Events 2015

2015 events


12 November 2015: UNCTAD Virtual Institute video conference

The UNCTAD Virtual Institute conducted a presentation for members of the TRADE team via a video conference on the 2015 Trade and Development report, titled: 'Making the International Financial Architecture Work for Trade and Development'. The report, which is available from UNCTAD, was presented by a co-author, Alex Izurieta.

Alex emphasised that stability had not returned to the global financial system after the crisis of 2008/2009, and that both the developed world and developing world are still, in varying degrees, experiencing the fallout from these torrid times. Among the urgent requirements, in the authors' opinion, are a more innovative debt restructuring mechanism and stronger and more responsible oversight. TRADE team members used this opportunity to ask questions about some of the implications of the report's findings, particularly for South Africa.

Above: Attendees at the UNCTAD Virtual Institute video conference

2-3 November 2015: WTO Chairs conference

Prof Wilma Viviers (WTO Chair in South Africa), Dr Sonja Grater and Mr Martin Cameron attended the annual WTO Chairs conference on 2 and 3 November in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference provided a platform for the different WTO Chairs to report back on the work they are doing in their respective countries and for the WTO to do a stocktake of the achievements of the programme thus far.

Prof Wilma Viviers delivered a presentation on the planned activities of the TRADE research entity for 2015/2016 in line with the three WTO Chairs Programme pillars: research, curriculum development and outreach.

Above: Mr Martin Cameron, Prof Wilma Viviers and Dr Sonja Grater at the WTO Chairs conference

16 October 2015: PhD graduation ceremony

Former TRADE team member, Dr Requier Wait, graduated from the TRADE research focus area with a PhD in Economics. The title of his thesis was: 'The development of structure to evaluate petroleum fiscal systems in Africa'. Prior to this, on 26 October, Dr Wait received the African Institute of Petroleum's 7th Annual Conrad Gerber Award for Research and Intellectual Contribution to Africa, which was presented at the 71st PetroAfricanus dinner held in Cape Town. Congratulations to Dr Wait on these achievements!

More information about TRADE's PhD programmes, including bursaries awarded under the WTO Chairs Programme, is available here

Above: Dr Requier Wait with Prof Fika J van Rensburg

15 October 2015: SAIIA roundtable

Prof Wilma Viviers and two TRADE associates were invited to attend a roundtable event convened by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) in Johannesburg. With the theme: 'Nairobi and Beyond - what prospects for the WTO?', the roundtable prompted a range of debates on the state of the multilateral trading system, 14 years after the launch of the Doha Round, and speculated about the likely outcomes of the WTO's 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi at the end of the year. As a WTO Chair holder, Prof Viviers oversees an outreach programme aimed at bringing TRADE's WTO-related activities to the attention of government, academia and the business community. More information on the WTO Chairs Programme can be found here.

Above: Mr Peter Draper, Prof Wilma Viviers, Ms Ali Parry and Mr Martin Cameron at the SAIIA roundtable event

15 October 2015: SARB guest lecture

The head of research and statistics at the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Dr Johan van den Heever, visited the Potchefstroom Campus on  15 October to deliver a guest lecture. He spoke at the School of Economics on the topic: 'Monetary Policy and Issues in South Africa'. 

Above: Dr van den Heever and Prof Kleynhans with students in attendance at the lecture

14-16 October 2015: SAAFF 'New Frontiers' conference

Dr Sonja Grater was invited to be a speaker at the prestigious annual conference of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), which was held at the International Convention Centre in Durban from 14-16 October.

With the theme of the conference being 'New Frontiers', delegates debated the fast-changing world of international trade and logistics, the crucial role played by the freight industry in trade facilitation and the need for the industry to reinvent itself. A key topic of discussion was the new challenges that will confront this industry over the next few years as it seeks to adapt to and comply with the new SA Customs Act (2014).

Dr Grater's presentation highlighted South Africa's strategic role as a gateway into Africa and the contribution that trade facilitation will have to make if South Africa wishes to remain competitive in the southern African region, especially in light of the rapid progress being made by other southern African countries in this regard.

Above: Dr Sonja Grater at the SAAFF conference in Durban

14 October 2015: MCom graduation ceremony

Ms Lorainne Steenkamp and Mr Armand Lourens graduated from the TRADE research focus area, both with an MCom.

Lorainne completed an MCom in Economics with the title of her dissertation being: 'South Africa's economic policies on unemployment: A historical analysis of twenty years of transition'. Her study leader was Prof Riaan Rossouw.

Armand completed an MCom in International Trade with the title of his dissertation being: 'Determining the export market diversification opportunities for the Western Cape of South Africa'. He was guided by his supervisor, Prof Wilma Viviers and a co-supervisor, Dr Ermie Steenkamp.

