess the extent to which civil society has put in place measures to enhance the participation of women in civic space.

Your responses will be completely anonymous and will remain confidential and will only be used for purposes of this research.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey.

Thandika Mkandawire has passed on!

27. März 2020 - 15:16

It is with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that the Council for the Development of Social Science in Africa, CODESRIA, announces the passing away of Professor Thandika Mkandawire on March 27, 2020. Thandika as he was fondly known was a brilliant economist and prodigious scholar whose works on African political economy challenged dominant ways of seeing the African continent on a wide range of issues that included structural adjustment and economic reform, democratic politics, neopatrimonialism and insurgent violence. Thandika was a very dedicated member of CODESRIA. He led the Council as its Executive Secretary from 1985 to 1996 and continued to play important roles in the life of the organization after moving on to head UNRISD and later taking on a distinguished professorship at the London School of Economics. From 2015-2016, he led the internal review of CODESRIA's governance and membership whose recommendations underpin an ambitious process of reform that the Council is undertaking. On April 11-13, 2016 CODESRIA organized a conference in Lilongwe, Malawi with the theme “Thinking African, Epistemological Issues: Celebrating the Life and Work of Thandika Mkandawire” in his honor.
Thandika will be sorely missed by the CODESRIA community and the entire African social science community. His brilliance was matched by his humility, wit and willingness to mentor new generations of scholars. CODESRIA extends its sincere condolences to Thandika's family. CODESRIA will announce its plans for celebrating the life and ideas of Thandika in the days ahead. May his soul rest in perfect peace.

More updates on this in the coming days.

2020 Democratic Governance Institute: Call for Director, Resource Persons and Laureates

26. März 2020 - 19:47

Theme: Governing African Civil Society in a Context of Shrinking Civic Spaces.

Application Deadlines:
Director: 30th April 2020
Resource Persons: 30th April 2020
Laureates: 15th May 2020

Date for the Institute: July 13-24, 2020
Venue: Dar es Salam, Tanzania

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, CODESRIA, invites proposals from academics, civil society actors and researchers based in African universities, civil society organizations and research institutions to participate in the 2020 session of the Democratic Governance institute, scheduled from July 13-24, 2020 in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. A limited number of non-African academics and researchers from within and outside the continent who will submit proposals and qualify will be selected to attend if they can fund the cost of their participation.

The theme selected for the 2020 session of the Democratic Governance Institute is “Governing African Civil Society in a Context of Shrinking Civic Spaces.” The choice of the theme is informed by the need to intellectually examine trends that are constraining the spaces for civic engagement on the continent. The idea of “governing African civil society” as phrased here draws the attention of those submitting proposals to engage with the theme from three fronts. First is with official or non-official action undertaken by governments to foreclose civic spaces and undermine the legitimacy of civil society organizations. We hope applicants will explore what this means for the work of civil society in particular and the populations of disempowered citizens that benefit from interventions by civil society groups. The second front is from within the civil society organizations themselves. This refers to their internal structures and forms of engagement that might undermine their claims to credibility and provide ready ammunitions for governments bent on using this as an excuse to constrict spaces for civic engagement. The third front is prospective and aims to examine ways in which civil society might better organize to protect the integrity of their engagements and expand spaces for civic engagement.

Over the last two decades, governments in Africa, working independently or taking advantage of prevailing economic trends driven by external actors, have made efforts to shrink the spaces for civic engagement. A Freedom House Report (2019) documents that within the last 15 years, 12 African countries adopted legislation or policies that improperly constrained civil society organizations, six countries had anti-civil society legislations awaiting introduction while another six had introduced measures only to have them abandoned by the executive, rejected by the legislature, or invalidated by the courts. In all the cases, the laws and measures sought to empower the states to legally control the work of civil society especially in the area of human rights and civic engagement. Other efforts by governments have been extra-legal, including violence, blackmail, co-optation and overt support of government controlled CSOs often externally funded from sources that have an interest in controlling governments against the broader interests of the citizens. Either strategy, the overall objective has been to delegitimize civil society and civic engagement as legitimate space for citizens and cast doubt on the credibility of autonomous civic spheres that can activate and channel citizens' interests and demands.

This situation is not peculiar to Africa. Globally, governments are increasingly passing legislations that clawback on previously available spaces for civic action. The rise of illiberal populists both in North America and Europe has contributed to the steady decline of democratic values worldwide and threatened the survival of liberal institutions that served as a vanguard of civil society movements globally. African governments trying to foreclose spaces for civic activism therefore do so in the knowledge and comfort that globally, their actions will find positive resonance among major actors who previously supported the work of civil society. In some cases, ambassadors of Northern countries have been deployed locally to make a case for bilateral and multilateral partnerships for economic growth, something they cast as inconsistent with local civil society demands for basic freedoms of speech, assembly and movement.

Amid the onslaught from governments, civil society organizations also face internal governance challenges that attenuate their capacity to face threats from governments. This has taken various forms. In some countries, government-friendly civil society organizations have been nurtured and encouraged. These organizations operate in ways that legitimise government positions and act as a force for the status quo instead of challenging it. In other cases, there are noticeable schisms between the traditional civil society organizations and the more recent social-media savvy groups, which deploy social media as the new medium for civic activism. In others, the divide between human rights/governance civil society versus development civil society is encouraged. It is a reality that in some countries there are cases of bloggers, funded by politicians who use social media to undermine the work of other civic institutions. In such instances, governments bent on disrupting the work of civil society use such fissures to defuse any transformative agenda from civic activism, thus, creating doubts on what outcomes communities stand to gain from civic engagements. When civil society institutions start having internal challenges of governance and accountability, they undermine the very liberal ideas they are set up to protect and become easy prey to politicians.

