Welcome to the Department

Welcome to the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University. We are one of the oldest Economics departments on the continent and one of the largest in the university. We are dedicated to quality research and teaching, with a focus on economic issues pertaining to South Africa and Africa. For any information not on this site, please contact the [protected email address] .

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Stellenbosch team reaches finals of Econometric Games

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2019-05-22

Every year, 30 top universities around the world participate in the Econometric Games hosted by the University of Amsterdam’s study association for Actuarial Science, Econometrics & Operational Research (VSAE). The participating universities send delegations of four students who are presented with a technically challenging case study to solve in a limited time period. This year, Martin Mwale, Petro van Eck, Roan Minnie and Willem Wilken (pictured left to right) represented Stellenbosch University, the only African university at the event. They were supported by Gideon du Rand from the Department of Economics.

The team did extremely well by being selected into the top 10 and participating in a final round, effectively winning out over participating teams from a number of very highly acclaimed international universities (including Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford Universities). This is a first for Stellenbosch.

While the team prepared intensively beforehand, the specific case to be addressed always comes as a surprise, and teams have to work on very technically demanding problems under tight deadlines before presenting their results in a written report. The theme of this year's Games was “Climate Econometrics”. In the first round, stretching over two days, teams had to employ the global carbon budget and data from the Global Carbon Project to forecast the growth of global atmospheric carbon concentration until the year 2100. For the finals, teams were presented with an extension of the first case and expected to deliver a full report and a presentation later on the same day. This time, teams had to disaggregate the growth in global atmospheric carbon concentration and allow for anthropogenic emissions by different countries or groups of countries. The model also had to be extended to capture the relationship between emissions and an indicator of economic activity.


Martina Mchenga wins ODI international fellowship

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2019-05-21

Stellenbosch PhD student Martina Mchenga is the winner of this year’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI) international fellowship. Winners receive a two-year employment tenure in the public sector of various low and middle-income countries across the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

The ODI fellowship accepts applications from candidates across the world and sought after among candidates from top universities. This, according to Mchenga, makes the selection process competitive.

Since the fellowship places postgraduate economists and statisticians at the heart of policy-making, she explains that one experiences first-hand challenges and frustrations in policy-making. Mchenga has always wanted to be in a position where her research is used to inform policy and create targeted and effective interventions.

She is a health economist and a researcher with a passion in maternal health. Her award affords her the space to contribute to Malawi’s ailing health system.

Read more.


Two Stellenbosch economists appointed to ministerial task team

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2019-04-19

Ronelle Burger and Kholekile Malindi have recently been appointed to serve on the ministerial task team on Human Resources planning. The previous human resource plan for health has lapsed so there is an urgent need to develop a new plan. Due to short time lines, pending NHI reforms and fiscal constraints, this will be challenging but important work. Ronelle and Kholekile are both in the needs and costs work stream, tasked with estimating the required size and skill composition of our country’s health workforce over the next 10 years.


Top performing Economics students recognized

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2019-04-15

The Department recently celebrated the achievements of its top students of the previous year by awarding a number of prizes at a function held at the US Museum.

Top prizes for honours degree students went to Grace Bridgman for first place, while the second place prize was shared by four students, Euné CoetzeeTiaan Meiring, Alex O’Riordan and Natalie Luyt. For Master's degree students, the first prize went to Reid Falconer(*) and second prize to Felix Stips. The Sampie Terreblanche prize for the best essay about inequality was also awarded to Grace Bridgman.

In the undergraduate category, prizes were awarded for best students in first year to Lauren Tsafandakis and Bradley Moorcroft, for best students in second year to Emma Dachs and Elizza Frey, and for best students in third year to Joshua Peebles(*) and Olivia Bernstein. (* These students also won the Cloete medals for best student in postgraduate and undergraduate categories.)


Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition 2018 Finalists

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2019-02-01

We congratulate four Stellenbosch students who have been selected as finalists in the Nedbank and Old Mutual 2018 Budget Speech Competition (details on the competition available here):

    Mr Schalk Willem Bothma (undergraduate)
    Mr Diagoras Stathoussis (undergraduate)
    Mr Marcel Bovijn (postgraduate)
    Mr Remert Erasmus (postgraduate)

The winners will be announced at the gala event on the evening of the 20 February Budget Speech.

(2019 essay topics to follow after the event.) SU liaison: Hylton Hollander ([protected email address] )


Anna Orthofer wins Founder's Medal Prize

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2018-11-22

This year's highly prestigeous Economics Society of SA Founder's Medal for the best Doctoral thesis has been won by The Department of Economics at Stellenbosch's Anna Orthofer for her thesis entitled "Saving and wealth in the context of extreme inequality", completed in 2017. Her work was supervised by Stan du Plessis and co-supervised by Monique Reid and Dieter von Fintel.

Anna Orthofer studied aspects related to Saving and Wealth using newly available data for South Africa. Her focus on wealth, and its accumulation over time via
savings, resonate with current concerns within the discipline of Economics, as well as in policy spheres and the broader public. The international success of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty First Century” highlighted the public interest in the topic. That Anna’s thesis has already made impact in this field can be seen from the inclusion of her work, on invitation, in the World Inequality Database (WID) where, inter alia, Thomas Piketty, Gabriel Zucman and Emmanual Saez form the Executive Committee.

The first part of her work used household balance sheet data from South Africa to analyse the difference between the (usually reported) flow concept of savings and the balance sheet concept of savings (the change in wealth between two periods of time). She demonstrates the importance of capital gains in the strong growth in South Africa household wealth over recent decades. In the second part, Orthofer placed the evidence on household wealth in an international context, showing the trend towards a higher wealth-income ratio in South Africa, as also detected in the international data, though it started much later locally and the underlying factors have been different in South Africa. Finally, the dissertation turned to the distribution of wealth in South Africa, using two distinct data sources to show that, while an income or consumption perspective allows us to speak of a South African middle class, the balance sheet data suggest that a propertied middle class is still largely non-existent.

The thesis was evaluated, along with other selected entrants from South African universities, using the criteria of rigour and depth, intellectual coherence and originality and contribution to new knowledge in the field of Economics, with the adjudicator noting that "the candidate’s thesis is well written, clearly structured and easy to read and comprehend. It is appropriately pitched; and it makes a solid and distinct contribution to the body of knowledge in the economics discipline."


Young economist competition 2018 winners announced

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2018-10-30

Congratulations to Loumari Muller and Danielle Neizel (The Fast and The Curious) from Stellenbosch University who took first place in this year's Young Economist Competition. Each year, the Die Burger Young Economist Competition puts first-year economics students head-to-head with the aim to predict economic variables such as CPI inflation, real GDP growth, commodity prices and exchange rates. It was especially great to see such enthusiasm and insight from the students amidst a challenging and uncertain economic environment. In second place were Refiloe Mokgele, Ngounou Mouende, Semere Ntshangase, and Joshua Phiri (The Seers) from the University of Cape Town, and, in third place, were Rivaldo de Bruin and Luke Lawrence (Young Economic Empowerers) from Stellenbosch University. Many thanks to our sponsor, Die Burger, for hosting a fun and lively awards ceremony at the Media24 Centre in Cape Town. To all of the remaining teams who placed in the top 10, well done on a fantastic effort - we were impressed with your insight and grit! Thank you all for being a part of the competition, and all the best as you continue forward in your studies, and in forging a deeper understanding of Economics! (Thanks to Hylton Hollander for contributing this article and Natalie Gabriels for the photo.)


Prof Sampie voted as Faculty's best lecturer during previous century

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-10-20

In celebration of the University's centenary, the Faculty of Economic and Management sciences invited its alumni earlier this year to nominate the best lecturer during the course of their studies. Almost 500 alumni participated and the vast majority voted for Prof Sampie Terreblanche as their best lecturer.

