“A first degree gives you a foot in the door, a master’s degree commands the attention of others when you speak, a PhD is far more personal. It addresses self- actualisation. It forces you to address the question: ‘What is my contribution to the world, to my community and to my profession?’,” says Dr Ron Josias. Along with 15 other candidates, he was awarded his PhD on 15 April 2020 during the virtual UP graduation ceremony. Read more about his thoughts on the economy post-COVID, his long and fruitful career at The South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) and his future plans.
Q: What was the topic of your PhD thesis and why did you specifically select it?
The topic of my thesis was An analysis of the mutual acceptance of conformity assessment results within the context of the African Tripartite Free Trade Area.
Regional economic integration is pivotal to South Africa's and our African states’ future growth and stability. Conformity assessment results are results produced by laboratories, certification bodies and inspection bodies, on which reliance is placed for the assurance of health, safety and environment protection and thus the acceptance of the goods and services consumed nationally, regionally and globally. The acceptance of conformity assessment results has developed into one of the biggest trade barriers, and if not addressed in Africa, it will lead to the rejection of traded goods and thus trade disputes and threatening the economic welfare creation objective of regional integration. I therefore considered this PhD as part of my contribution to regional integration.
Q: In your opinion, to what extent does a PhD ensure/boost business/career success?
A: A first degree gives you a foot in the door, a master’s degree commands others’ attention when you speak, a PhD is far more personal. It addresses self actualisation. It forces you to address the question: "What is my contribution to the world, to my community and to my profession?”
Q: Are you happy with the way your career has evolved?
A: I remain blessed as far as my career is concerned. I have been with my current employer, The South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), for more than 22 years. I’ve held the position of CEO for the past 11 years. Currently, I am the Chairperson of the African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC). I also hold the position of Treasurer for the global body responsible for accreditation (ILAC) and the Regional Coordinator on matters of accreditation for SADC. I will soon vacate these positions and plan to focus on contributing to Africa and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: My base qualification is Mechanical Engineering. I followed that up with an MBA from Wales. However, I found my career moving more towards international trade, so when UP offered an MPhil in International Business, I was one of the first who enrolled. I found the MPhil degree one of the most valuable assets I could acquire. It opened a host of opportunities and curiosities that has seen my growth within the field of accreditation and regional integration. It was a natural choice to enrol for my PhD with Tukkies.
Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt from your studies/lecturers at the University of Pretoria?
A: My previous experience with research is that its success to a large extent depends on the commitment and enthusiasm of your supervisor. I was blessed with two of the University’s top professors to supervise my thesis: Prof Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu and Prof Michel Tshiyoyo, who made this lonely PhD road worth travelling.
Q: What is your “golden guideline” in life, in other words what keeps you on track?
A: To leave something better than when you found it.
Q: Going forward, what are your career and personal goals?
A: I intend to invest my knowledge into the development of our continent and hopefully leave my area of expertise better than I found it.
Q: How is the SA economy, and business in general, likely to be reshaped post COVID?
A: With every catastrophic event, new lessons are presented. I think the main lesson is that no man is an island. The world is one big stage and everyone depends on everyone else to stay safe, healthy and to grow. This is no different for Africa and its economies. COVID-19 has accelerated the need for closer cooperation to solve our problems, especially the negative economic impact the virus has had on all our economies. We now know the effectiveness of conducting meetings online, controlling and exploring alternatives to building huge office blocks. We now understand that an increase in productivity is possible through working from home. Thus a lot will change, some for the worse such as unemployment and some for the better such as forcing us to become more innovative and be more reliant on our neighbours in the region.