André Lourens, a BCom Honours in Economics student, won R40 000 in prize money when he took second place in the undergraduate category of the Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition. Now in its 47th year, the competition is designed to motivate and incentivise South Africa’s most talented students in economics and finance to contribute to national debates on crucial issues.
The winners of the 2018 edition of the competition were announced in Cape Town following the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech in February 2019. Lourens said: “The Budget Speech Competition was a truly inspiring event. I went to Cape Town to participate in the competition, not really knowing what to expect. I ended up meeting some of the brightest minds from universities across South Africa and formed meaningful friendships.”
Furthermore, the competition put him in contact with some of the most influential people in the public and private sectors, which allowed him to gain insights into the finer workings of government and large corporations and to tap some leading ‘brains’ for ideas. “This gave me new insight into the many possibilities for the future and motivated me to work hard and give my best in order to reach my dreams.”
His essay assessed the systemic risks associated with cryptocurrencies and made appropriate regulatory recommendations. “I delved into the characteristics of cryptocurrencies (such as blockchain or distributed ledger technology) and the demand-and-supply dynamics underlying cryptocurrencies. This led me to conclude that cryptocurrencies indeed posed current and possible future systemic risks such as price bubbles, market panic and contagion effects.”
For Lourens, a highlight was when he and other students attended the Budget Speech in Parliament. “It was inspiring to witness the customs of Parliament and to see political leaders from across all spectrums come together. Another highlight was when I met the Deputy Minister of Finance Mr Mondli Gungubele at the gala dinner where the winners were announced. I also met former Minister of Finance, Mr Trevor Manuel, and a host of other highly regarded individuals. It was a very humbling experience for me.”
He said the BSocSci in Politics, Philosophy and Economics that he completed with distinction at UP in 2018 was “a very balanced and interdisciplinary degree. I had subjects ranging from Philosophy to Statistics… I felt very well equipped to engage with numerous people on various topics.”
This enabled him to write a balanced essay when he entered the competition. “The same skills I learned as part of my degree will also give me confidence to enter the working environment one day. Although I know I still have a lot to learn, I believe the skills I learned at UP will serve me well in future.”
He plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Economics at UP next year. “After my master’s, I would like to work for Treasury, as well as the South African Reserve Bank. I would like to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible so that I am better able to contribute positively to the development and well-being of South Africa.”
Click here to access the full essay.