Tomorrow I deliver my inaugural lecture at Stellenbosch University. I joined the Economics department in 2006, just after completing my Master’s degree there, teaching first years and later second years. I also took over the International Trade graduate course for a few years, before pivoting to economic history after I started my PhD at Utrecht University in 2009. I’ve been teaching an undergraduate economic history course (the basis of Our Long Walk) ever since.

Although most of my friends outside the university think that teaching is an academic’s main duty, it probably occupies less than 20% of my time. The focus is on research and all the admin things associated with it. I’ve been fortunate to find a research niche that I enjoy: writing about South Africa’s economic history, using the economist’s quantitative toolkit and newly transcribed datasets. My inaugural lecture, delayed by two years because of Covid, will report on some of this research over the last decade, but do so with a twist: through the lens of my own family history.

The lecture – South Africa’s Long Walk to Economic Freedom: A Personal Journey – will tell the story of South Africa’s economic development through the history of the Fouries. From the arrival of Huguenot refugee Louis Fourie at the southern tip of Africa 333 years ago to the birth of my son Dawid Fourie in 2021, the Fouries shaped and were shaped by the economic, political and social changes of a country that took many wrong turns but, as I hope to show, also moved forward. Despite the gloomy outlook today, it is worth remembering that we live better lives than our ancestors could ever have imagined. But more work lies ahead to ensure that prosperity is shared by all.

The lecture can be attended in person (subject to capacity constraints) or online. It will begin at 17h:30 South Africa Standard Time in the Van Der Sterr building on Stellenbosch campus. RSVP here.