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Message from Head of School of Economics

South Africa faces enormous development challenges.Unemployment, inequality and poverty are unacceptably high. Economic growth hasremained stubbornly low. As one of the leading Schools of Economics in SouthAfrica, we have a responsibility to play a leading in dealing with thesechallenges through our academic research and our teaching. This is a challengewe take seriously.

Economics forms the foundation of any commerce-relateddegree at university, not only at UCT, but at universities around the world. However,it is more than just a tool to think about business. Economics is a socialscience. The discipline is grounded solidly in the analysis of the social andeconomic relationships that underpin societies. Economics is therefore of greatrelevance to the development and social challenges facing South Africa.

Economics has many dimensions. It speaks to a wide audience.At a macro level we ask the following type of questions: Why are some countriespoor and others rich? What drives the high unemployment rates in South Africa?How do countries develop over time? What is the role of government in theeconomy? What causes recessions and booms?

At a microeconomic level we study the behaviour and outcomesof individuals and firms. A major strength of our School is the depth of ourresearch using household level data to better understand questions such as: Howdo workers find jobs and how do firms find workers? What is the effect ofgovernment transfers on individuals within households? Why can’t the youth findjobs? Why are some industries dominated by one or two large companies (e.g.beer production) while others are characterised by a large number of smallfirms (e.g. furniture producers and building contractors).

One strength of economics is that it provides a theoreticallens through which to make sense of a complex world. But theory itself is onlyone part of the story. Within the School we emphasise the teaching ofanalytical and empirical tools to test whether these theories are consistentwith the data. In this regard, UCT’s School of Economics has a number ofaffiliated research units that do cutting-edge research in fields ranging fromenvironmental policy to poverty alleviation and development policy. Throughthis research we aim to better understand how the world works.

UCT economics degrees are very well regarded locally andinternationally. Our postgraduate students are widely accepted into topinternational universities for PhD studies. We attract a wide range of studentsinto our programmes from across Africa. Despite the financial crisis and theeconomic slowdown, a sizeable number of UCT graduates in Economics have foundexcellent employment opportunities in commercial banks, the South AfricanReserve Bank and asset management companies and consulting firms like KPMG,McKinsey’s and Genesis Analytics. Many graduates are also employed in aprovincial and national government departments, while others have becomeresearchers in universities, non-government organizations and multi-lateralorganisation such as the World Bank.

Our role is to contribute towards the development of thestudent and society more broadly. We encourage you to participate with us inthis challenge.