This one-off Alumni Best Lecturer award for the period 1929 to 2010 formed part of the Faculty's annual top lecturer competition this year, a competition that has been sponsored by Die Burger since 2011.

The name of Professor Sampie Terreblanche, who passed earlier this year, has become synonymous with the history of the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University. When he finally retired in 2006 (officially already in 1996), Prof Sampie concluded an uninterrupted career of some five decades as lecturer in economics.

Prof Stan du Plessis, former Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and now SU's Chief Operating Officer, once remarked, “Professor Sampie Terreblanche is a towering figure in the 90-year history of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University. One calculation shows that if you added up all the students in every lecture he gave during his career, the grand total would be about one million. It is, however, the quality of these lectures rather than their quantity which made such a lasting impression on generations of students."

Three of Prof Terreblanche's five children, Carine and Christelle Terreblanche and Dr Marié Kirsten, attended the top lecturers' prize-winning function last week.

In a tribute to Prof Sampie, Prof Andrie Schoombee, Chair of the Department of Economics, referred to the motivations given by alumni who voted for Prof Terreblanche. “These focussed on Prof Sampie's passion and enthusiasm, the fact that he challenged his students and made them think, his deep knowledge of his subject, and his interest in his students," he said.

“In my opinion his ability to teach his students critical thinking, was the one factor that made him stand out from many other top lecturers."

A website has been created to celebrate the life of prof Sampie Terreblanche.


Two economists recognised for effective media communication

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2018-10-16

The university recently paid tribute to a number of academics who have been particularly effective in media communication in their fields of expertise. In the Economics Department, two of our colleagues received Media Thought Leaders 2018 Awards, awarded to those who either commented, took part in interviews, and/or wrote opinion editorials and in some way shaped thinking in our country via their contributions in the media.

Prof Johan Fourie publishes regularly in Finweek and Rapport, on a diverse range of topics, such as the South African economy, development, markets and economic history. A recent article dealt with the costs of crime and pointed out that too little is understood about its causes and consequences in the South African context. A selection of his articles are available on his blog.


Dr Nic Spaull has become an authoratitive commentator on the South African education system, with recent articles pointing out that funding for basic education has declined in real terms, with devastating effects, and that none of the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be realised by children lacking basic literacy skills, a pressing concern in South Africa. His articles can be read here.


International Finance 3rd Annual FNB Securities Trading Game

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2018-08-22

The winning SU team. From left to right: Hylton Hollander (Lecturer), Maximillian Reinke, Reinier Smit, Grant Rossiter (FNB Securities), Maseabata Khanya, Jason Clark, Zanele Zaza (FNB Securities), Richard Levesque (FNB Securities). Absent: Ludwig Steding and Antonia     Westphalen

This year’s International Finance trading simulation saw postgraduates from Stellenbosch University and the University of Western Cape awarded R36 000 worth of First Rand shares. Nine teams went head-to-head in a trading experiment using a live FNB Securities trading simulator. Teams invested a hypothetical US$100 000 in real-time foreign exchange and global stock markets, with the goal of achieving the highest return over 3 months. The SU winning team members received an FNB Securities stock broking account at zero cost plus R4 000 worth of FirstRand shares. The objective of the exercise was for the students to test economic theory in the real world, understand international macro-developments, and encourage an investment mind-set. This year, students had to navigate some unusual market conditions from Trump trade wars to a sharp sell-off of historically high-performing FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google).


Economics department hosts alumni events in New York and Boston

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-07-06

The Department will host two events for Stellenbosch alumni in July. The first will be held on 26 July at the ING office in New York. The second, on 30 July, will be held at the Residence Inn Cambridge in Boston. Prof Johan Fourie will deliver a short presentation on 'The data revolution in African economic history', showcasing some of the latest research contributions of members of the department. Several members and former students of the department will be present at both events, and we invite alumni and friends of the Department and Stellenbosch University to join us for either of the two evenings. Please send an email to Reanne Olivier to register.


