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A global destination

The Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University is becoming a popular destination for students from across the world. In this newsletter, we survey six students from outside South Africa who decided to study Economics at Stellenbosch. We ask them to briefly summarize why they decided to choose Stellenbosch and what their experience have been.

But first, we report on a new initiative in the Department to support and promote African Economic History research. The Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past (LEAP) brings together scholars and students interested in understanding and explaining the long-term economic development of Africa’s diverse societies.

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Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past (LEAP) launched

South African research into economic history has gained momentum with the launch of the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past (LEAP) at Stellenbosch University. LEAP is affiliated to the SU Department of Economics.

"It brings together scholars and students interested in understanding and explaining the long-term economic development of Africa's diverse societies," says Dr Johan Fourie of the Department of Economics. Congratulating the Department, Prof Stan du Plessis, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, said he was delighted that the inaugural event of LEAP coincides with the 90th anniversay of the Faculty.

"Prof Sampie Terreblanche spent years to ensure that students of economics did not forget the past. During the last decade we've seen renewed interest in economic history. The World Economic History Congress, which was held in Stellenbosch in 2012, also provided momentum. Studying the historical development of an economy provides a context for existing challenges and a source of hypotheses to explain the trajectory of its evolution."

Dr Fourie added, "Economic history has become increasingly important as a framework for studying questions not just in economic history, but also in other fields of economics, particularly macroeconomics, microeconomics and development economics."
 
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Chanda Chiseni

I am a Zambian student currently pursuing my Master’s degree. Education in other African countries is not well funded, so when searching for a postgraduate degree, I was looking for a university that would help fund foreign students. Stellenbosch University happened to have this provision, the application was free and the online application process was quick and efficient. I come from a very humble background, part of my life I have lived in a community were poverty was eminent, a community were people did not have access to tap water, there were poor sanitation and a lack of access to good health facilities. I was privileged to move from Zambia to go live in Botswana where the standards of living were much better. The thought of where I had been lingered in my mind for a long time, a memory not to be forgotten. I always wanted to make a difference even in at least one person’s life, and when I found out Economics could offer me the opportunity to make a difference at a national level, I tenaciously pursued it. Being in the Stellenbosch Economics Department has given me a more comprehensive picture of what it means to be an economist. 
 
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Anna Orthofer

“Why Stellenbosch?“ and “Why a PhD?” are questions I hear all too often. When I decided to take a three-year leave of absence from my job at an American consulting company and move over 10,000 kilometres from the capital of Austria to the tip of Africa, most of my friends found that bewildering. Why would I start a PhD at the time that most of my former classmates just graduated from theirs, and why on earth would I go to Africa to do so? My answers are usually vague: Life, it seems, is about learning and making experiences, experiences beyond our high-rise offices and medieval universities. Without venturing out, we might forget that the world doesn’t end at the horizon before us, and our purpose not at getting the next promotion. And since we can’t live everywhere and do everything at once, I happened to choose Stellenbosch – a beautiful and dynamic corner of the world, with an incredibly talented and supportive Economics faculty (and, of course, some of the world’s finest wines). So, in short: Why not?
 
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Franzi Heyerhorst

Being one of the many German students here at SU (why are there so many Germans everywhere?), I am glad to stay for the full year or even more while many others are leaving now after the first semester already. A year ago, I received three offers for my master studies: one from LSE in UK, one of KU Leuven in Belgium, and the third one was a double-degree Masters offered jointly by the Universities of Stellenbosch and Göttingen (GER). I have chosen the double degree because of its focus on Development Economics, because it allows me to live in one place for at least a year, and because this place is in Southern Africa (I enjoyed working in Namibia and Zambia a lot) where I might end up living in the years to come as I would like to work within the field of international development cooperation (either in bilateral or multilateral programmes).
 
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Barbara Tabingwa

I enrolled for Honours in Economics at Stellenbosch University in 2013. Prior to that, I pursued a BSc.Quantitative Economics degree at Makerere University, Uganda. Before choosing a university for my post graduate studies, I browsed the internet for the ranking of universities and did the same for department rankings. I discovered Stellenbosch University was highly ranked in Africa. I then decided to get some more information about the university and due to its good reputation in research, I decided to apply for my post graduate studies at Stellenbosch University. Personally I chose Economics when I was in high school. Apart from mathematics, Economics was the only subject that really interested me. So I believe I had no choice but to further my career in Economics. I enjoy the interconnectedness of economics with many other disciplines (from history to finance to environment to competition policy to law). It offers a wide range of choice. Currently I have no set out plan of what I want to do next, but I am hoping to be back for a PhD one day.
 
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Abel Gwaindepi

I completed my undergraduate studies at Fort Hare University in 2010 after high school in Zimbabwe – my country of origin. I moved to Rhodes University for my honours and masters between 2011 and 2013.  Stellenbosch University became my first choice for PhD precisely because of the unique opportunity of combing my interests in Public Economics and Economic History. Stellenbosch happened to have strong groups of public economics and economic history and with hindsight I can say a made the right move. For me, it is the seamless interdisciplinary research culture between many research units within the Economics Department which has made my PhD journey interesting so far. My PhD is focused on the Public Finances of the British Cape Colony (1810-1910). Upon completion of my PhD studies, I wish to continue as a researcher.
 
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Joel Gondwe

I am from Malawi otherwise known as the warm heart of Africa, possibly because its warmer than I have found Stellenbosch to be. One day last year I sat on my computer having been thinking of advancing my career as an Economist by pursuing a postgraduate degree in Economics. Interestingly, my decision to apply to Stellenbosch University was simply a result of being alive in the 21st century, GOOGLE! My search read something like “best schools in Africa”. A Stellenbosch link came up, UCT, Wits, and a few others, but the name Stellenbosch stood out for me. For a moment the name seemed a bit Dutch or German and I thought it was misplaced among the South African schools I was more acquainted with. Well, the rest is history and now I’m a student here. I love Economics because of some of the practical every-day questions I think it can help an individual/community answer, more so in a Sub-Saharan context ravaged by poverty. As such after my studies I would appreciate an opportunity to use economics to improve the livelihood of those in my immediate sphere of contact.
 
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