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  • pg 1
                        24 JUNE 2006

                            ECONOMIC EDUCATION

It has become quite apparent that there is a gap between what young people
need to know about economics and what they are taught in South Africa. So it
has become time to take action, establishing comprehensive programs that
equip teachers with tools to get economics and personal finance into the
classroom, and to help students apply in their lives what they learn in school.

According to NCEE surveys nearly half of young people in the US don't
understand how to save and invest for retirement, nor how to handle credit
cards, don't know the difference between inflation and recession, nor how
government spending affects them. I am sure you will agree with me that in
South Africa the situation will be far more serious. The point is that if we fail to
act now to improve economic literacy in this country, our children will be at
risk for crippling personal debt, costly decisions at work and at home, and lack
competitive skills in a fast-paced global economy. I can also not see how
freedom can be claimed without having economic freedom. The rationale for
pre-university economic education should therefore be clear. The role and
value of university involvement in all of this might not be so clear and this is
what I want to attend to in my talk.

As Universities we often make the statement that we are there to serve
society but what does this mean? How should this commitment be
manifested? What is our responsibility to society? In this country?

The intrinsic nature of a university must be manifested within the context of a
particular society in a particular phase of its history.

So the question is: “What is the role of universities in Africa, Southern Africa
and the developing world, and particularly in South Africa with its sad political
legacies,     its poverty and   inequalities, huge    community needs and
development backlogs?

My view is that, for a long time to come, universities in South and Southern
Africa, and elsewhere in Africa and the developing world, will have to take on
several additional, a-typical and even unconventional tasks – and that they
must and can do so with enthusiasm and distinction, and thereby make a real

So, whilst we cherish and foster the continuity of the university as part of the
age-old international tradition of universities, universities must embrace its
particular role in this country now, embrace the changes in the form and
scope of its role in this crucial period of our history. We are committed to
making a real difference to the new nation.

Of the requisites for economic development, those which African countries
require most urgently fall into three broad categories: Capital, including
physical and human capital; technology; and institutions. Of these, the
development of human capital and the generation of knowledge are the surest
contributions that Universities can make to economic development in South
Africa and Africa.

Human capital is essential to attain either the other requisites or to make them
effective. Institutions, including representative governments and systems of
markets, and related monetary and financial institutions, are fundamental for
economic development and, by their very nature, involve significant
components of human capital.

In absence of the requisite human capital in institutions, investment in pure
physical capital is likely to be wasteful, and may even be counterproductive.
Building dams where there are no institutions for water management, or use

of labour saving equipment in a labour-abundant society, contribute nothing to
economic development.

The inevitable conclusion is that, without the development of human talent,
there can be no significant and lasting economic development. With human
resources, however, there exists a reservoir of human talent in Africa with
which to provide a stabilising and guiding force for economic development.

To increase their contribution to development through the production and
distribution of knowledge, universities in developing countries need to
transform themselves into 'developmental universities'. But to achieve this,
other participants, such as industry and government, must be also be
prepared to take on new responsibilities. No ready-made model exists to
guide these changes; they will require both creativity and the willingness to
engage in thoughtful dialogue, both within and outside universities

This leads me to the final point I want to make today. And that is the Power of
We. The value and high pay off of creative partnerships have long been
recognized by organizations and high impact individuals around the world. But
as academics and non-academics we came from different orientations,
including the “everyone to himself” approach, since we sometimes find that
we are actually in competition with the people who should be our collaborators.
But we don’t have that luxury any longer because the go-it-alone mentality
does not fit today’s multi-disciplinary and economically globalised contexts. All
the problems that we are called to address require knowledge of the type that
we cannot generate from one single discipline, academic department,
academic faculty or even institution. We need to work with others to reach one
goal, without compromising our own distinctness. As Henry Ford famously put
it: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working
together is success.



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