Many congratulations to both Lorainne and Armand. More information about TRADE's MCom programmes, including bursaries awarded under the WTO Chairs Programme, is available here

Above: Ms Lorainne Steenkamp and Mr Armand Lourens

Below: Ms Lorainne Steenkamp, Mr Armand Lourens,  Prof Wilma Viviers and Dr Ermie Steenkamp

13 October 2015: WTO dispute settlement lecture

Dr Gustav Brink, an expert in the WTO dispute settlement process, recently visited TRADE to deliver a guest lecture as part of the International Trade Law (ECON622) course. In his lecture he explained how the dispute settlement process and appellate functions of the WTO work. The lecture, titled: ‘Dispute settlement in the WTO’, covered the relevant regulations and procedures that countries follow in order to lodge a dispute with the WTO, and also how it is consequently resolved. Many examples were used, such as the Australian leather car seat and the Chinese non-ferrous piping disputes currently in progress.

Above: Dr Gustav Brink lectures to the International Trade Law (ECON622) students

12 October 2015: IMF guest lecture

On 12 October, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Senior Representative for South Africa, Dr Axel Schimmelpfennig, visited TRADE to deliver a guest lecture as part of the Economic Policy course (ECON622). Dr Schimmelpfennig spoke about the general role and mandate of the IMF, as well as the IMF's views on South Africa’s economic outlook and policy challenges. Both students and staff at TRADE found the lecture to be very insightful and asked Dr Schimmelpfennig many questions. Dr Schimmelpfennig's visit also provided a good opportunity to build relationships with the IMF, and we look forward to welcoming him back to TRADE in the future.

Above: Prof Wilma Viviers, Dr Axel Schimmelpfennig and Prof Ewert Kleynhans

Below: Dr Axel Schimmelpfennig addressing the ECON622 students

28 September 2015: Workshop on industrialisation in BRICS

Prof Wim Naudé, the Dean-Director of the Maastricht School of Management, visited TRADE to give a keynote lecture on the topic: ‘A fresh look at industrialisation in the BRICS with critical comments for South Africa’. Prof Naudé stressed the importance of manufacturing for countries' economic growth and development. But he warned that South Africa's current policy stance vis-à-vis industrialisation was not putting the country in a good light alongside its BRICS partners. Members of the TRADE team as well as other researchers from the NWU and elsewhere attended this absorbing and thought-provoking lecture.

Above: Prof Naudé during his keynote lecture 

Below: All those in attendance at the lecture

23 September 2015: TRADE meets with NWPG and NWDC

A meeting was held between representatives from the North West Provincial Government, the North West Development Corporation and the TRADE research focus area on the Potchefstroom Campus. Ms Wendy Nelson and Mr Nathan Oliphant from the Finance, Economy and Enterprise Development (FEED) office of the North West Provincial Government's Department of Finance were also in attendance. The focus of the meeting was on the development of a manufacturing strategy for the North West Province. 

Above: Attendees at the meeting between TRADE and North West Province representatives

17 September 2015: TRADE Colloquium #4

The fourth TRADE colloquium of the year was held at the TRADE research focus area on 17 September. This was an opportunity for Master's and PhD students to present their research proposals and draft articles, and to obtain feedback. More information can be found here.


8-11 September 2015: WTO-STATA training

Two presenters from the WTO, Cosimo Beverelli and Simon Neumueller, presented a training course on the use of the STATA statistical program. This included training in basic descriptive statistics, as well as econometric methods, gravity models and partial equilibrium analysis using the SMART approach. The course forms part of the curriculum development pillar of the WTO Chairs Programme, and is designed to equip researchers with the skills required to use STATA in their future trade facilitation-based research.

The training course also proved valuable for those TRADE team members who are currently developing a new Advanced Research Methodology course, which will be introduced into the 2016 Economics and International Trade Honours programmes.

Attendees at the STATA training course

23 August 2015: TRADE-WTO awards function

Three separate WTO-funded awards were given at the TRADE-WTO awards function: the best PhD thesis, the best WTO-related paper and the most promising Honours student at TRADE. These awards aim to recognise and encourage excellent scholarship and research on WTO-related themes.

Dr Ernst Idsardi received the award for the best PhD thesis, titled: 'South Africa's Agricultural Product Space: Diversifying for Growth and Employment'.

Ms Antoinette van der Merwe and Prof Wilma Viviers received the award for the best research paper, titled: 'Promoting sustainable economic growth in South Africa through the production and export of low-carbon environmental goods'.

Mr Gabriel Mhonyera received the award for the most promising
Honours student in International Trade of 2015 following some excellent academic results during the first semester of the year.