The Institute will provide selected applicants with an opportunity to reflect more broadly on what the decline in liberal values means for civic engagement. The focus is on the emerging onslaught by governments on civic space in general and on civil society in particular. While engagements during the institute are expected to provide a mapping of the various strategies governments are deploying to close civic spaces, it will be equally important for proposals to examine the new tools civil society organizations need to re-invent activism and advocacy especially in fighting inequalities of all forms that perpetuate disempowerment of people and communities. More specifically, the institute will aim to relate this concerns on civic engagement to the gender questions, focusing more specifically to the situation of women and girls and how they variously experience the constriction of civic spaces and limit their engagement. It is acknowledged that engagement in civic spaces is above all gendered and the shrinking of that space has a high propensity to increase the marginalization of girls, women, sexual minorities and those excluded from economic rights. Lastly, proposals should probe the question of how civil society organizations need to deal with issues relating to their internal governance structures so as to strengthen their legitimacy and build strong coalitions to safeguard their value among citizens, overcome the limitations being erected by intransigent governments and widen the space and legitimacy of local civic engagement.

Candidates submitting proposals for consideration as director, resource persons and laureates are encouraged to interrogate the theme more broadly as framed in the foregoing discussion, with a focus on deepening the theoretical knowledge and empirical data available.


The activities of all CODESRIA Institutes center on presentations by African researchers, Resource Persons and participants whose applications for participation have been successful. The sessions are led by a Director who, with the support of Resource Persons, ensures that the Laureates are exposed to a wide range of research material and policy thinking. Each Laureate is required to prepare a research paper to be presented during the Institute. The revised version of such a paper will undergo a peer review for publication by CODESRIA. The CODESRIA Documentation and Information Centre (CODICE) will provide participants with a comprehensive bibliography on the theme of the Institute. The Institute will be held in both English and French through simultaneous interpretation.

Eligibility and Selection


The Director for the Institute should be a senior academic who is expected to provide intellectual leadership of the Institute. The Director should also have proven expertise and intellectual depth and originality of thinking on the theme of the Institute as evidenced from the record of research and publications. As part of the process, those wishing to be considered as Director should provide a 15-page proposal broadly reflecting on the theme of the institute and a course outline covering ten days and indicating the main topics to be covered with laureates during the institute.

Applicants for the position of Director should submit:

  • an application letter;
  • a proposal, not more than 15 pages in length, indicating the course outline and showing in what ways the course would be original and responsive to the needs of prospective laureates, specifically focusing on the issues to be covered from the point of view of concepts and methodology, a critical review of the literature, and the range of issues arising from the theme of the Institute;
  • a detailed and up-to-date curriculum vitae; and
  • three writing samples relevant to the theme.

The Director will (co) edit the revised versions of the papers presented by the Resource Persons and the Laureates with a view to submitting them to CODESRIA for publication

Resource Persons

Lectures to be delivered at the Institute are intended to offer laureates an opportunity to advance their reflections on the theme of the institute and on their own research topics. Resource Persons are, therefore, senior scholars or scholars in their mid-career who have published sufficiently on the theme, and who have a significant contribution to make to the debates on it. They will be expected to produce lecture materials which serve as think pieces that stimulate laureates to engage in discussion and debate around the lectures and the general body of literature available on the theme. They should also contribute to the comprehensive bibliography developed by CODICE.

Once selected, resource persons must:

  • submit a copy of their lectures for reproduction and distribution to participants not later than one week before the date of the lecture;
  • deliver their lectures, participate in debates and comment on the research proposals of the laureates;
  • review and submit the revised version of their research papers for consideration for publication by CODESRIA not later than two months following their presentation.

Applications for the position of resource person should include:

  • an application letter;
  • two writing samples relevant to the theme of the session;
  • a curriculum vitae; and
  • a proposal, not more than five (5) pages in length, outlining the issues to be covered in their proposed lecture.


Applicants should be African researchers who have completed their university and /or professional training, with a proven capacity to carry out research on the theme of the Institute. Intellectuals active in the policy process and/or in social movements/civic organizations are also encouraged to apply. The number of places offered by CODESRIA at each session of the institutes is limited to fifteen (15) fellowships. Non-African scholars who can raise funds for their participation may also apply for a limited number of places.

Applications for Laureates should include:

  • an application letter;
  • a letter indicating institutional or organizational affiliation;
  • a curriculum vitae;
  • a research proposal, including a descriptive analysis of the work the applicant intends to undertake, an outline of the theoretical interest of the topic chosen by the applicant, and the relationship of the topic to the problematic and concerns of the theme of the Institute; and
  • two reference letters from scholars and/or researchers known for their competence and expertise in the candidate's research area (geographic and disciplinary), including their names, addresses and telephone, e-mail, fax numbers.

An independent committee composed of outstanding scholars in the thematic area will select the candidates to be admitted to the Institute.

