ERSA is a nationally funded programme designed to both broaden the scope of economic research in South Africa, and to deepen its quality in order to ensure greater international exposure of economic research conducted in Southern Africa.
Toward this end ERSA publishes a Working Paper series, provides financial incentives to researchers to publish their papers in peer reviewed scholarly journals, runs a Workshop programme across a range of distinct focus areas in economics, and provides extensive support to graduate students in economics in Southern Africa.
For the Working and Policy paper series the number of published papers has now risen to 445.
Publications in peer reviewed journals of the ERSA Working Paper series also continues to rise steadily. The number of published papers has now reached 195, of which 135 have appeared in international journals, and 60 in national journals.
Workshop activity continues across research groups. During 2013-2014, 12 workshops were held, and attendance at the workshops continues to represent a diverse representation of national institutions and demographics. A total of more than 76 institutions, of which 64 were South African, have been represented at ERSA workshops from the inception of the programme.
An important innovation of 2013-2014, was the expansion of the Workshop programme beyond the five core areas of research that ERSA has historically supported through this mechanism. Consistent with ERSA’s mandate to broaden the scope of research in economics, we have institutionalized support in four new areas, political economy, the economics of finance and banking, economic theory, empirical methods, and are in the process of extending support to natural resource economics also. The intention is to develop these new research nodes into fully fledged research groups in due course. The first round of workshops have either already been held, or are scheduled to occur in the next few months. Attendance and active participation have been active and spread across a range of institutions, promising a bright future for these new research areas.
During 2013/14, ERSA appointed three additional Policy Associates as full time researchers, to join Dr. Biniam Bedasso. Nonso Obikili, completed his PhD at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and has a research focus on the economic history of Africa, including political economy dimensions. David Garber completed his PhD at the University of Wisconsin, and is an established development specialist, with particular emphasis on computable general equilibrium modelling. Co-Pierre Georg, who has joined us as a part-time policy associate, completed his PhD at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, with a research focus on the economics of finance.
I would like to welcome Nonso, David and Co-Pierre to ERSA and look forward to their contributions to the South African debate on questions in economics.
Under the ERSA scholarship scheme, 42 scholarships have been awarded to date, 39 for Masters, and 3 for PhD study. During the course of 2013 – 2014, 40 applicants responded to ERSA’s scholarship funding invitation of R80000 for a one year full time Master’s programme in Economics. Of these applications, 10 successful candidates from a diverse range of institutions throughout South Africa, were selected and awarded with an ERSA scholarship for 2014. The demographic breakdown of the 10 awardees is as follows: 2 black females, 2 white females, 2 black males and 4 white males
Another important new initiative that was launched by ERSA during the last year has been the Skills Development Programme. The objective of the initiative is to raise the technical abilities of researchers in South Africa, by leveraging established researchers into a systematic skills development initiative. The first workshop under this initiative took place at the University of Pretoria on the 4 – 8 November 2013. Ten delegates, from 75 applications received from around the country were selected by the Skills Development Committee to attend this training. This existing cohort will go on to attend the 2nd Skills Development Training workshop in November 2014, with a new cohort selected to enter the programme in May 2014. My sincere thanks go to the members of the Skills Development Committee as well as the participating trainers for their time, dedication and commitment in contributing to the success of this initiative.
A further training initiative that ERSA is launching in 2014-2015 is an internship programme for graduate students and young researchers that have a strong policy research interest. The first cohort of eight interns will be serving during the Winter of 2014.
Once again I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the administrative staff of ERSA, who have continued to provide close and diligent support to all ERSA programmes. Given the expansion of ERSA’s activities, Megan Gelderbloem has joined the ERSA administrative team during the course of 2014, and she deserves special welcome and thanks for her efforts in lending support to the ERSA programmes,
Similarly, the contributions of both group convenors and the members of the editorial committee of ERSA, who provide substantial inputs of time to ensure the smooth functioning of the paper and workshop series of ERSA require the strongest possible recognition, as well as the thanks of the economics community in South Africa who benefit from their continuing efforts. A special word of thanks is in order to the new research node convenors: they have provided extensive developmental insight and a great deal of their time in order to get the new research areas off the ground. I have every confidence that their initiative will be met with future development of the areas, and the successful unfolding of new research agendas
Finally, the continuing financial support from the National Treasury, which has provided long term funding to the ERSA initiative, deserves ongoing thanks and recognition. There is no doubt in my mind that the strength of research activity in economics in South Africa would be far weaker at present, without the extensive support that National Treasury has extended to the profession over the past 9 years.