Meet the president’s economic advisors 

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new economic advisory council was unveiled and photographed at its first meeting and represents a mix of academia with a sprinkle of economists who would favour hard choices to shake South Africa out of its current slump. Eleven out of the 18 are from universities; a 19th member is expected to be announced later. Some choices are brave; it includes Prof Mzukisi Qobo who wrote a book about the fall of the ANC and Dr Thabi Leoka who famously commented on the fact that governments often come up with plans that cannot be implemented. The council will liaise with the existing National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). – Linda van Tilburg

Ramaphosa, economic advisors
Front row (l to r): Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Wandile Sihlobo, Renosi Mokate, David Mabuza, Cyril Ramaphosa, Trudi Makhaya, Alan Hirsch.
 Second row: Mampho Modise, Busani Ngcaweni, Imraan Valodia, Tania Ajam, Mamello Maticinka-Ngwenya, Fiona Tregenna, Ayabonga Cawe
. Third row: Mzukisi Qobo, Liberty Mncube, Kenneth Creamer, Gwede Mantashe, Thabi Leoka, Haroon Bhorat, Grove Steyn
. Top row: Pravin Gordhan, Jackson Mthembu, Ebrahim Patel, David Masondo, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Tito Mboweni

Professor Benno Ndulu, a former governor of the Bank of Tanzania. He was appointed as the central bank governor in his home country after corruption allegations against his predecessor. According to Reuters; Ndlulu is known for rebuilding trust and confidence in Tanzania’s Central Bank.  Under his guidance the country maintained GDP growth of almost 7% for the past decade.

Mzukisi Qobo is a professor of International Business. Qobo also taught International Political Economy at the University of Pretoria and was Chief Director for trade policy development in the Department of Trade and Industry. He co-authored the book, ‘The Fall of the ANC: What Next?’

Dani Rodrik, a professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Rodik authored a book on international trade, ‘Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy‘. He is a regular columnist for Project Syndicate.

Mariana Mazzucato, a professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value, and Director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at the University College London. On her website, she says she works with global leaders on mission oriented policies. She told the Financial Times that she wants to challenge the pervasive view that innovation happens in the private sector. “The public sector can and should be a co-creator of wealth that actively steers growth to meet its goals.”

Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya, chief economist at First National Bank. She brings youth and practical business experience to the council being probably the youngest chief economist to be appointed to a bank in South Africa when she was only 29. Matikinca-Ngwenya believes the government will have to curb its wage bill and is pro-policy that attracts investment.

Dr Renosi Mokate, a former executive and dean at the University of South Africa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) and former Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. Mokate was also the chairperson of the board of trustees of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF).

Dr Kenneth Creamer, a professor of Macroeconomics at Wits University. He is well-known South African academic and has written on a range of topics including the monetary policy framework in South Africa and externally constrained growth in South Africa. He also sits on the board of Creamer Media that publishes Engineering News and Mining Weekly titles.

Prof Alan Hirsch, a director of the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice, University of Cape Town. Hirsch who has previously advised the Presidency is finding his way back as an advisor to Ramaphosa. He spoke from experience when he told Cape Talk that advisors can be more frank with the President than “most of his closest advisers.” Hirsch also said that he believed that senior ministers should attend meetings with the advisory team.

Tania Ajam, a professor in public financial management at the University of Stellenbosch School of Public Leadership. Ajam is another Cape academic appointed by Ramaphosa. Ajam comments regularly on Twitter where she came out in support of the National Health Insurance, but said that the financing concerns have not been addressed. She said it is only viable if economic growth is above 3%.

Dr Grové Steyn, who the presidency describes as one of South Africa’s leading infrastructure and regulatory economists. Meridian Economics says Steyn is a trained industrial engineer and has a good understanding of infrastructure industries and utilities. He could be particularly useful in coming up with solutions for Eskom.

Wandile Sihlobo, an agricultural economist and head of Agribusiness Research at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa. Sihlobo writes extensively on agriculture issues, including land restitution for various publications and also served as an economist for Grain SA. A recent article was on whether it is true that the SA youth do not want to farm.

Dr Liberty Mncube, a former chief economist at the Competition Commission and current scholar at Wits University. On his LinkedIn page, Mncube also says he leads the Economic Consulting Practice in Johannesburg of FTI Consulting and that he is an expert in the applications of economics to competition law.

Fiona Tregenna, a professor in the Department of Economics and Econometrics at the University of Johannesburg. Tregenna has written extensively on the economy of Mauritius and whether trade openness led to economic growth on the island. She also wrote an article titled, “Sectoral Structure and Change: Insights from Marx” in September 2018.

Haroon Bhorat, a professor of economics and Director of the Development Policy Research Unit, University of Cape Town. Bhorat could be described as a development economist. His research covers labour economics, poverty and income distribution.

Ayabonga Cawe, a former economic justice manager at Oxfam. Cawe is also a development economist who writes regular columns and he hosts a programme on PowerFM. He has also worked as an associate consultant at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, a policy advisory firm.

Vusi Gumede, a former chief policy analyst in the Presidency’s Policy Coordination and Advisory Service. Gumede is the founding director of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at the University of South Africa. He is a keen runner and has recently posted a picture of himself on Twitter running in the Cape Town marathon.

Dr Thabi Leoka, an economist who has worked for various organisations in the financial sector and was recently appointed by President Ramaphosa to the Public Investment Corporation Commission of Inquiry. Dr Leoka has previously commented on how it is common for politicians to come up with plans and make promises, but that they are rarely accompanied by data, research and think tanks to develop policies.

Prof Imraan Valodia, an economist and dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of Witwatersrand. Valodia chaired the advisory panel of Nedlac on the national minimum wage. His interests centre on employment, the informal economy, gender and industrialisation. Valodia has also worked with numerous UN programmes.