All applications (for Director, Resource persons and laureates) should be submitted electronically via the link

4th CODESRIA/CASB Summer School in African Studies and Area Studies in Africa

26. März 2020 - 12:21

Theme: The Normative Order in African Studies
Venue: Dakar, Senegal
Date: 14-18 September 2020
Applications deadline: 17 July 2020

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and The Centre for African Studies in Basel (CASB) call for applications for their 4th Summer School in African Studies and Area Studies in Africa. The Summer School is offered with the generous support of the Oumou Dilly Foundation (Switzerland) in cooperation with CODESRIA and aims at strengthening the links between the CODESRIA community of scholars and scholars from the African Studies community in Switzerland.

The overall objective of the Summer School is to stimulate and consolidate interdisciplinary approaches to research on Africa, but also on other regions of the world undertaken from within the African continent. It focuses on African Studies as an instance of area studies and seeks to identify themes that are theoretically, conceptually and methodologically relevant to the reflection on the intellectual challenge of Africa as an object of knowledge and its contribution to general scholarship while inquiring into the relevance of the findings to African approaches to other regions.

The goals of the Summer School are the following:

  • Give PhD students and emerging scholars the opportunity to engage critically with new theoretical, conceptual and methodological developments in African Studies and enhance the relevance of the methods to their work under the guidance of senior scholars.
  • Encourage PhD students and emerging scholars to reflect on the potential relevance of knowledge on Africa to the task of improving theoretical, conceptual and methodological tools both in the disciplines as well as in interdisciplinary work.
  • Foster among PhD students and emerging scholars a sense of belonging to a community of scholars in pursuit of knowledge and scholarship.
  • Stimulate emerging scholars to work towards carving a space for African Studies in the broader field of scholarship and, in this way, helping African Studies to claim a place right at the center of knowledge production.

Concept note

The Summer School addresses the issue of the Normative Order in African Studies. According to received wisdom, values would appear to play no role in science. At any rate, it is assumed that the role played by values should be a limited one. The epistemological background to this assumption is the perennial distinction between objectivity and neutrality. In this connection, it is argued that proper knowledge production is only possible if researchers and scholars prevent their values and interests from influencing their work. The best way to accomplish this consists in adhering to strict standards of objectivity making the validity of scientific claims a function of methodology and logic, rather than a function of the normative commitments of knowledge producers. Yet, it is fair to argue that debates in the methodology of the social sciences over the past two hundred years have revolved around these assumptions. Debates between opposing fields, i.e. those who claim that science should be value free and those who counter that science is never value free on account of how science has been deployed to pursue the interests of some over others have fired the imagination of those participating in the discussions.

African Studies is a field where this issue is of interest. The field came into being as part of the European colonial project. In this sense, knowledge production on and in Africa has always been tied to the political, economic and cultural interests of the nations funding it. Even presently, when African nations are independent, have their own researchers and seek to produce knowledge themselves and for themselves, it appears to be the case that values, and interests continue to play a role. The requirement, for example, that research is made relevant to policy in the context of development concerns seems to secure a place for the values and interests of dominant nations in that development is a concept conjuring up normative expectations concerning the right way to live. The grand narrative of the Enlightenment bearing on how reason could ensure progress and human improvement lurks beneath the call for policy relevance.

There is a sense in which calls for the decolonization of the African mind are reactions to how Africanist scholars perceive the role of values in science. When African scholars doubt whether scientific knowledge drawing from what they assume to be a “Western” epistemology is able to render African worlds intelligible, they may be expressing a discomfort with the extent to which the knowledge produced might be speaking to a normative order laid down by “European” values. While this may sound ideological, there possibly is a methodological argument behind it. Accounts of the world are as much about concrete phenomena as they are about unspoken aspects of those phenomena. The key finding, for example, that corruption undermines African development is an apt description and explanation of state fragility in Africa. At the same time, however, it suggests that – all things being equal (i.e. global structural conditions) and the history that constituted most African countries as developing nations – without corruption things might look different. Alas, it is clear that no comprehensive understanding of Africa's development challenges is possible without taking history into account. The ceteris paribus clause does not hold much water, either. The methodological challenge here is that the conceptual categories through which we seek to retrieve the world direct our attention to the data lending them substance when the challenge in fact is to critically engage with the categories themselves.

Engaging with conceptual categories means to uncover their normative foundations. Science is a highly normative enterprise in that its ultimate goal, producing knowledge to render the world intelligible, constitutes a broad commitment to some notion of a better world. Part of the challenge of doing African Studies, therefore, should be a commitment to uncovering the values underlying science not to dispose of them, but to harness them to even better research. The title of the Summer School is cast purposefully in an ambiguous way. On the one hand, it speaks to the fundamental value of science and, on the other hand, to how interests come together to lend legitimacy and purpose to science.

Key questions

The basic goal of the Summer School is to address this ambivalence by inviting proposals which look into “the value(s) of science” from several angles:

  • Which values underlie development research in Africa and how do they affect methodological choices?
  • How do ethical commitments shape how researchers frame their research?
  • Is there a politics of Western epistemology and, if so, what would be a scientific African Studies' approach to problematize it?
  • What is the precise methodological argument behind decolonial calls for delinking?
  • How do the values of science inform its value?
  • What role is played by ideological commitments in the validation of knowledge?
  • How do ideas of a better life or world inform research projects?

Application procedures

The Summer School is open for PhD students and emerging scholars enrolled and working at Higher Education institutions in any country. Applications from PhD students registered in African and Swiss universities and in the following disciplines are highly encouraged: Social Anthropology, Sociology, History, Religion, Philosophy, Gender studies and Political science. Travel, accommodation and meals during the Summer School will be provided for participants from African Institutions.

