In a coup for UCT's Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) in the School of Economics, a technical assistance programme for staff from historically disadvantaged universities (HDUs) will be held at UCT from June 23 to July 4. The programme will deal with the analysis of poverty and inequality data.
Thanks to American university, Cornell, winning the third phase of a five-year US Aid for Africa programme, which requires the university to undertake economic research and a capacity development programme in Africa, the DPRU (as Cornell's link in South Africa) will host the 25 staff members, giving them the necessary skills to improve their own economics departments.
According to course convenor, Morne Oosthuizen, HDUs are extremely under-resourced and unskilled, and include universities of the former homelands as well as those whose development suffered under the apartheid system.
"These universities suffer from severe funding, skills and research constraints," said Oosthuizen. "This programme will offer human capital assistance to these staff members who can then take back valuable skills to their universities," he added.
Dr Haroon Bhorat, Director of the DPRU, highlighted just one example of the constraints that these 25 staff members face in their economics departments. "We discovered that none of the staff members knew anything about the statistical software we use on a daily basis. Hence, the first two days of the programme will now be used to offer introductory training on this valuable tool," he explained.
With both a theoretical and practical component, the course will cover the measurement of poverty and inequality in South Africa, using statistical software. Oosthuizen, Bhorat and three visiting Cornell University economics lecturers, including Professor Ravi Kanbur, previously Senior Economic Adviser at the World Bank, will lecture to the "students" in the morning on theoretical concepts, while the afternoon sessions will see them being exposed to the use of analysis and statistical software to measure these concepts.
Bhorat emphasised the long-term importance of this type of programme. "We hope this will provide the seeds to encourage and foster future research and collaboration in this area," he said.
Oosthuizen added: "The DPRU is providing a platform to widen the existing network of researchers and universities we deal with. We also hope these economists will walk away knowing about UCT and each other so they know who to approach for help in the future."