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SU awards honorary doctorates to economic experts
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing/Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 27/03/2024

​​Stellenbosch University (SU) awarded honorary doctorates to two economic experts Profs Leonard Wantchekon and James Robinson at its March graduation. They received the degrees Doctor of Commerce (DCom), honoris causa, on Wednesday (27 March 2024) at two separate graduation ceremonies for the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

Wantchekon was honoured for his substantive contributions to the fields of political economy, development economics and economic history, while Robinson received the degree for advancing the field of quantitative economic history in South Africa and for his commitment to working in the global south and actively collaborating with emerging scholars in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

In his acceptance speech, Wantchekon, who hails from Benin, thanked SU for the honorary doctorate and said he felt honoured and proud for having received this incredible recognition.

“I am glad that I have been invited to join the effort to build strong, resilient, and cutting-edge academic instititutions in Africa, particularly South Africa.  

“This is a huge opportunity for me, and I cannot wait to engage personally and institutionally with SU and other elite universities, and the university system in South Africa. I am eager to continue what we have been doing at SU for the past several years."

More about Wantchekon

A professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, Leonard Wantchekon's research centres on Africa, with a focus on democratisation, clientelism and redistributive politics, the resource curse, and the long-term social impact of historical events.

His innovative work includes research on political institutions and governance, for which he did field experiments with politicians competing in real-time elections to investigate the effects of policy and campaign messaging on voters' behaviour. Other ground-breaking studies related to the long-term economic effects of historical events, such as the Atlantic slave trade, on Africa.

In 2014, Wantchekon established the African School of Economics (ASE) in Benin, his native country. The school identifies prospective African economists and policymakers and prepares them for industry or for doctoral studies. Several ASE students have since enrolled in PhD programmes in the United States and elsewhere.

Having previously held positions at Yale and New York universities, Wantchekon is a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Econometric Society, as well as an executive committee member of the International Economic Association.

Prof James Robinson

In his acceptance speech, Robinson said he was very happy with the great honour bestowed on him by SU.

“My collaboration with SU has been important to me personally and intellectually. Now I send my PhD students here as often as I can to work in the institute LEAP (Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past). The research at SU is revolutionizing the study of economic history of Africa and I just hope that I can be a part of that and scale it up to the whole continent."

Robinson encouraged the graduates to carry forward all the intellectual life and research at SU.

More about Robinson

Prof James Robinson is a thought leader on economic development and political institutions. His affiliation with SU dates back several years. He supported the University as it prepared to host the first-ever World Economic History Congress in Africa in 2012. Engagements following this event precipitated the establishment of the Laboratory for the Economics of Africa's Past (LEAP) to elevate African voices in the disciplines of Economic History and Economic Development.

With collaborators from SU, the University of Chicago and Harvard, he also embarked on a project focusing on women's political participation in sub-Saharan Africa in historical and contemporary contexts. The exchange between SU and Chicago remains active.

Robinson currently serves as Reverend Dr Richard L Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies, university professor as well as director of The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts – all at the University of Chicago.

  • Photo: Profs James Robinson and Leonard Wantchekon with their honorary degrees. Photographer: Stefan Els