Those wishing to be considered for participation should submit a five-page concept paper which should highlight: (a) what they are working on (b) how their work relates to the theme of the Summer School;(c) their expectations from the Summer School should they be selected.
In addition, applications must be supported by an application letter, a CV, two letters of recommendation from the candidate's institution of affiliation and a copy of the applicant's passport.

Applicants are requested to use the following link to submit their proposals.

For specific questions, please contact:
Tel.: (221) 33 825 98 21/22/23


Message on the COVID-19 pandemic to the CODESRIA Community

13. März 2020 - 18:30

The World Health Organization this week designated the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. While numbers from China where it started seem to indicate that it is getting better there, infections have exploded in other areas of the world and many African countries are registering cases.
CODESRIA has being tracking the outbreak and assessing its potential impact on the Council's activities and the work of the community it serves. Given the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on certain vulnerable populations as well as society at large, CODESRIA has taken the following measures:

1. CODESRIA will not hold any activities requiring the gathering of significant numbers of people (conferences, workshops, institutes, meetings of its organs) from March to May 2020. New dates will be announced for any activities planned for these months. Decisions will be made later on activities planned for the rest of the year based on how the pandemic evolves.

2. CODESRIA is cancelling all work-related travel of Secretariat staff outside of Senegal where its offices are located.

3. The Council will do its best to continue to provide agreed on and scheduled support to participants in its research, training and publications activities during this period while keeping in mind that the pandemic may disrupt the work of members of its community.
The Council continues to monitor the situation and will announce new measures governing our work as the pandemic unfolds.

Godwin Murunga
Executive Secretary

Public Dialog on Higher Education and African Philanthropy

3. März 2020 - 13:51

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program

Higher Education and Philanthropy in Africa
Public Dialogue

Monday , March 9, 2020 , 4:00-6 :00 p.m. Manu Chandaria Auditorium
6th Floor, the Towers, University of Nairobi

Hosted by
Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP} with:

Ms. Deana Arsenian
Vice President, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Dr. Manu Chandaria
Chancellor, USIU-Africa

Dr. Vijoo Rattansi
Chancellor, the University of Nairobi

Dr. Paul Zeleza
Vice Chancellor, USIU - Africa; Chair, CADFP Advisory Council

Ms. Victoria Rubadiri
Citizen TV

Join leaders of academic and research institutions, philanthropie organizations, development partners, government officiais, and other key players in the higher education and research sector to deliberate on the role of African philanthropy in African higher education, including funding approaches, opportunities, and constraints.
A reception will follow with light refreshments.

Everlyn A . Musa
Coordinator CADFP

NGO Leadership Transition Fellowship Program (LTFP) In Africa

19. Februar 2020 - 12:35

ARNOVA and AROCSA, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, have established the NGO Leadership Transition Fellowship Program (LTFP) in Africa. This program is intended for senior civil society/NGO leaders who are contemplating or have decided to move on from their existing NGO. This program seeks to help that leader develop a succession plan within the organization, contemplate a personal transition plan and also preserve their knowledge and experience.


The objectives of the LTFP in Africa are to:

  • 1. Contribute to the process of establishing a supportive infrastructure for leadership transition within the NGO movement in Africa
  • 2. Promote the creation of leadership spaces for the next generation of leaders in African civil society to grow and strive
  • 3. Increase the documentation of leadership experiences/reflections and renewal processes within civil society in Africa


This program will start September 1, 2020 and end on November 30, 2020

Fellowship Activities

  • I. Pre-Fellowship Retreat: ARNOVA will organize a two-day retreat in the US in September to enable better understanding of the following: 1) each fellow's transition needs; 2) what stage they and their organizations are, in thinking and planning for their transition; and 3) agreement on timing and output of the fellowship. The retreat would also enable creation of peer learning and mentoring community within each LTFP cohort that will enable them to support one another through difficult times in their transition plan.
  • II. 3-month fellowship placements at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, Indiana, which will serve as the host institution. Fellows will work with a faculty mentor at the host university to provide guidance on fellows' book chapters, documention of leadership experience, and networking. The engagement of the fellows while on the LTFP would include:
  • 1. Reflections on leadership experiences and what they plan to do after the fellowship
  • 2. Writing of a book chapter on a topic of their choice - giving their perspectives on topical issues in the sector; developing a personal career transition plan, and leadership succession plan for their NGOs
  • 3. Organizing of seminars where necessary, on a topic of their choice with students and faculties of the host institution, where they would share their experience amongst others
  • III. Post-Fellowship Retreat: AROCSA will organize a full day retreat to be held during the AROCSA Pre-Conference session in July of the year following the fellowship. This provides opportunity for a de-brief on the program, capture lessons lerned, discuss implications for the sector, plan next steps, and connect with academic institutions in Africa.
  • IV. Presentation of the book chapters. Fellows will be invited to present their learning experiences in panels and take questions from an intergenerational and cross-sector audience in Africa comprising leaders, researchers and scholars in the social sector. The presentations would highlight their perspectives captured in their book chapters, and will take place during the AROCSA Annual Conference which is typically held in July in Africa. The panel sessions and publication of their written pieces would mark the end of each cycle of the fellowship program.
  • IV. Regional report-back seminar: At the end of the fellowship program and after returning to their countries, each fellow will organize a feedback and experience-sharing seminar, involving the fellow's organization, other CSOs leaders and institutions. This will create awareness of the Fellowship program and serve as a medium to give back.
  • V. Mentorship: For a year after the fellowship, the Fellow will commit to adopting a mentee, or serve a CSO in an advisory capacity so that there is transference of knowledge and provision of support. This structured mentorship program can be applied to an existing mentorship relationship or CSO advisory role

