Economic Research Advisory Network(ERAN)

3rd Annual Economic Research Advisory Network (ERAN) Conference

Unlocking Inclusivity in Growth for Radical Socio-Economic Change in South Africa

Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

14 to 16 March 2018

Concept note


1.     Introduction

Inclusivity in economic growth has remained a primary challenge in many societies across the world. Many developing countries contend that the route to inclusive growth lies in shifting to more productive activities, implying that structural change is needed. Structural transformation goes a long way in reducing dependence on the few existing industries, resulting in the creation of decent jobs and the adoption of social inclusion policies that give vulnerable groups an opportunity to participate in and benefit from economic growth. Technological advancements in the post-modern age have compelled nation states to embrace changes in the production paradigm, while also having to contend with structural change. The cardinal question for the industrialising country in the 21st century is: how can societies organise themselves better to respond to the potential employment and other distributional effects?

The 21st century has ushered in a world anchored around information, communication and technological innovations. Post-modern industrialisation should be at the cutting edge of technological innovation benefitting countries such as South Africa. In line with the 2030 National Development Plan (NDP), a highly competent human capital needs to be developed over time. In this context, inclusive growth implies participation and benefit-sharing. Participation without benefit-sharing will make growth unjust, and sharing benefits without participation will make it a welfare outcome. Hence an outcome of a social compact among a diversity of social actors will sustain the country’s development plans in the long run. The theme of the third ERAN annual conference is Unlocking Inclusivity in Growth for Radical Socio-Economic Change in South Africa and seeks to solicit ideas from researchers, academia and government officials.


South Africa has made significant progress in improving the welfare of its citizens since its transition to democracy in the mid-1990s, but the pace of economic growth and job creation has not been at the level envisioned by the National Development Plan (NDP). The reality is that economic growth has not been thoroughly inclusive because of insufficient employment growth, under-investment in townships, capital leakages by corporates listings overseas, and limited sustainable Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE). The Gini coefficient measuring relative wealth reached 0,65 in 2014 based on expenditure data (excluding taxes), and 0,69 based on income data (including salaries, wages and social grants). The poorest 20% of the South African population consumes less than 3% of total expenditure, while the wealthiest 20% consumes 65%, as indicated by Statistics South Africa. The country’s unemployment rate increased from 26,5% in quarter four of 2016 to 27,7% in quarter one of 2017, its highest since the first quarter of 2004. Unemployment averaged 25,41% from 2000 to 2017.


South Africa’s triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty need to be addressed to build an inclusive society that will unlock the virtuous cycle of growth and development. The vision and priorities to address these are clearly outlined in the 2030 NDP, which comprises the two main strategic goals of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality from 0,70 to 0,60 by 2030 through more than 5% real GDP growth on average annually and the addition of 11 million new jobs. Achieving these ambitious objectives will require deep economic transformations.


The Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) advocates for a concerted, integrated government approach to address a clear and present threat to the competitiveness of South African industry and employment that emanates from the fourth Industrial Revolution and disruptive technologies.


The  fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by a combination of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Various technological changes experienced in the spheres of digital, connectivity, robotics and big data will have a broad impact on the labour market. The technological revolution will eventually change the living pattern of every individual and also affect the labour market, which will undergo dramatic change. This implies that skills development becomes imperative to ensure that all citizens are exposed to equal opportunities and participation. The degree of the marginalisation of poor people from the formal mainstream economy and prospects for income generation demands that effective interventions must deal with issues of distribution of resources in this country.


As indicated in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014-2019), Government’s programme of radical economic transformation is about placing the economy on a qualitatively different path that ensures more rapid, sustainable growth, higher investment, increased employment, reduced inequality and deracialisation of the economy. The NDP sets a growth target of at least 5% a year, and emphasises measures to ensure that the benefits of growth are more equitably shared than what was experienced during South Africa’s last high growth period from 2004 to 2008 during the commodity super-cycle.

The South African economy shows that its structure in terms of ownership, management, control and active participation remains unfairly skewed. The economic output does not emerge from an inclusive economic growth that benefits all South Africans. The economic benefits that accrue from this exclusive structure of the economy widen the gap between the rich and the poor and further push the poor citizens to the deep end of poverty. The goal should be to focus on restructuring the underlying fundamental structure of the economy to become inclusive, participatory and representative.

The focus is to make the economy equitable in terms of ownership, management and control so that it can yield shared economic growth among all South Africans. Growth and transformation of the economy is the only vehicle to improve the quality life for all.



ERAN conference objectives

·         Gather a diverse community of researchers for the purpose of bringing existing and new knowledge to the foreground of economic development and competitiveness debates and initiatives in the South African economy.

·         Provide a new space for collaborative thinking and leadership among diverse development practitioners and to forge national and international links with academic and industry peer-research actors.

·         Provide an environment to foster dialogue and the free exchange of ideas and innovative thinking among local researchers, policymakers, captains of industry, development partners and the South African community.


To be able to unlock inclusive, economic growth requires structural change. The key discussion topics suggested below will allow for a broad range of discussions, provide direction for the country’s transformation and inclusive growth, and generate valuable insights for improved policymaking.


2.     ERAN Conference 2017/18


The third annual ERAN conference will take place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, from 13 to 15 March 2018 with the theme Unlocking Inclusivity in Growth for Radical Socio-Economic Change in South Africa.

the dti, in collaboration with KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (KZN EDTEA), brings together academics and professionals from all business and economics disciplines to share their latest research findings and brainstorm new ideas. Only final and completed papers will be presented at the conference. Sub-themes that will be addressed by authors and in panel discussion include:

Pro-growth policies to foster inclusiveness

·         Political economy of growth (Institutional transformation and adaptability to evolving economic condition).

·         Scope for creating support for innovation and entrepreneurship.

·         Pro-competition regulatory reform

·         The structure of the economy: its impacts on unemployment and local economic development, including competition issues, small enterprise, the informal sector, value chains and labour markets.

Growth and expansion of economic opportunity

·         Economic growth and productive employment

·         Access to economic infrastructure

·         Investment in value-adding manufacture

·         Export and labour-intensive economic sectors

·         The creation of opportunities for new and emerging black industrialists and entrepreneurs

Social inclusion to ensure equal access to economic opportunity

·         Access and inputs to education and training

·         Greater customisation of social services



Good governance and institutions

·         Market institution and inclusive growth

·         Inclusive export-led growth


·         Financial services provided to non-financial sectors

·         Entry barriers facing non-financial firms


4.     Expected outputs

·         Report on summary of key findings and messages from conference

·         Publication of papers on conference proceedings


5.     Important dates

·         Abstract submission: 1 December 2017

·         Abstract selection: 14 December 2017

·         Draft paper submission: 19 January 2018

·         Final paper submission: 16 February 2018

·         Conference date: 14 to 16 March 2018


6.     Registration

No registration fee is required. All attendees and presenters are required to arrange their own travel and accommodation logistics.