Third Annual UP-SU PhD Workshop in Economics Held

Posted on July 21, 2023

This year's annual Pretoria-Stellenbosch PhD Workshop in Economics was hosted by Stellenbosch University, and took place over two days: July 19-20. This is the third time the workshop has been held; see the report on the 2022 workshop here.


Close to 30 submissions were received this year. Of these, the workshop accepted eight papers by PhD students and postdocs from universities across the country, spanning a range of topics in health economics, macroeconomics, finance, and labour economics. (The programme can be viewed here.)


Thamsanqa Nhlapo (University of Pretoria) presenting his paper “Minerals, Sectoral Linkages and Structural Transformation in a Small Open Economy”.


Discussants from universities in the United States, Australia, Germany, and South Africa gave comments and critical feedback to the student participants. Several of the students mentioned that the critique from senior academics outside of their home institutions was especially valuable, and exposed them to new ideas they had not previously considered.


David Atkin (MIT) gave a keynote address on the role of trade in promoting industrial complexity and economic development. His talk was especially well-received, leading the audience to raise several questions about the potential vulnerabilities of protectionism and industrial policy to rent-seeking. 


Workshop participants listen to a keynote address by David Atkin (MIT), “Globalization and the Ladder of Development: Pushed to the Top or Held at the Bottom?”


The second keynote was given by Eric Hanushek (Stanford), on the topic of measuring the extent to which the world's children attain basic mathematical skills. He presented work showing that at least two-thirds of the world's children cannot complete basic arithmetic problems involving multiplication by age 15 - a finding that, the audience debated, was either cause for extreme pessimism about education systems or extreme optimism about the potential for future growth.


Practising economists and researchers from the National Treasury, Statistics South Africa, and the Bureau of Economic Research attended the workshop's lunch and dinner functions, meeting the students and academics that were present.


Letsie Mohatonyane (Wits) explains a subtle point to others at lunch.


Ayanda Hlatshwayo (National Treasury) and Neil Rankin (Stellenbosch University) take notes on a student presentation.


Finally, the students received both group and individual coaching on presentation and writing skills on the second day of the workshop.


Student Authors


Back row: Thamsanqa Nhlapo (UP), Letsie Mohatonyane (Wits), Richard Freund (UCT), Peter Courtney (SU)


Front row: Tim Kohler (UCT), Antoinette van der Merwe (UP), Tsepang Khumalo (SU), Kiru Sichoongwe (UJ)



All Participants



Back row: Craig Lemboe (BER), Calumet Links (SU), Thamsanqa Nhlapo (UP), Letsie Mohatonyane (Wits), Xanthe Hunt (SU), Waleed Jacobs (Statistics SA), Melt van Schoor (SU)


Second from back: Anja Smith (SU), Jesse Naidoo (UP), Peter Courtney (SU)


Middle row: Marius Cronje (Statistics SA), Katrien Smuts (SU/BER), Richard Freund (UCT), Evashnie Govender (Statistics SA), Marisa von Fintel (SU), Tim Kohler (UCT), Servaas van der Berg (SU)


Second from front: Ayanda Hlatshwayo (National Treasury), Mahier Hattas (Statistics SA), Tsepang Khumalo (SU), Neil Rankin (SU/Predictive Insights), Eric Hanushek (Stanford)


Front row: Antoinette van der Merwe (UP), Susan Godlonton (Williams College), Christie Swanepoel (UWC), Mamello Nchake (SU), Kiru Sichoongwe (UJ)


Organising Committee:

Jesse Naidoo, University of Pretoria

Mamello Nchake, Stellenbosch University

Marisa von Fintel, Stellenbosch University



This year’s workshop was made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors:



Economic Research Southern Africa



Research on Socio-Economic Policy Group, Stellenbosch University


Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University


The University of Pretoria will host the workshop next year; the call for papers will be published in early March 2024.


- Author Jesse Naidoo

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