Economic Performance and Development

EPD aims to generate robust and reliable evidence for lasting solutions to South Africa’s enduring problems of unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Our vision is to contribute to the creation of a productive, inclusive and resilient country and continent through wide-ranging development, broad-based growth and decent employment. Our research contributes to making a difference to the well-being of people, communities, cities, regions and society as a whole. We work with multiple decision-makers and practitioners to evaluate the complex trade-offs and choices they face, including how to transform the economy and reduce inequality without undermining the prospects for growth, employment and investment. We also have strong partnerships with international think-tanks, research centres and organisations such as the Regional Studies Association, Overseas Development Institute, the Institute of Development Studies and the Giovanni Arrighi Institute for Global Studies.

The original focus on employment policy and sustainable development has broadened over time to include innovation and spatial development (urban, rural and regional). Core research themes currently include urbanisation, sustainable human settlements, rural innovation, land and agrarian reform policies, tourism, the green and cultural economies, public employment programmes and the evaluation of social and economic state interventions. A new stream of work is underway on the role of universities in creating liveable, resilient and dynamic cities. 

EPD has a successful track record of securing large (multi-million Rand) research projects, many of which are funded by national government. The funding base has also been diversified over time, with an increase in resources from international organisations, research councils, provincial and local government, the private sector and NGOs. In recent years we have had projects funded by the OECD, United Nations, Germany’s GIZ and the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

EPD has a strong and growing profile in academic and applied research, with a steady output of articles in peer-reviewed journals, books and professional magazines. EPD has one NRF B-rated and one C-rated researcher. One of the world’s top journals in the field of economic geography with an impact factor of over 2, Regional Studies, is edited from within EPD. A new journal called Area Development and Policy aimed at emerging economies and published by Taylor and Francis was launched in 2016 with an editor from EPD. Several researchers serve on other editorial boards and are reviewers for top international and local journals.

Apart from advancing scientific knowledge, EPD members make important contributions to public debates and policy through their engagement with national, provincial and local spheres of government, their participation in important government committees, and their contribution to the work of several parliamentary committees. This gives EPD a prominent public profile, with regular media appearances and newspaper articles. For example, in 2015 a core member of EPD was appointed Chair of the new City Planning Commission for Durban.

The EPD programme has grown strongly over the last six years from 6 to 26 researchers, demonstrating a strong commitment to capacity building. We currently host 10 National Research Foundation (NRF) interns and one volunteer. Senior EPD researchers attach great importance to nurturing the next generation of talented and respected social science policy-oriented researchers. The programme is implementing an innovative strategy to prepare cohorts of emerging researchers through an intensive internship programme. One of our PhD interns received a NRF SOLVE award in 2015 and over the last few years four interns received scholarships to attend summer schools abroad. EPD interns are often invited to present papers at local and international conferences. Several have co-authored and published in local and internationally accredited journals.