Economics Professor Kalulu Impacts Through Teaching & Research

Dr. Mavuto Kalulu, Assistant Professor of Economics in the UCA EFIRM Department, shares why he chose to study economics, why he chooses to teach, and details about his research in Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world. Dr. Kalulu is also a Scholar affiliated with the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE).

Why did you choose economics?
A teacher in high school explained to me that studying economics would equip me with skills to be able to understand the complex world. Life is full of choices because we have scarce resources. Economics provides the principles and tools to be able to understand why individuals, governments and businesses make the choices they make.

Teaching economics affords me the opportunity to contribute to other peoples lives by instilling in them some real-life skills that they need in their day-to-day lives.

What about your job brings you the most joy?
The joy comes from seeing my students perform to the best of their ability. It takes discipline to be successful in class. Discipline to show up in class and engage. Discipline to do all the homework on time and discipline to study for the exams. I am happy when my students realize that sooner than later.

With regards to research, I enjoy being able to work with other faculty from various disciplines. For the research I am presenting on the 27th, I am working in collaboration with Dr. Rania Al-Bawwab from the EFIRM Department and Dr. Yeil Know from the department of Mathematics.

What tips or advice would you give to new, current, or prospective business students?
My advice to all students includes:
1. Engage your professors more in class as well as during office hours. Ask questions when you don’t understand. It shouldn’t take extra points for you to schedule a meeting for office hours.
2. Engage your fellow students more. There are students from different backgrounds and cultures and engaging them will enrich your experience of different cultures. I deliberately assign group activities to facilitate peer to peer engagement. You can also form study groups to discuss the materials.
3. It is important not to procrastinate on your homework and assignments. I try to make the homework and assignments due the same day and time all throughout the semester to make it easier to remember the deadlines.

Your research: Describe what you studied or what problem you wanted to solve.
Sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region in the world. Despite being rich in natural resources including mineral reserves, the exploitation of the resources has not resulted in improved living standards in the region. Research shows that weak economic, political and legal institutions are a major contributor to why Sub Saharan Africa remains poor. Weak institutions encourage corruption and vice versa. When democracy swept through Africa in the early 1990s, people were hopeful that democracy would foster stronger institutions which would in turn encourage economic growth in the region. Three decades later, Sub Saharan Africa remains poor and is the most corrupt region in the word according to the 2022 Transparency International Report. Did democracy help or it did not?

Why did you choose this research topic?
In my conversations with some of my friends from other African countries, it is apparent that there is a perception that democracy has not yet yielded the economic benefits people were expecting. One of the possible reasons is that public corruption persists, in some cases worse than it was under autocratic rule. To my knowledge, no one has formally investigated whether the problem stems from the type of transition from autocratic regimes to democratic regimes can explain the difference in the corruption experiences in the different Sub-Saharan African countries after the switch to democratic regimes. Answering the question will help inform on how to improve governance in sub-Saharan Africa and hence improve the well-being of the people living in the area. In addition, some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced military coups. This research can also inform on the process of returning to democracy.

What have you learned from doing this research?
Our initial analysis revealed no significant pattern on the experience of Sub-Saharan African countries with regards to corruption before and after transitioning from autocracy to democracy. Further analysis that considers that there are many other factors that can influence the level of corruption reveals that democracy and institutions matter. Improving the institutions, especially the economic institutions can help Sub-Saharan African countries curb corruption and hence improve the livelihood of the residents in this region. Our next step in the process is to select some of the countries and investigate further to establish causation rather than just an association.

What do you hope others will learn or gain from your research?
The hope is that through this research others will gain a better understanding of the experience of Sub-Saharan African countries before and after transitioning from autocratic rule to democratic rule. We hope that others will get a deeper insight into the level of corruption in Sub-Saharan African countries and hopefully interest them into wanting to contribute to research on ways to reduce the level of corruption in the region to better the livelihood of the residents in the region.

Dr. Kalulu is presenting his research on October 27 at 12:30pm in COB Room 206 for any who want to see him speak about his research in person. He can also be found in the classroom this fall teaching Global Environment of Business and Intermediate Macroeconomics. Students can register for his as the professor teaching those same classes in spring 2024, and in summer 2024, he is set to teach Modern Political Economy and Global Environment of Business.

Dr. Kalulu has been researching this topic for years. See Dr. Kalulu speak about “Economic Freedom of the World” to a group of Arkansas educators at a Teaching Free Enterprise in Arkansas workshop in fall 2018.