Professor Alan Hirsch, a former chief economist to the Presidency, has been appointed as the founding director of the newly-created Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice in UCT's Faculty of Commerce.
"It gives us great pleasure to welcome Alan Hirsch back to UCT," said Dean of Commerce Professor Don Ross. "The knowledge and experience he brings to our community of academics who study and teach policy could not be exceeded by anyone else. The expectations we attach to the new graduate school, which will be the first of its kind in Africa, are signalled by the appointment of so eminent a leader as its first director".
Hirsch noted that Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price had signalled his intent to create a Kennedy School for Africa at UCT in his installation address.
Based at Harvard, the Kennedy School boasts renowned faculty and pioneering research centres, and its students are "prepared and trained to lead, no matter whether in the private, public or non-profit sector". The school convenes the best and brightest international leaders in engaging with today's top issues. Over the past 75 years it has become the global leader in educating and empowering individuals committed to advancing the public interest.
"We are building a school to strengthen the skills, knowledge and strategic abilities of public-sector policymakers and leaders in South Africa and Africa," said Hirsch. "This is an ambitious vision, but not too ambitious for UCT. It has inspired me to work on the project and to return to UCT. We have already built a small, but very strong team to carry out our shared vision.
For Hirsch, the academic appointment is something of a homecoming. He was born in Cape Town and educated in South Africa and the US, with degrees in economics, economic history and history from UCT, Wits and Columbia universities. He has also trained at Georgetown University and was a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School.
Hirsch started his career as an economic history lecturer at UCT, where he was economic policy research director. In 1995 he joined the Department of Trade and Industry and occupied several senior positions in industry and technology policy-making, until joining the Policy Unit in the Presidency in 2002 as chief economist. He led the negotiations team for South Africa for its first World Bank loan in 1998, and led the first negotiations with the EU for a trade and development agreement, starting in 1994.
Most recently, in the Presidency, he monitored and evaluated economic policy implementation, represented the Presidency at the G20, and was co-chair of the G20 Development Working Group from 2010 to 2012.
Hirsch has published widely on trade and industrial policy issues and has written a book titled Season of Hope - Economic reform under Mandela and Mbeki.
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