Sampie Terreblanche's documents now online

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-07-06

A new website – www.sampieterreblanche.org – now provides access to many of the late professor Sampie Terreblanche's documents. The prolific writings of prof Terreblanche, a legendary professor of Economics in the department who died on 17 February, has now been electronically preserved thanks to the efforts of his family and the department. The website includes links to media articles, books and hundreds of his unpublished monographs. More items will also be added over the next few months, including class notes and photographs. Plans for a bursary in his name are also in the final stages of development.


Jac Laubscher on financialisation

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2018-05-31

Jac Laubscher, honorary professor in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, recently presented a guest lecture at the Department on the topic of financialisation and the South African economy. [You may download his presentation here]. He is on right-hand side in the picture above, along with Prof Ingrid Woolard (newly appointed dean of the faculty and professor in economics), Prof Willem Boshoff and Prof Andrie Schoombee.

Prof Laubscher’s involvement with our Department goes back many years: He started his career as lecturer in the Department and later became involved with the Bureau for Economic Research, before he moved to Sanlam, where he held the position of chief economist from 1997 to 2014. Throughout his career, he maintained his ties with the Department, teaching post-graduate financial market analysis here. He also served on the management committee of the BER. Prof Laubscher’s clarity of analysis and presentation has made him a well-respected media commentator in South Africa.

The topic of his lecture, financialisation can be broadly defined as the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economy. He showed how the rise of financialisation since the democratic transition is reflected, among other things, in the growing size of the forex market for Rand and the JSE, in the growth in trading activity, in the growth in the size of finance as a proportion of GDP, and in the growth in debt of households and corporations. Laubscher discussed various drivers of South African financialisation, including its relation to financialisation in other countries. He then discussed the impact of financialisation on inequality and the interaction of financialisation and macroeconomic policy in South Africa.

(Thanks to Prof Willem Boshoff for contributing information in this article.)


Two Stellenbosch professors appointed to VAT panel

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-05-03

The new Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University and professor in the Department of Economics, Prof Ingrid Woolard, and professor Ada Jansen, also of the Department, have been appointed as members of the panel that will review the current list of value-added tax (VAT) zero-rated items.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene announced that Stellenbosch University's Professor Ingrid Woolard will chair the nine-member independent panel of experts that will review the current list of Value-Added Tax (VAT) zero-rated items.

Woolard is currently dean of Economic and Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University. The other members are: Ayabonga Cawe, Professor Ada Jansen, Dr Thabi Leoka, Dr Neva Makgetla, Lynn Moeng, Cecil Morden, Prenesh Ramphal and Professor Imraan Valodia. 

National Treasury said that the panel's mandate is to review the current list of VAT-zero rated items and consider the most effective way to mitigate the impact of the increase in the VAT rate on poor and low-income households.

South Africa's VAT system includes 19 basic food items that are zero-rated, including dried beans, samp, maize meal, mealie rice, vegetables, fruits, milk and rice. 

Treasury said the review will consider expanding the list of basic items that are VAT zero-rated, and consider how specific expenditure programmes can be improved to better target poor and low-income households.


Cape Town Carnival lifts local economy

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-03-15

The Cape Town Carnival, a Social Impact initiative under the leadership of Department of Economicis professor Rachel Jafta, is a spectacular experience of colour, creativity and diversity for spectators who flock to the famous Green Point Fan Walk year after year. The team behind it all has been working tirelessly for close to a year to bring the 2018 edition, to be held on the 27th of March, to life.​

“The Cape Town Carnival reaches more than 5000 community members in the broader Cape Town Metropolitan area and some rural areas, as well as about 55000 spectators annually. It contributes about R41 million to the local economy, creates jobs and enterprise development, and skills transfer opportunities,” says Prof Jafta who is Chair and founding trustee of the Cape Town Carnival.  “The University is a knowledge partner sharing its expertise with participating communities. The Carnival also offers opportunities to gain research data and conceptualise research questions that can lead to collaborative solutions with the participating communities."

Read further here.