Financial Support

  • I. Stipend: $9,000 covering living support for the three months during the fall semester at a US university
  • II. Housing: one single furnished bedroom, in a 2-bedroom apartment shared with one other fellow for three months in Indianapolis
  • III. Health insurance through Indiana University for three months in Indianapolis
  • IV. SEVIS fee
  • V. Economy class return ticket from home country to the US for the semester at Indiana University in Indianapolis
  • VI. Costs related to attending the 2020 ARNOVA North American annual conference
  • VII. Costs related to attending the opening and closing retreats in the program
  • VIII. Up to $1000 travel funds to attend the AROCSA conference in July 2021


  • I. Executive Director of an NGO in North Africa, and from North Africa, seeking to transition away from their NGO
  • II. Approval from the board to take a sabbatical from work from September - November 2020
  • III. Candidate must be above forty (40) years of age
  • IV. Candidate must have been in the executive leadership position for at least ten (10) years
  • V. Candidate must be a full time paid staff of the NGO
  • VI. Medical fitness certified by qualified medical doctor


  • 1. Transition for the program is defined in the context of “an NGO leader exiting the NGO in which he/she has been in its full employment and paid staff leadership position for at least 10 years, and moving into a different NGO, academia, business, government or going into retirement.
  • 2. Once an offer is made, participation may not be deferred

Required Deliverables

  • I. Written Personal Transition Plan
  • II. Written Leadership Succession Plan for the NGO
  • III. A book chapter on a topic of choice reflecting topical issues in the nonprofit sector in Africa; the chapter must be between 5,000 – 7,500 words including references

Application Process

Applicants are required to apply for the Fellowship through the electronic application on the ARNOVA website. Applications must include the following:

  • I. Completed electronic application forms
  • II. Copy of current passport
  • III. Curriculum Vitae
  • IV. Two letters of recommendation (including one from the NGO Board Chair indicating that the board is aware and approves of the applicant's participation in the fellowship)
  • V. 3-5 page (double space, 12pt font with one inch margins) personal statement that includes, but not limited to, the reason for participating in the fellowship and anticipated fellowship objectives that the applicant seeks to achieve

* If selected, you will be required to complete and document a comprehensive assessment of your health status. To view the medical form and familiarize yourself with required medical examinations, please click here:

Application Timeline

  • February 19, 2020 Application opens
  • March 4, 2020 5:00 PM EDT Application deadline (all materials must be submitted by this time)
  • Sept 1 – Nov 30, 2020 Fellowship at Indiana University
  • November 2020 ARNOVA Conference
  • July 2021 Post-Fellowship Retreat at AROCSA Conference

Organizational/Institutional Profiles


Established initially in 1971 as the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars (AVAS), the organization was renamed the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) in 1991. In recent decades, the association has played a key role in expanding research and teaching about the practices and traditions of voluntarism, philanthropy, and nonprofit organizations.

ARNOVA's mission is to be a “leading interdisciplinary community of people dedicated to fostering – through research and education – the creation, application, and dissemination of knowledge on nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, civil society, and voluntary action.” ARNOVA's membership comes from a broad range of academic disciplines, including sociology, political science, economics, history, law, and many others. While about three-quarters of ARNOVA's members identify themselves as academics, the remaining one-quarter self-identify as nonprofit practitioners. Nearly one-third of ARNOVA's membership and conference attendees live outside the United States. The association's scholarly journal, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, is the leading peer-reviewed journal in the field. In addition, its annual conference hosts around 700 scholars, practitioners, and policymakers to present over 400 research papers. ARNOVA's website address is


The Association for Research on Civil Society in Africa (AROCSA) seeks to create a platform for meaningful engagement of scholars and researchers, practitioners in civil society, business and policy makers, and other stakeholders, with the goal of knowledge generation and dissemination on civil society by African scholars and practitioners, reflecting global excellence standards and propelling development on the continent.

AROCSA was founded in September 2015 in Accra, Ghana, under the auspices of the Association for Research on Non-Profit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and with support from Ford Foundation, to promote and advance a community of excellence in research and practice on civil society in the service of African development.

There are multiple, stand-alone efforts to encourage research and knowledge-sharing on the ‘third sector' globally, and this is evident in the existence of various organizations, conferences, academic journals etc. in various parts of the world. In Africa, the contemporary complexities of governance and relationships between sectors – public, private, non-profit, and academia — has led to the rise in the relevance of civil society and the citizen sector in general. It is therefore crucial to have a continent-wide organization that will serve as the bedrock of advancing knowledge and practice in the area of civil societies in Africa. This is why AROCSA was set up.

AROCSA expects to operate in the five areas listed below:

  • The creation of a fund to support research and scholarship on civil society in Africa An annual conference bringing together scholars and practitioners for networking, learning, and skills-building
  • A regional academic journal focused on African civil society
  • Fellowships for doctoral students and civil society professionals
  • Training for scholars and civil society organization (CSO) staff on applied research methods and evidence-based work.


