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28 January 2010

Major research initiative on a democratic developmental state

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria – The Kingdom of the Netherlands is making a financial contribution of R13 million to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) for a two-year research and policy initiative that will assist in generating knowledge to support South Africa in its efforts to construct a democratic developmental state. The initiative will be the first of its kind by a South African research institution.

“We are pleased that the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has agreed to fund the HSRC to undertake this research, which aims to further the debate and inform policy through research”, said Dr Olive Shisana, CEO of the HSRC, who co-signed the agreement with Netherlands Ambassador Rob de Vos.

In signing the agreement, Shisana said the initiative aims to contribute to the government’s efforts to construct a developmental state as a necessary condition to address the country’s developmental challenges, including achieving equality, reducing poverty and unemployment, as well as growing the economy and building a knowledge-based economy.

Ambassador de Vos said his government has observed with keen interest the South African government’s growing commitment to establishing a democratic developmental state.

“We believe that the timing of the project could not have been better. The issues that will be placed under the microscope are those that are currently being whispered about in the corridors and shouted about from some rooftops.”

Of special interest is the work around state capacity, the functioning of the labour market, how natural resources can be used in a developmental strategy as well as the function of state owned enterprises, and believes the Netherlands can make a contribution in these areas.

The initiative, which will be implemented under the auspices of the newly established Centre for Africa’s Social Progress (CASP) at the HSRC, consists of two elements, namely a policy component that will include the development of a model of a developmental state for South Africa.

“We hope that the model will feed into government agencies and departments. The policy element will also include hosting of policy dialogues on pertinent national issues”, she said.

The second element is a research component, consisting of two main projects: one on the capacity of the state, the other is on state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Shisana said the choice of these two research projects is self-evident: “Our democratic state is facing huge capacity challenges. There is therefore a need to undertake research that would illuminate on the subject matter with a view of contributing to evidence-based public policy.”

SOEs have a central role to play if South Africa is to become a developmental state and therefore the need to carry our research that will draw on experiences of the role of SOEs in other developmental states with a view of drawing the relevant lessons for our country. In particular, SOEs has important role to play in leveraging investment and extending social and physical infrastructure to our people.

“In addition to the above, through this funding, we intend to intensify our public lectures, with a view of contributing and influencing national debates about our country development agenda and future trajectory,” Shisana said.

The HSRC will work closely with policy stakeholders in government, civil society, business, labour, community groups and academics to inform public policy, scholarly discussions and public debates.

Note to Editors:

Dr Omano Edigheji, who coordinates the activities of the Centre for Africa’s Social Progress (CASP), s the principal investigator of the initiative.

Dr Edigheji has extensive experience working on the issues of the developmental state for over an decade and has established collaborative relationships with some of the foremost world academics on the developmental state, and with senior policy makers and activists in civil society organisations in South Africa.

The Centre will serve as a continental centre for excellence which will work on developing an alternative framework for African development, emphasising the fact that economic development and social progress work in synergy and complement each other.

Buy-in to participate in the work of the Centre has been obtained from distinguished African researchers attached to senior positions in academic and development organisations in the North.

The Centre aims to achieve the following

• To enhance social solidarity and promote African unity through rigorous research and dialogue on social progress and to create a better mutual understanding about conditions of African people;

• To create space for African scholars and policy makers to undertake rigorous research, write and engage in policy dialogues on social progress;

• To build a critical mass of established and emerging African scholars, and policy-makers who can contribute to social progress in the continent;

• To contribute to the establishment and consolidation of democratic and developmental states, inclusive societies and functioning markets in Africa that promote human well-being, prosperity, solidarity and social justice.

For further information, please call Dr Omano Edigheji on 082 450 6853