In recognition of the excellent work done by Prof Wilma Viviers in the North-West University’s (NWU’s) TRADE research entity under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Chairs Programme over the past few years, the WTO has agreed that the Chair will continue to be hosted by the NWU after its initial four-year run, with Prof Viviers remaining the Chair holder.
The work of the WTO Chair is carried out in the TRADE research focus area, which forms part of the NWU’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.
“We have had excellent engagement with the WTO in recent years,” said Prof Sonia Swanepoel, executive dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. “Our continued association will keep us at the cutting edge of global developments in the economic development and trade spheres and will help us to secure our position as one of South Africa’s premier universities for international trade teaching and research.”
Prof Viviers first took up the Chair in 2014. She joined an elite group of 19 chairs from around the world who have worked with the WTO in building and disseminating knowledge on international trade developments and demonstrating how this knowledge can be leveraged to positively impact (particularly developing) countries’ economic well-being and sustainability.
“We are delighted that the Chair at the NWU will remain a resource to the WTO on trade developments and the policy environment in South Africa,” said Prof Viviers, “and we in turn will continue to draw on the WTO’s technical insights and expertise when considering appropriate responses to the opportunities and challenges facing South Africa and other African countries.”
She continued: “As academics and researchers, we are able to apply a level of analytical rigour that is not possible for many others, including those in government. This is because research teams at universities have the ‘space’ to study economic, political and social issues affecting whole countries or regions, including how these issues can or should mould trade policies and strategies.”
The digital economy and its effects on countries’ economic growth prospects and export efforts are currently receiving much attention from Prof Viviers and her team. A new project that has been launched under the auspices of the WTO Chair, and in which selected researchers from the TRADE research focus area are collaborating, is the writing of a book titled Africa’s digital future: From theory to action. The book is due to be published in open-access format in 2021. Another book, titled The role of big data analytics in export decision-making, is in the planning stages.
“The WTO Chair affords me and the TRADE team an opportunity to contribute to important policy debates through scholarly and high-level research and engagement,” said Prof Viviers. “We feel we have an important role to play in this regard. It is no secret that South Africa has strained research capacity, but it is essential for trade policy at national and provincial level to be well informed so that it mirrors the aspirations and capabilities of a broad cross-section of stakeholders in the country.
“We look forward to continued, fruitful engagements with our research partners and associates in business and government so that we can all make a difference to South Africa’s – and Africa’s – trade and development efforts.”
Prof Wilma Viviers- WTO Chair holder