Above: (Top) Dr Ernst Idsardi & Prof Wilma Viviers. (Bottom) Ms Antoinette van der Merwe, Prof Wilma Viviers and Prof Waldo Krugell

Below: Mr Gabriel Mhonyera

July 2015: NWU staff recognition

Three researchers from TRADE were honoured at the NWU recognition event for first publications. Prof Derick Blaauw, Ms Anmar Pretorius and Ms Carli Bezuidenhout all received recognition for their first official NWU research outputs which were published in 2014. 

Above: Prof Derick Blaauw, Ms Carli Bezuidenhout and Ms Anmar Pretorius, with Prof Wilma Viviers

23 July 2015: TRADE Colloquium #3

The third TRADE colloquium of the year was held at the premises of the TRADE research entity on 23 July. This was an opportunity for Master's and PhD students to present their research proposals and draft articles, and to obtain feedback. On this occasion, Ms Crescencia Shereni presented her MCom research proposal on the topic: 'How do South Africans think about the economic issues of the day?'.

15-19 June 2015: UNCTAD Virtual Institute workshop

The UNCTAD Virtual Institute presented a regional workshop from 15-19 June on trade and gender analysis, hosted by the North-West University’s TRADE research entity.

Ms Carike Claassen and Dr Sonja Grater were among the presenters at the workshop. In January participants had completed Phase 1 of the training online. The workshop constituted Phase 2 and specifically focused on different methods of performing empirical analysis of the links between trade and gender.

A news report on the workshop is available here.

Above: Attendees at the UNCTAD Virtual Institute trade and gender analysis workshop. Click for a larger image

Below: Dr Sonja Grater and Ms Carike Claassen with their certificates

5 June 2015: 2nd WTO-TRADE GVC roundtable

The second WTO-TRADE roundtable on Global Value Chains (GVCs) took place on 5 June at the premises of the TRADE research entity.

Several themes were discussed in separate focus groups, including: the implications of GVCs for the policy/regulatory and business environments; the power of trade facilitation, customs and technology to shape the GVC environment; and the relationship between GVCs and export and investment promotion.

The programme for the event can be found here while short video summaries of the discussions can be found here and a press release here.

Above: Some of the attendees in at the 2nd WTO-TRADE round table.

Below: Video interview with by Prof Wilma Viviers

2 & 4 June 2015: Research Methodology exams

As part of the Research Methodology in International Trade course, students completed practical exams on the topics of (i) introduction to gravity modelling, (ii) market attractiveness composite indexing, (iii) trade outcomes analysis and (iv) SMART partial equilibrium modelling.

This course is currently being developed as part of the curriculum development pillar of the WTO Chairs Programme.

Above: Students writing their Research Methodology exams

13 May 2015: CAPLP Writing School feedback

The 2015 Economics Honours students submitted their first comprehensive essay to the NWU's Centre for Academic and Professional Language Practice (CAPLP) at the end of March. The CAPLP assisted in the assessment of these essays, providing feedback on grammar usage, paragraphing, strength of arguments, and bibliographic referencing style and format. This feedback, which highlighted both strong points and general weaknesses, will serve as a valuable guide for the postgraduate students when they prepare their Honours dissertations.

Above: CAPLP representatives Ms Jean du Toit and Ms Lientjie Venter giving feedback to the students

8 May 2015: 17th annual Ruiterbosch conference

At the 17th annual Ruiterbosch conference at Ruiterbosch in the Western Cape, Prof Peet Strydom, an extraordinary professor at the NWU, presented a joint paper with Prof Wilma Viviers on the topic: 'Global Value Chains: A new era for South Africa's foreign trade' . 

The aim of the conference was to bring together academics, practitioners and policymakers for an off-the-record and no-holds-barred discussion on the most serious issues facing the South African economy.

Numerous topics were discussed at this year's gathering, including Global Value Chains and the implications for exports and investment, Piketty’s analysis of inequality (Prof Strydom presented a paper with his own modified model and the implications for South Africa), foreign direct investment in Africa (specifically by South African firms) and the rise and fall of Eskom.

Above: Prof Peet Strydom with Prof Wilma Viviers at Ruiterbosch

Below: The participants of the 2015 Ruiterbosch conference


24 April 2015: Agbiz launches political agri-economics report

The political environment has become a determining factor for most big business decisions. Politicians tend to use agriculture as its playing ground, not always understanding the risks it imposes on the people involved, business confidence and investments. Through its thorough and unbiased analysis, Agbiz provides its members with intelligence to better inform their perceptions and ultimately guide them in making better business decisions. To this end Agbiz has drawn in specialists in political analysis from North-West University to assist in providing clarity on the political economic reality in 2015. Based on discussions this week at the launch of the report, additional information will be added to the final report, which will be released in the next Agbiz newsletter. See the media release here.

