Change the world


Nelson Mandela University Post Doctorate Research Fellow Dr Godfred Anakpo is under no illusions about the economic challenges facing South Africa, but believes that through the development of evidence-based frameworks, plans can be formulated to address them effectively.

The 35-year-old economist, whose expertise is often sought by the country’s Department of Employment and Labour and more recently has contributed to a series of post-Covid-19 recovery programmes for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, has in the past two years devoted his research to finding ways to uplift Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and the informal economy, as well as analysing the effects of the conflict in Ukraine on the South African economy.

The setbacks suffered by SMMEs and the informal sector have been significant, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the trading environment.  More than half these businesses were forced to close as the virus spread.

According to Dr Anakpo, a specialist in the fields of applied microeconomics, development, poverty, inequality, health and agricultural economics, and applied econometrics, their plight simply cannot be ignored as they constitute more than 50% of employment in South Africa.

He says it has become crucial for SMMES and the informal sector to be equipped to meet the modern technological requirements of doing business.

“To date, there has been no evidence-based framework to facilitate and speed up the participation of SMMEs and informal sector in the digital economy. One of my current projects is to develop such a framework,” Dr Anakpo says.

“I am looking at both the emerging trends for SMMEs and the informal sector and the digital challenges they have, in addition to evaluating the existing institutional policies and support for digital inclusion.”

He is also determining the approach to address the intention-action gap for digitisation of these sectors, recognising that if immediate attention is not taken, there will be an adverse impact on the economy as a whole.

Dr Anakpo and his team already have identified inadequate digital infrastructure and a lack of funding and digital literacy as the biggest challenges to these sectors.

Most also do not have access to government relief packages. 

To move from a situation of basic survival to commercial sustainability, Dr Anakpo says, there needs to be greater involvement of all stakeholders.

“Business owners need to plan to build resilience over time, while government needs to provide business recovery funds at an affordable cost. Long-term investment in digital infrastructure is very important. We also emphasise the importance of the telecommunications industry in collaborating with government to improve access to the internet and other ITC technologies. This should include digital literacy programmes.”

By the end of the year, Dr Anakpo hopes to have compiled a complete book that provides details of a framework for digital inclusion of SMMEs and the informal sector “that we hope the government can use”. 

Finding swift solutions for South Africa is especially pertinent given the economic instability that has arisen from the war in Ukraine, a research topic in which he is highly invested.

“South Africa is heavily dependent on sunflower oil and wheat from Russia and Ukraine to meet its domestic needs. The conflict is leading to an energy supply shortage as well as a shortage of commodities and trade supply stocks. This leads to rising energy, commodity and food prices,” he says. 

The fallout is felt on two levels.

The first is that the resultant inflation will tighten monetary policy and cause additional fiscal pressure, hurting discretionary income, consumers and economic growth prospects.

The second is that the energy supply dearth threatens sustainable development goals for accessing affordable and clean energy.

Dr Anakpo’s research shows to minimise the impact of the war, openness of trade is essential. Furthermore, global supply chain structures need to be firmly in place.

“There also needs to be well-planned financial assistance available to households. In the US, for example, they have passed a law for a price ceiling to prevent selling beyond a limit. They also introduced a fuel subsidy.”

Dr Anakpo has gained a reputation for being prolific, having produced some 16 research papers, most of which are published and peer reviewed.

Importantly, his work is applied to real-world scenarios, helping the different spheres of government draw up meaningful policies and programmes.


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