Reconfiguring diaspora – From brain drain to brain gain

17. Februar 2020 - 13:40

Sharon Dell

Traditional understandings of the African academic diaspora in terms of loss or ‘brain drain' do not sit well with Patrício Langa, a sociologist and associate professor of higher education who straddles two academic portfolios in two African countries – one at the Institute for Post-School Studies (IPSS) of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and another at Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique.

“I take issue with those who restrict the notion of the ‘academic diaspora' to ‘brain drain', especially when they are referring to Africa or the developing world as the losing side,” he told University World News in an interview following last November's Forum and Workshop on the Role of the African Diaspora in the Revitalisation of Higher Education in Africa, hosted in Ethiopia by the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University, Canada, in partnership with the African Union Citizens and Diaspora Directorate and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

For Langa, brain drain happens not when an African scholar leaves his or her country to pursue academic opportunities elsewhere, but when that scholar turns their back on the academy to embrace the “politics of bread and butter”, goes into business or works as cheap labour for the non-governmental sector – “not because they are really interested in those areas, but because they can't afford to work at university”.

Not a ‘brain on the run'

According to Langa, the African scholar who moves from his or her country to continue to serve science is not a “brain on the run” because “his or her scientific work will always be accessible to everyone, no matter where he or she is”.

Even if academic work is reduced to teaching, such brains would still be available to give occasional lectures in their home countries, he said.

Langa argues that the expression ‘brain drain' is “unfair” because it suggests that those who go out and find employment overseas are “brains” and those who stay on the continent, like him, are “lesser brains”.

“This creates the myth that the diaspora knows better than those who remain on the continent … Some of us on the continent do much more with limited resources,” he said.

Based at the IPSS in South Africa, Langa is indeed walking the talk. Perceiving the value of diasporan exchange, about five years ago he successfully applied for a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the IPSS to host African based scholars and African diaspora scholars within a project coordinated by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and known as “From brain drain to brain gain: Working with African diaspora to strengthen the expertise in higher education, science and innovation in Africa”.

In 2016, Professor Teboho Moja, a distinguished professor of higher education at New York University, was the first diaspora scholar to be hosted by the IPSS under the diaspora initiative. Enabled by a CODESRIA and CCNY sponsorship combined, more than 10 African based and African diaspora scholars visited the IPSS between 2016 and 2018.

Langa says this kind of initiative, run through CODESRIA, which aims at strengthening relations between African academics in the diaspora and African universities, and other mobility schemes with similar goals focused on the sharing of teaching and research capacity, are the kinds of opportunities that African governments should be promoting – one of the recurrent arguments emerging from November's Addis Ababa forum.

In a paper published in a special issue of the Journal of Higher Education in Africa entitled “Scholars on the Move: Reclaiming the African diaspora to support African higher education”, Langa, who co-edited the edition with Dr Samuel Fongwa of the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria, highlights the concept of multiple academic affiliations (MAAs) as one way to redress knowledge and academic inequities globally and in emerging countries and reconceptualise the diaspora in terms of “brain gain, brain circulation and brain-sharing” – particularly as it affects African universities.

‘Translocal' brain-sharing

Citing the example of Ugandan-born academic Mahmood Mamdani who, like Langa himself, holds two formal academic appointments in two countries (Uganda and the United States) – and on two continents – Langa argues that multiple affiliations could facilitate “translocal” brain-sharing – a form of international academic exchange and engagement which may or may not include physical mobility but still allows for an exchange and sharing of knowledge.

He argues that MAAs and brain-sharing, “particularly in the age of digitalisation, broaden both the scope and the possibility of a win-win situation by sharing the academic and intellectual capacity of highly productive [African] academics through capitalising on MAAs and collaboration between [African] universities and their diaspora scholars”.

However, most African universities do not have a framework to cope with anything other than a physically present worker, he argues. This is as a result of large student classes on campuses, requiring the physical presence of lecturers, as well as traditional conceptions of academic work as teaching – in a literal class.

Traditional ideas

“The traditional idea of academic work being defined as teaching in class reinforces the predisposition of most African universities to oppose international collaboration and mobility,” he writes.

Joint degree programmes are another way to promote collaboration between African based scholars and Africa diaspora scholars, where all sides have similar opportunities for academic exchange and MAAs. However as Langa notes, as they stand, generally speaking, European partners, including the African diaspora, regularly benefit more than their African based scholar partners from these programmes.

So where does that leave the African based scholar?

Langa argues that academics who are based on the continent as well as in the diaspora can explore new forms of mutually-beneficial engagement – joint curriculum development, shared graduate student supervision, joint research projects and joint grant applications – which extend beyond the “duration of a summer holiday”.

He said a continued focus on the disadvantages of academic migration – brain drain – obstructs the “innovative interactions” that both African based scholars and diaspora scholars have forged on both sides, involving their home and host institutions.

Langa suggests that while there are still many challenges to overcome, particularly in African institutions, the collaborations between African based and African diaspora scholars are gradually gaining financial support from international funding agencies such as the European Union's Erasmus+ programme, the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme, CODESRIA and the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, which are crucial in promoting more equitable and fair African based and African diaspora scholar engagements.

But he also notes that such engagement needs to be aligned with revised contractual conditions for academic staff, allowing more flexibility (virtual engagements) and multiple affiliation.

In the end, the call is for more research.