Above: Dr Jan Venter (NWU), Mr Seshupo Mosala (NWU), Mr Melt Botes (NWU), Dr Ernst Idsardi (NWU) and Ms Lindie Stroebel (Agbiz)

21 April 2015: Alicia Fourie wins Rapport Top Lecturer Award

Fifteen lecturers from the North-West University (NWU) were chosen as the most inspiring lecturers in 2014 at a gala event held at the home of the Vice-Chancellor in Potchefstroom.

Each of the Rapport Top Lecturer Award winners received R50 000 for their contribution to teaching excellence, which formed part of a R934 000 sponsorship by Rapport.

These passionate, committed and enthusiastic lecturers are shining examples of what author William A. Ward meant when he said: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Ms Alicia Fourie, a member of TRADE, received the award for the most inspiring lecturer in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. More information can be found here.

Above: Ms Alicia Fourie receiving her award from Mr Waldimar Pelser, editor of Rapport

19 March 2015: 1st WTO-TRADE roundtable

The first WTO-TRADE roundtable on Global Value Chains (GVCs) and trade facilitation was convened by the TRADE entity on 19 March at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus. Attended by members of the TRADE research team as well as colleagues from the university’s Business School and Engineering and Political Science faculties, officials from the Department of Trade and Industry, and private sector consultants specialising in customs and logistics, marketing and competitive intelligence, and agricultural development, the roundtable focused on South Africa’s policy response to the GVC phenomenon and the implications for the country’s export and economic growth.  

The influence of South Africa’s industrial policy on the country’s trade (especially with other southern African countries) and trade facilitation challenges in the region were among the topics put under the spotlight. Prof Wilma Viviers (WTO Chair and director of TRADE at the NWU) spoke of the dangers of an overly-centralised production approach—currently evident in South Africa—which tends to favour labour absorption over competitiveness, while Prof Ludo Cuyvers (an international trade economist from the University of Antwerp) reflected on the central role played by multinationals in GVCs and what this means for a country’s export promotion and expansion efforts. Prof Peet Strydom (an NWU extraordinary professor) emphasised the importance of a country having strong economic fundamentals and a conducive regulatory climate, which together should promote greater trade efficiency and eligibility to participate in GVCs. A lively debate ensued on South Africa’s successes and failures on the GVC and trade facilitation fronts, and what strategies are necessary to put the country onto a firmer trade and economic footing.

The roundtable's programme can be found here and a press release summary here.

Above: WTO-TRADE GVC roundtable discussions underway


Below: Attendees at the WTO-TRADe GVC roundtable

13 March 2015: TRADE-WTO award at Academic Prestige function

The TRADE-WTO award for the best Master's degree dissertation was presented to Mr Francois van Heerden on 13 March at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences’ Academic Prestige function. The title of his dissertation was: ‘Identifying employment-intensive export sectors in South Africa’s services industry’ and his study leader was Dr Sonja Grater.

Above: Mr Francois van Heerden receiving his WTO award with Dr Sonja Grater (left) and Prof Wilma Viviers, WTO Chair (right)

6 and 20 March 2015: CAPLP Writing School session #2

The NWU Centre for Academic and Professional Language Practice (CAPLP) held a follow-up Writing School session for Master’s and PhD students on 6 and 20 March 2015. For more details about the Writing School, contact


20 February 2015: CAPLP Writing School session #1

The first day of the Writing School conducted by the Centre for Academic and Professional Language Practice (CAPLP) was 20 February. A follow-up session is scheduled for 6 and 20 March 2015. For more details about the Writing School, contact


5 February 2015:  TRADE Colloquium #1

On 5 February, a mini-colloquium was convened by the TRADE research entity and the NWU School of Economics. Here new Master's and PhD students of 2015 presented their research proposals, proposed methodologies and available data to their supervisors and promoters.

Above: Students at the colloquium listen to the presentations

19 January 2015: The energy economics initiative

The energy economics initiative, which was launched in 2014, was taken another step forward when the third meeting was held on 19 January. Dr Dawid Serfontein (Senior Lecturer at the School of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at the NWU) presented a paper titled: ‘Nuclear power more profitable than coal if funded with low cost capital: A South African case study’.

This was followed by a discussion during which the way forward was mapped out. Four broad areas were identified in which various groupings of academics and private sector participants would collaborate and deliver concrete research outputs. These are:

  • The IRP and IEP as policy documents, which need to be analysed further to identify possible inconsistencies and areas that require further attention from researchers
  • Localisation and local content as envisaged in the various policy documents
  • The real economic development for local communities where energy projects are being launched
  • Policy mechanics and modelling. In this regard, four sub-themes were established:
    • Cost-benefit analysis
    • Externalities
    • Fiscal policy
    • Deployment of funds

One of the participants also suggested that the area of ‘waste to energy’ also requires attention.

Above: Dr Dawid Serfontein addresses participants at the meeting of the energy economics initiative