Prof Willem Boshoff, Co-Director of the Centre for Competition Law and Economics in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, recently delivered his inaugural lecture titled “Not at the races: Competition and competition policy in South Africa". Boshoff spoke to the Division of Corporate Communication and Marketing about how his research helps to address competition policy problems and anti-competitive matters in South Africa.
Tell us more about your research and why you became interested in this specific field.
My research focuses on the economics of competition and competition policy. I study the nature of competition between firms, including how to measure competition, as well as the impact of an absence or weakening of competition on prices and other market outcomes.
I became involved in the field when, as a young researcher, I was looking for business applications of economics. Prof Nicola Theron, currently an honorary professor in the Department of Economics, involved me in one of her consulting projects and this got me interested in the field.
How would you describe the relevance of your work?
Practically, very relevant. My research draws heavily from my involvement in a range of competition cases and other regulatory issues in South Africa, and the results from my research have implications for the conduct of competition policy.
Can you tell us more about the impact of your research?
I have often relied on my research in my work in the private sector, which often involved litigation. Many of my research students, including several PhD graduates, have also entered careers as competition economists in South Africa. My work has also been cited in court cases.
Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?
I very much enjoy the interaction between academia and the private sector. The cross-fertilisation is significant in my case. I also very much enjoy being able to make economics “come alive", helping people think through difficult problems.
The pandemic has changed the way we work and live. What has kept you motivated during these times?
I have a wonderful wife (and now two beautiful daughters) who has been my rock. The hard lockdowns at the start of the pandemic came before we had our children and I suspect we had it quite “easy". Even so, I maintained my exercise regimen, but also spent time doing more reading, which kept our spirits up. It also helps to live in Stellenbosch, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Tell us something exciting about yourself that people would not expect.
I am an absolute Hellenophile (a lover of Greece and/or Greek culture) and have visited Greece 10 times in the past 15 years.
How do you spend your free time away from lectures and research?
Nowadays, predominantly with my family (we have very young children and a bull mastiff!) and with both sets of parents. But we also like to travel and try to take weekend breaks every so often.