Economics legend sleeps


The Sunday morning that was July 3 2022 was nothing close to easy as economists woke up to the news that Professor of Economics at the University of Malawi Ben Kalua had died.

According to his nephew, Professor Khumbo Kalua, Ben was rushed to Mwaiwathu Private Hospital in Blantyre the previous evening and passed on in the wee hours of Sunday after a short illness.

“Tentatively, the plan is that he will be laid to rest at his house in Zomba tomorrow (Today). He should be remembered as a great man who committed himself to sharing ideas on improving the local economy for a long time,” Khumbo said.


Who was Ben Kalua?

According to Khumbo, Ben was born on February 15 1953 in Zimbabwe, where his father, Misheck Kalua, was working. Misheck Kalua came from Ezondweni Mthwalo village in Mzimba District.

Between 1978 and 1979, Ben came back to Malawi and joined the University of Malawi, then Chancellor College, where he spent all his life.


He began his professional career as an economics lecturer at the institution before attaining the professorship while working at the college.

“Towards the end of his life, he dedicated himself to prayer and he was affiliated with Living Word Evangelistic Church in Machinga District,” Khumbo said.

His works

Apart from nurturing young minds into fine economics experts that the country has today, Ben Kalua was ardent about developing the local economy, witnessed by contributions he made, every year, during pre-budget consultation meetings.

Kalua was also quoted in the media every other week, commenting on developments in the economics landscape.

For example, in 2014, Kaluwa was quoted on an online platform during national pre-budget consultation meetings as saying the administration’s budget estimate of K743 billion was feasible, at the time.

“It is expected every time that the budget should increase and what the minister has presented is the size of the budget as of now,” Kaluwa said.

In 2020, The Nation newspaper quoted Kalua as saying the coronavirus pandemic is the single biggest issue that may cripple the economy through massive business disruption.

Furthermore, in 2021, one of the local radio stations, quoted Kaluas saying food inflation rises moderately during the harvesting period and that maize prices are likely to remain low until after the harvest period.

Fraternity mourns Kalua

News of the demise of Kalua spread fast as his colleagues in the economics sector took to social media to share their grief.

Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences -based economist Betchani Tchereni wrote on his Facebook page: “I first heard the word austerity from him; at that time in 2003, he wondered why such a small economy had so many state residences.

“He suggested that Sanjika Palace be turned into a Five-star Hotel. He never got an appointment to the Reserve Bank of Malawi’s Exco because, on the only TV station then, he wondered why senior government officials drive around in big Pajeros.

“My heart bleeds; who is going to tell the truth to power regarding economic management for this ailing economy.”

Former minister of Finance and work colleague of Kalua, Ken Lipenga, also wrote on his Facebook page: “Deeply saddened by the passing of former colleague Prof Ben Kalua. Positive memories of lively discussions in the senior common room at Unima and at his house in days gone by.

“A renowned giant in his field of economics, and a true sport and bundle of humour when we played a game of darts. I offer condolences to his family. May his soul rest in peace.”

In an interview, another University of Malawi-based economist Jacob Mazalale described Kalua as a legend whose shoes no one can fill and whose contributions to developing the local economy is priceless.

In a separate interview, Executive Director of the Economics Association of Malawi Frank Chikuta said the association was greatly saddened by the passing of Kalua, a renowned scholar and teacher.

“Kalua trained many economists in the country and beyond. He was always ready to provide policy advice in an open and candid manner, based on facts and economic best practice. We thank God for his life and his unparalleled contribution to the country at large and the economics profession.

“The gap which he has left will not be easy to fill but we take solace in the fact that many students who tapped on his wisdom are in key positions to continue with his dream of industrial transformation of the country. May Professor Ben Kalua’s soul rest in eternal peace,” Chikuta said.

Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe said: “I worked closely with Kalua during Joyce Banda’s tenure. He used to advise us. He could come to the State House a lot to give us valuable economic advice. The nation has lost a treasured patriot.”

When all is said and done, the economics fraternity and the country will always remember contributions that Professor Ben Kalua made during his days. Fare thee well Professor!

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