Change the world


Politicians are not going to fix South Africa’s economy – rather we need to look to entrepreneurs. These were the words of Professor Ronney Ncwadi during his inaugural lecture at Nelson Mandela University, where he received his full professorship on Tuesday.

Ncwadi, who was born in Kwazakhele in Port Elizabeth, dedicated his lecture, titled “The Entrepreneur as a Disequilibrating Factor in Economic Processes”, to his late mother and father.

Captivating the audience, which included academics, his siblings, wife and students, Ncwadi said he learnt to sell goods at a young age as his mother was an informal trader.

“My brothers and sisters and I would spend weekends packing oranges, apples, medicines and all kinds of goods to go and sell.

“I remember how I would partner with my sister to sell the goods, and my brother would go with us and he was very good. He would come home with all the goods sold.

“But my sister and I would come home having stolen some of the goods.

“That’s why I became an academic in this area instead,” Ncwadi said as the audience erupted in laughter.

NMU vice-chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa said Ncwadi’s lecture was timely as SA grapples with a stagnant global economy and the search for economic solutions is more pressing than before.

Outlining what she believed set Ncwadi’s work apart, Muthwa said: “It is bold and fresh and challenges longstanding traditions of economic theory and presents globally based newness of thought.”

Growing up in a home where his mother was an informal trader, Ncwadi, who is economics department head at NMU, developed a passion for the small business sector and this to a large extent influenced his post-graduate research in entrepreneurship.

He serves as a co-chair for the Pan-African entrepreneurship research editorial committee in the United States and is a member of the Brics academic forum as well as the Athens Institute for Education and Research in Greece.

Ncwadi has successfully supervised numerous honours treatises, 54 masters’ qualifications and 11 PhDs.

During his lecture, Ncwadi highlighted frightening realities in SA’s economy, particularly emphasising the growing trend in youth unemployment.

“Poverty and inequality are rising on an annual basis. The gap between the rich and poor is widening – not just in SA but also abroad,” Ncwadi said.

“Every year, we have students who walk the stage to get their degrees and then we ask ourselves, where are these students going to next?

“There is a big cry of unemployed graduates across the world and at the same time, the labour absorption capacity is declining. This means the ability for the formal sector to absorb labour is diminishing.”

But he said through extensive research he had found that many young people would prefer to remain unemployed than start their own businesses.

While studying the township economy, he found that his results were not far from the truth reflected by Stats SA.

“The reality that we see in the township economy is that once big thriving businesses today are lying in ruins. The irony is that these businesses thrived in the time when apartheid was rough and hard.

“Since 1994, we saw a decline of black-owned township businesses. So we ask the question, what happened?”

Ncwadi said the key to unlocking true entrepreneurial potential was through crushing demand and supply equilibrium through innovation.

The global economy required entrepreneurs who dared to be different, he said.

“Find that one thing that makes you different from your next-door neighbour,” he said.

Picture: NMU TIMELY MESSAGE: Professor Ronney Ncwadi presents his inaugural lecture at NMU on Tuesday

This article appeared in The Herald of 25 October 2018 written by Deneesha Pillay


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