Professor Basil Moore dies at 84

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-03-14

Basil Moore, prominent Post-Keynesian economist, who had a more than 30 year involvement with Stellenbosch Economics, passed away peacefully on Thursday, 8 March on his farm Moore’s End in the Banghoek Valley outside of Stellenbosch. As professor of Economics at Wesleyan University in the US, Basil visited Stellenbosch University in the mid-1980s and since then taught mainly on our postgraduate programmes up until 2012. He moved to South Africa (Stellenbosch) in 1992 and was appointed professor extraordinary in the department in January 2004. He taught macroeconomics and his favourite course was a postgraduate elective module on Post-Keynesian Macroeconomics. He was an enthusiastic lecturer who did his utmost to convince his students of the Post-Keynesian view of how the world functions.

Basil Moore’s major contribution to Post-Keynesian macroeconomics was on endogenous money theory and more specifically his 1988 book Horizontalists and Verticalists: The Macroeconomics of Credit Money. This book has been particularly influential in advocating a "horizontalist" view of monetary policy, which is that in a credit-based economy, the money supply is endogenous and determined by demand, and not by central bank supply of high-powered money, as the "verticalists" believe.


Francois Groepe delivers special lecture

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-03-04

Prof Francois Groepe, Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and honorary professor in the Department of Economics, delivered a special lecture in the department on Thursday, 22 February. His talk was on 'The special case of banks and the promotion of financial system-wide stability.'

Prof Groepe explained how mob psychology and mass hysteria could lead to a bankcrisis. Although some people believe this could happen randomly, there are empirical studies that suggest that these panics are related to the business cycle. “If depositors believe there is an impending downturn, they will anticipate difficulties in the banking sector and try to withdraw their funds which precipitates a crisis.

He mentioned, though, that the aggregate capital levels of South African banks – the total amount of capital that banks have available – are quite high, standing at 15/16% compared to a global average of 8%.

“Our banking system is quite resilient," said Prof Groepe.


Emeritus professor Sampie Terreblanche dies at 84

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2018-02-19

Stellenbosch emeritus professor Johannes "Sampie" Terreblanche, 84, passed away on Saturday, 17 February, following a brief battle with brain cancer.

To sum up Sampie Terreblanche simply as a ’maverick’ intellectual would perhaps be unfair. His progression from an Afrikaner nationalist to an advocate of its demise to an ANC supporter to a fierce critic of the ruling party was certainly spectacular and often dramatic. But each step in his fifty years as public intellectual and political economist was preceded by deep soul-searching and intense discussions with his close friends and family about how to best serve the common good.

Prof Terreblanche may ultimately be remembered for his fearlessness in speaking truth to power, and a public intellectual who constantly reminded apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa of the injustice inherent in economic inequality. It did not matter whether it was the apartheid government during the era of turbulent clashes under former presidents John Vorster and PW Botha or the ANC government whom he accused of selling out its own marginalised constituency. His harsh judgement came fifteen years after he eagerly participated in unofficial "talks about talks" with the then banned ANC in exile, paving the way for formal negotiations and a political settlement.

Prof Terreblanche never really saw himself as a research professor, but rather as a lecturing one. Because of the relatively large volume of lectures that he presented to large classes, he received the dubious distinction of probably having more total "student points" (calculated as the amount of lectures given multiplied by the number of students present in every lecture) over the course of his term as lecturer and professor than any other lecturer in the history of the University. Roughly estimating, his student points should have reached one million if all students attended all of their lectures. Unfortunately a "leakage" of 150 000 to 200 000 points took place, and Prof Terreblanche stated that it was not in his power to solve the problem.

Many of the lectures given by Prof Terreblanche were controversial and therefore the Afrikaans students decided that the acronym SAMPIE could be applied to "Suid-Afrika se Mal Professor In Ekonomie" (South Africa's crazy Economics professor). Fortunately rumour also has it that a small group of students instead called him "Suid-Afrika se Meester Professor In Ekonomie" (South Africa's master Economics professor). In one famous incident, Prof Terreblanche, after a heated ,monologue, asked the students rhetorically 'Is julle kapitaliste of kommuniste?'. From the back, a lone voice responded: 'Ons is sampioene!'