“MAAs have not been studied extensively, despite their enormous potential to redress knowledge and academic inequities globally, but specifically in emerging countries. By curbing the effects of brain drain and promoting brain gain, brain circulation and brain-sharing, it is recommended that MAAs be explored in more detail in future research and policy,” concludes Langa.

The African diaspora scholar – Living in a ‘third space'

17. Februar 2020 - 13:34

Sharon Dell

Professor Joseph Mensah, a Ghanaian-born scholar currently at York University in Toronto, Canada, has played a leading role in a number of African academic diasporan programmes aimed at tapping into the expertise of African academics living and working around the world.

He speaks to University World News – Africa about the “mammoth potential” of the African academic diaspora, about living in a “third space” and the reality of always having Africa on his mind.

UWN: At the Africa Academic Diaspora Forum 2019, there was discussion about the need for “institutionalisation” of diaspora programmes and interventions with the suggestion that many of the existing programmes exist only because there are individual academics, departments or small collectives committed to driving them. Do you think there is a danger that diaspora programmes might be seen as an unrealistic panacea for higher education revitalisation?

Mensah: As a dialectician, I am always attracted to arguments that seek to dissolve binaries, in favour of middle grounds. My particular take is that this is not an either-or issue. We need both individual initiatives from below and institutional commitment from above. Without either of these two, such diaspora engagements will not work well.

Keep in mind that without institutional backing from the overseas institution, the diasporan scholar would not have the requisite time to undertake a meaningful engagement. Indeed, there are situations where diasporan scholars may have to use only their March breaks, major holidays and sabbatical leaves to do this, and these times may not even favour the hosting institutions in Africa, as the timeframes for the major university holidays tend not to be the same.

Also, without the institutional support of the host institution in Africa, the diasporan is thrown into a situation where the support he or she gets is ad hoc, sketchy, unofficial and at the mercy of the host colleagues or departments, without the full backing and commitment of the host institution.

An approach that might work here is for institutions to rely or expand upon their existing partnership agreements in such a way that a diaspora scholar can choose to teach “here” (overseas) or “there” (Africa), depending on need and circumstances, with the overseas institution supporting or sharing the cost involved as part of the partnership agreement, or in exchange for their own students' engagements in Africa – per field trips to Africa, for instance.

UWN: How much untapped potential exists in the African diaspora? Can we quantify it?

Mensah: The potential is mammoth, but hard to estimate accurately, as there is no reliable database. Remember, for a long time now, most of the top students from African universities have sought and gained admissions, normally with scholarships, grants and teaching assistantships, to Western universities to pursue their graduate studies; and many have chosen not to return.

One can say that these diasporans tend to be the proverbial cream of the crop. Of course, some excellent students choose to stay behind, but the size of the latter is nowhere near that of the former. The World Bank has made a number of attempts to develop a database of African diaspora, but, to date, no comprehensive database exists.

UWN: Are African diaspora academics receptive to the idea of sharing their expertise on the continent?

Mensah: Generally yes, but it is a very contextual and personal issue. To be able to engage in such diaspora initiatives, the African diasporan has to be somewhat established at his or her own institution. This is why many get involved only when they become tenured, or move from assistant to associate or full professorship.

At the probationary ranks, one has very little power and control over one's time, and it may not be a good idea to take on such an initiative given the extensive time demands involved, which would invariably undermine one's ability to keep up with the requisite publications to secure tenure.

It also depends on the pay regime under which the diasporan works. For instance, for many American colleges and universities, if one does not teach in the summer, one is not paid. However, the pay regime in most Canadian institutions is different, with faculty members getting paid in the summer months when they are on holiday, assuming one fulfils one's teaching load in the preceding two terms.

Since many of these initiatives are very costly, with many African institutions unable to remunerate the diasporan scholar (partly or fully), if one is not being paid at his or her own institution, then funding becomes a tricky issue. Remember, the diasporan still has to pay for rent, family upkeep and other expenses at his overseas residence, even though he or she may be in Africa.

We also have to note, even if only parenthetically, that generally African scholars in Western institutions deal with peculiar burdens, having to do with issues of race and racism. Since there are very few Africans in such professorial positions in the West, they are often burdened with race-related committee duties.

Moreover, they are usually involved in, or expected to deal with, the counselling of African and other minority students, providing them with all sorts of “unofficial” support (moral or otherwise) at their own time. Not only that: the African scholars in the West often have to deal with racism from both students and colleagues in their institutions.

Moreover, given their limited number, their publications come only the hard way. For one thing, they do not have a network of classmates and schoolmates in peer journal editorial positions and manuscript acquisition positions in publishing houses, something others take for granted in their pursuit of publications. Thus, the challenges and time demands on the African scholar in the West are simply daunting.

UWN: As a member of the African academic diaspora yourself, can you share with us what motivates you to be involved in diaspora programmes?

Mensah: For me, the main motivation is the conviction that I have a lot I can contribute to African institutions in terms of my acquired expertise, work ethics, student engagement practices and administrative experience from Canada.

I visit Ghana and other African institutions a number of times in a year and I see the gaps in their administrative structures, protocols and practices, as well as in their academic programmes and courses that I can help improve with the knowledge I have acquired abroad.

As a diasporan scholar, I have the advantage of multiple or dual cultural competency, with a reasonable understanding of institutional cultures of both “here” (Canada or the West) and “there” (Ghana or Africa). Having lived in Canada for over 25 years, I have a better idea of what lessons could be drawn from Canada, in particular, and the West, in general, to improve conditions in Africa and vice versa.

