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New focus on Africa as LSE creates first chair in African development

Photograph of Professor Thandika MkandawireAn idea first planted by Nelson Mandela has borne fruit with the appointment of a leading African scholar to a new Chair in African Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Professor Thandika Mkandawire, currently Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, will take up the post in September.

Of Malawian origin, he is an economist with particular expertise on development issues. He was formerly Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Development Research in Copenhagen and has taught at the Universities of Stockholm and Zimbabwe.

The Chair in African Development is a new position which will be situated in LSE's Development Studies Institute (DESTIN). It is being funded initially not only by DESTIN but by generous contributors to LSE's Annual Fund, many of them alumni.

Its creation follows a powerful speech made by Nelson Mandela at LSE in 2000, in which he recognised the connections between LSE and Africa and pointed to the potential for education to help deliver a renaissance on the continent. The new post will play an integral role in LSE's African Initiative, a programme designed not only to reinvigorate African research at LSE but to put Africa at the centre of the social sciences and in the global public spotlight.

Professor Mkandawire said: 'To my mind there is a big hole in our knowledge of Africa, one that African scholars are seeking to fill. By placing the chair in DESTIN, the holder is in a strong position to work with partners in Africa and around the world to increase the visibility of Africa within teaching and research across the social sciences and within the global political and policy arenas.'

It is expected the new post will open the way for more Africa-based scholars to bring their expertise to LSE to help broaden and sharpen its research into the region. LSE is also developing plans to take summer schools to African students in partnership with other universities, extend scholarships for African students and to develop more research projects which are a partnership between LSE and African scholars.

It is hoped the arrival of Professor Mkandawire will also coincide with a series of public events at LSE and in Africa.

Jo Beall, Professor of Development Studies at LSE, said: 'There has been growing interest and excitement in recent months about the possibilities for LSE and Africa - especially since the climate change conference we organised in Rwanda in September 2008.

'We are lucky to have Thandika joining us and his appointment will give a new momentum to our work on Africa and to the sense of potential that President Mandela first envisaged..'

Professor Beall will champion the African Initiative from South Africa, where she is beginning a three-year secondment as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town.


For more information contact LSE Press Office on 020 7955 7060

24 March