UJ Economist bridging Africa’s economic divide in a changing climate

Professorial Inaugural address: Prof Nicholas Ngepah

Social and economic exclusions are often quite entrenched in states within fragile situations, where the lack of solidarity in the society and the production process run very deep. In such societies, even if growth occurs, it ends up benefiting only a few, perpetrating further fragility. As such, inclusive growth will not happen spontaneously but will take some significant policy efforts.



According to Nicholas Ngepah, a Professor in the School of Economics within the Department of Economics and Econometrics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), the relationship between fragility and growth is a deep-seated one. At the heart of it are three key concerns. The first one relates to the connection of fragility with poor and non-existent delivery of basic services, low levels of capital and the third element consists of both formal and informal institutional constrains in states within fragility.

Professor Ngepah pointed out that lack of inclusive growth can drive both high fragility and low ensuing growth, resulting in a vicious cycle of a highly fragile society with very low or negative economic growth when he delivered his inaugural address, ‘Socioeconomic Exclusions and State Failure: A Prospect Theoretical Perspective’ in the Council Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Thursday, 18 March 2021.

“My key proposition in this work is that the cohesion, stability and resilience of a sovereign state depend entirely on the internal conditions that determine the socioeconomic dynamics of the citizens. If the socio-economic machinery is structured in such a way that a good part of the population is excluded, then the state easily enters into a state of fragility and fails over time. As such, the resilience of the state depends entirely on the levels of satisfaction of the citizens or groups of citizens, the extent to which the satisfaction-generating processes are skewed, and the weights that individuals place on the gains and losses in satisfaction,” said Prof Ngepah.

He highlighted that policies that narrowly focus on promoting economic growth without regards to distributional outcomes will be eventually counterproductive.

“A country with a more moderate level of per capita income which is more equally distributed would have a more stable, legitimate, and effective state than another with high levels of average income but with high inequality. Striking such a balance is very important as it may come with trade-offs. However, in the end, it will prove to be the path to sustainable development that safeguards the state. A long-term sustainable development path should pay attention to inclusive education in terms of level and quality. ”

Prof Ngepah concluded his address by observing that a long-term sustainable development path should pay attention to inclusive education in terms of level and quality. Social safety nets and infrastructure should target excluded youths and women, while addressing their skills needs for a longer-term inclusion through education. Furthermore, an inclusive access to health will also ensure a healthy work force that enhances state effectiveness, economic dynamism, and social cohesion.

Professor Nicholas Ngepah is a C-rated NRF Researcher and a dynamic member of the University of Johannesburg’s School of Economics Leadership team.

Professor Ngepah has worked for a number of Governmental and non-governmental organizations prior to joining the University of Johannesburg full time. For example, he has worked at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as Energy Economist, where he researched on the socioeconomic impacts of energy source options, particularly biofuels. He worked for the South African Competition Commission as Senior Economic Expert, where he led investigations of mergers and firms’ anticompetitive behaviors and served as economic expert witness on cases at the Competitions Tribunal. Before he joined the University full time, he was Oxfam Great Britain’s Regional Head of Research for Southern Africa.

His research interest focuses on poverty, inequality and inclusive economic growth, and the underlying areas of trade, industrial, health, energy, agricultural and environmental policies. In the past three years, he has taken interest and published around defense spending and development. His medium-term research agenda is on how new technologies will shape labour, inequality and poverty in the current context of the 4IR. He has published widely, and his bibliometric profile demonstrates a significant impact. He has an extensive collaboration network with national, African, and international organisations like the World Bank, The African Economic Research Consortium, the Africa Capacity Building Foundation, among others.

His research has generated significant national, continental and to some extent, global policy interests. Consequently, over the last eight years, he has produced fourteen technical and policy reports for Organisations like the World Bank, African Economic Research Consortium, The African Capacity Building Foundation; and the governments of some African countries.

· Read Prof Nicholas Ngepah’s full Professorial Inaugural address entitled: Socioeconomic Exclusions and State Failure: A Prospect Theoretical Perspective

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