Trade and Development



TRADE in a nutshell

TRADE (an acronym for Trade and Development) is a research focus area at the North-West University specialising in the fields of international trade and economic development. Prof Daniel Meyer is the director of TRADE.
TRADE offers (in collaboration with NWU’s School of Economic and Management Sciences) the following postgraduate degrees:

  • MCom in International Trade
  • MCom in Economics
  • PhD in International Trade
  • PhD in Economics

TRADE’s research activities are heavily geared towards export promotion and development. from identifying new and high-potential export opportunities for South Africa and other countries, to uncovering the keys to greater competitiveness and inward investment flows – all areas of great concern to economic policymakers and decision makers in business.  TRADE has an experienced and committed team of researchers who are well connected in government and business circles, and continuously stay abreast of local and international developments in their particular focus areas.

At the heart of TRADE’s research programme is the TRADE-DSM (Decision Support Model) which is used to identify realistic export opportunities for countries, provinces and industry sectors in the form of high-potential product-market and service-market combinations.  Complementing the TRADE-DSM® is the TRADE-DSM Dashboard – a powerful, interactive computer instrument that interprets the results of the TRADE-DSM® in a user-friendly way. For more details, see Advisory services.

The TRADE-DSM® and its many applications are extensively covered in the book ‘Export Promotion: A Decision Support Model Approach’ by Prof Ludo Cuyvers of the University of Antwerp and Prof Wilma Viviers, research professor of the TRADE research focus area at NWU.

TRADE’s research agenda is divided into four research programmes:

Export diversification and competitiveness

Convenor: Dr Ermie Steenkamp (

The research conducted within the Export diversification and competitiveness programme is mainly focused on export promotion and identifying export opportunities for products and services, export competitiveness and export firm dynamics. The team consists of Prof Wilma Viviers, Dr Ermie Steenkamp, Prof Ludo Cuyvers (extraordinary professor), Prof Waldo Krugell, Prof Marianne Matthee, Prof Riaan Rossouw, Dr Sonja Grater, Dr Ernst Idsardi, Ms Carli Bezuidenhout, Ms Ali Parry (extraordinary research scientist) and Dr Marié-Luce Kühn (extraordinary research scientist).

Central to this research is the TRADE-DSM® (Decision Support Model) which is used to identify realistic export opportunities in the form of high-potential product-market and service-market combinations. A notable strength of the TRADE-DSM™ is that it reveals export opportunities that might not have been considered in the past, thereby supporting the quest to diversify into non-traditional export markets. Given South Africa’s need to extend the country‘s reach into new territories, the TRADE-DSM™ is set to play an increasingly important and strategic role in trade promotion circles. Furthermore, having a scientifically-formulated market selection tool for the services export sector – which to date has lacked a formal vision or strategy – is a boon to those tasked with expanding and diversifying the country’s services sector where so much potential lies.

While the TRADE-DSM® mainly considers the demand side of trade, the export competitiveness research done within this programme investigates the supply side. This includes a thorough analysis of a country’s trade performance, the identification of the main factors that constrain trade, and the development of targeted policy responses to improve the competitiveness of firms.

The firm-level research conducted within this programme focuses on analysing the dynamics or characteristics of exporting firms to arrive at a profile of the types of firms that get involved in exporting. Key issues include export concentration versus diversification, export growth and export survival.

Economic development

Convenor: Dr Anmar Pretorius (

The Economic development programme is fortunate in being able to count on a team of experienced and dedicated researchers with an impressive number of national and international contributions to their name. The team, which is assisted by a rich network of regional, national and international collaborators, consists of Dr Anmar Pretorius, Prof Ewert Kleynhans, Prof Derick Blaauw, Prof Riaan Rossouw, Dr Carike Claassen, Dr Alicia Fourie and Dr Logan Rangasamy (extraordinary associate professor). These colleagues focus their research on a broad range of development issues, including: the informal sector of the economy, economics education, local economic development, industrial development, competitiveness, development impact analysis, economic growth, financial development, economic geography, regional integration, emerging markets and policy analysis.


Convenor: Dr Ernst Idsardi (

The team in the Agriculture programme consists of Dr Ernst Idsardi, Dr Flippie Cloete, Dr David Spies, Dr Johnny van der Merwe, Ms Lindie Stroebel (extraordinary research scientist) and Prof Zerihun Gudeta Alemu (extraordinary associate professor). Together they have extensive expertise in the fields of: international agricultural trade, agricultural development strategies, food security, agricultural competitiveness, wildlife and livestock economics, and policy analysis. A wide variety of research projects have been conducted within the programme for provincial and national government as well as agricultural organisations (e.g. Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), National Agricultural Marketing Council of South Africa (NAMC) and Agri-business Chamber (Agbiz)).

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa

Convenor: Prof Henri Bezuidenhout (

The FDI in Africa programme team consists of Prof Henri Bezuidenhout and Dr Carike Claassen. This unit is highly specialised and networked with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, UNCTAD, UNIDO and several national and provincial investment promotion agencies. The strong focus on FDI in Africa coincides with the greater focus on BRICS and Africa-to-Africa investment, and specific attention is given to individual sectors in home and host countries, and associated risks. Research in this programme is interdisciplinary, amalgamating international economics, investment law, international marketing, international strategic management, international relations and international political economy.