Like all his professorial predecessors in Economics at Stellenbosch, Prof Terreblanche also got involved with processes of policy formulation. Between 1973 and 1976 he was a member of the Erika Theron Commission that investigated issues related to the coloured population of South Africa. From 1979 until 1985 he was a member the Prime Minister's Council for Economic Advice. Terreblanche's involvement in the Theron Commission triggered his interest in the nature and causes of poverty.

The collection of books that Prof Terreblanche has published comprise mainly textbooks for the History of Economics and History of Economic Thought. Also, besides about twenty articles in academic journals and several chapters in books, his strong involvement in party politics is reflected in the hundreds of articles that he has written for local and foreign newspapers on political and economic issues in South Africa. For such political involvement he has received a great deal of criticism. Since retiring at the end of 1995, he has concentrated on studying the political and economical history of South Africa while still working as a part-time lecturer in the Department until 2011. He received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Free State, Pretoria and Stellenbosch.

Prof Terreblanche fell ill a year ago, shortly after his wife Ina (neé Smuts) of 58 years passed away. He was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in September 2017.

He is survived by four daughters, Christelle Terreblanche, Marié Kirsten, Louise van Zyl and Carine Terreblanche, and a son, Sampie Terreblanche. He also have five grandchildren, Nina and Gerhard Kirsten, Willem and SJ van Zyl and Sam Dupper. 


Centre for Competition Law and Economics

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2018-02-02

The newly established Centre for Competition Law and Economics within the Department of Economics has recently launched its own website - click here to visit it.


Why you need to do a postgraduate degree in Economics at Stellenbosch University

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2016-12-12

Current students give their perspective on a postgraduate degree at Stellenbosch University.


Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past (LEAP) launched at Stellenbosch

Posted by Johan Fourie on 2015-05-30

South African research into economic history has gained momentum with the launch of the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past (LEAP) at Stellenbosch University on Wednesday, 27 May.

"LEAP brings together scholars and students interested in understanding and explaining the long-term economic development of Africa's diverse societies," says Dr Johan Fourie of the Department of Economics.

"Studying the historical development of an economy provides a context for existing challenges and a source of hypotheses to explain the trajectory of its evolution."

Read the full article here, visit the LEAP website, or like the LEAP Facebook page.


ReSEP website launched

Posted by Melt van Schoor on 2012-10-10

The Research on Socio-Economic Policy (ReSEP) group at the Department of Economics today launched a new website which will serve as a resource for researchers and policy-makers interested in issues surrounding socio-economic development in Southern Africa.  Spearheaded by Professor Servaas van der Berg, the ReSEP group consists of members of the Department of Economics, contract research staff and graduate students, and developed around a long term research focus on issues of poverty, income distribution, social mobility, economic development and social policy. The new website contains information on ReSEP’s involvement in various research projects, provides access to downloadable working papers, policy briefs, and other research reports produced by members of the ReSEP team, and will in time also provide access to further learning and training materials for policy-makers, researchers, students and others interested in policy debates. Visit the new website at http://resep.sun.ac.za/.


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BER Weekly

10 June 2019
Domestic financial markets were rattled last week after the release of much weaker-than-expected 2019Q1 GDP figures and mixed messages from the ANC on the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank (SARB). The rand exchange rate weakened significantly through the week. Incoming data for the second quarter, including vehicle sales and the Absa Purchasing Managers'...

Read the full issue

Upcoming Seminars

No seminars are currently listed. Please check back soon.

BER Weekly

10 June 2019
Domestic financial markets were rattled last week after the release of much weaker-than-expected 2019Q1 GDP figures and mixed messages from the ANC on the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank (SARB). The rand exchange rate weakened significantly through the week. Incoming data for the second quarter, including vehicle sales and the Absa Purchasing Managers'...

Read the full issue