I also have insights into what and how practices and protocols could be tweaked to make them applicable for the African context. I live in a third space, of a sort, as I am often “here” and “there” – living somewhere in the dialectical middle ground between these two geographic spaces.

Another motivation is to keep me connected to my cultural heritage, my people, my family and friends: as an African, I am always an African, and the desire to help improve the human condition on the continent is always on my mind.

UWN: What, in your view, are the conditions needed for the success of such programmes?

Mensah: How do we find the appropriate diaspora scholars to recruit for such programmes? What is the best mix of incentive and support that must be provided to attract the targeted diasporan scholar without incurring the resentment of his or her peers at the host institution? What is the best approach to use for a diaspora programme to yield the most for the sending and host institutions, the diasporan scholar, and the funder?

While there is neither a single nor simple answer to any of these questions (including your own above) the following suggestions, based on my own experience, might help:

  • Demand-driven: Rather than dwelling on the qualifications and skills of the diasporan candidate as the starting point, it is better for the programme to be demand-driven; otherwise the possibility of a mismatch becomes high, not to mention the likelihood of some candidates taking advantage of such programmes to reduce the cost of their own travel to their countries of origin.
  • Ownership: A corollary of the need for demand-driven programming is the issue of ownership. Unless the programme is initiated by the host institution, working in concert with regional or international development partners such as the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, it is virtually impossible for the host to claim or even assert ownership of the programme; and without ownership, sustainability becomes nothing but a fleeting concept.
  • Cultural competence: Furthermore, organisers of such programmes have to be mindful of the fact that not all diasporan candidates have the requisite cultural competence to succeed. While most of the diasporan candidates might be fluent in the local language, for instance – given their cultural and linguistic affinity to the home country – it is not hard to envisage that their long stay abroad tends to undermine their cultural competence. Additionally, their expectations and sense of entitlement and mutual respect might also be incongruent with those of members of the hosting institution, especially if the diasporan scholar does not return home regularly enough.
  • Timing: Another crucial, yet innocuous, aspect of diasporan engagement programmes concerns their time dimensions. It is never easy to match the limited, and often intermittent, time that the diasporan candidate has available with the virtually insatiable demands at the host institution. Not only that, any time that the candidate spends in the field engenders some monetary cost to either the programme or the candidate – a cost that is never easy to handle, given the ubiquity of funding constrictions facing diaspora engagement programmes the world over.
  • Accommodation and transportation: Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, arrangements regarding accommodation and local transportation for the candidate have to be as contractually explicit, firm, and as binding as possible to avoid any equivocation once the candidate gets to the field.

UWN: Could you outline your involvement in academic diaspora programmes in the present and the past?

Mensah: Examples of my key engagements over the years include the following:

  • CODESRIA College of Mentors and Mentees: In an effort to support doctoral education in the social sciences and humanities in African universities, CODESRIA initiated a mentorship programme for African PhD students. Recently, I was recruited by CODESRIA to be a co-facilitator (with professors Anthony Bizos of the University of Pretoria and Abdul Karim Bangura of American University) of its college of mentees held in Kenya. With our 11-day programme, we provided participants with various intellectual resources, including commenting on their work and exposing them to new trends in academic writing, public presentations and publishing protocols. By all indications, notably per participants' evaluation, this is a useful programme worthy of emulation. This CODESRIA programme was supported by funders such as the Carnegie Corporation.
  • Pan-African Doctoral Academy: Since 2015, I have been involved in the University of Ghana Pan-African Doctoral Academy (PADA), which is also sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation. PhD students from Africa are invited on a ‘pay to attend' basis to participate in short courses deemed relevant for their development as budding scholars. The PADA programme includes courses in technical writing; managing the PhD process; innovative thinking in research; career development; qualitative research techniques; qualitative research methodology; and quantitative research methodology using SPSS (I normally run the latter programme). The PADA programme is bi-annual – scheduled for two weeks in January and June.
  • CODESRIA's African Diaspora Visiting Professors Fellowship: During the summer of 2016, I won one of CODESRIA's inaugural African Diaspora Visiting Professor Fellowships, and was hosted by the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana. As part of its sponsorship, CODESRIA catered for my return air ticket and my living expenses in Ghana. My host department, the Centre for Migration Studies, on its part, provided me with accommodation, office space and local transportation. In return, I assisted my host institution in graduate teaching and supervision, oral thesis examination, external examination and curriculum review, and participated in seminars and workshops at the centre and the university.
  • Borderless Higher Education for Refugees: I was a founding member of the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project, established by York University's Centre for Refugee Studies in collaboration with Kenyatta and Moi universities in Kenya, and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). BHER provided online degree and certificate courses for refugees at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya (from 2012-17). The programme was spearheaded by professors Wenona Giles and Don Dippo and the main grant came from the Canadian International Development Agency.

By all accounts, especially per evaluations by beneficiaries and participants, these programmes (BHER, PADA, CODESRIA Fellowship; CODESRIA College of Mentors) have been highly successful.

Joseph Mensah is a professor of geography at York University in Toronto, Canada. He completed his BA, MA and PhD at the University of Ghana, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Alberta, respectively. He is currently on sabbatical at the Ghana Technology University College in Accra. For more on his research, visit: