Dedicated Economist Awarded PhD

Dr Sakhile Mpungose
Economics lecturer, Dr Sakhile Mpungose graduates with a PhD.

Growing up in KwaMashu, north of Durban, a quest for success and the need to drive social change are reasons why Dr Sakhile Mpungose (32) fell in love with the study of Economics at an early age.

His passion for the discipline was rewarded with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Economics.

An Economics lecturer at the UKZN School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Mpungose beams when he describes his passion for the subject. ‘I find economics to be an interesting area of study because it applies to daily life and living conditions. The study of economics has enabled me to understand the world, people, businesses, markets, and governments,’ he said, adding it had also armed him with the knowledge to respond to threats and opportunities that emerge when the status quo changes.

His doctoral study – under the supervision of UKZN economists Professor Colette Muller and Dr Ralitza Dobreva – was titled: Wellbeing in South Africa: Regional Economic Disparities, Conspicuous Consumption, and the Provision of Infrastructure.

His thesis used econometric methods to investigate how location influences the subjective well-being of South Africans, specifically examining regional differences, conspicuous consumption, and access to public infrastructure. The study revealed the connections between persistent spatial divisions and the significance of context and positional concerns in impacting welfare. The findings also underscored the government’s role in shaping economic geography to enhance life satisfaction for the entire population. 

The research falls within the realm of microeconomics and is relevant in shaping public policy. As such, the Presidency – in particular, the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation – will benefit from the knowledge contained in Mpungose’s research.

‘I’m proud to have achieved this milestone at my age, given the current social conditions facing the youth of South Africa,’ he said. ‘This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without interventions by the government to ensure equal access to quality education for the previously marginalised. I’m grateful the University of KwaZulu-Natal heeded the call by providing a platform for me to thrive.’ He praised UKZN for providing a conducive structure of teaching and learning for an individual’s development. ‘I will forever be grateful for the opportunity the University provided me,’ he added.

Dobreva said: ‘We join in the celebration, recognising that Sakhile’s thesis is a fascinating and valuable addition to existing knowledge on the factors related to location that have a bearing on subjective well-being in South Africa. The thesis sheds light on how one’s immediate and broader environment, infrastructure, and conspicuous (ostentatious) consumption by others influence satisfaction with life.’

Muller congratulated Mpungose: ‘As supervisors and colleagues, we applaud Sakhile for his remarkable efforts, unwavering perseverance, and resolute dedication. He faced numerous challenges, from learning innovative methodologies to data access limitations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, all the while managing the pressures of juggling the demands of his different professional roles. Congratulations on this well-deserved achievement, Sakhile!’

Mpungose is currently converting his thesis for publication in high-impact journals and plans to share the findings of his research at various public policy platforms.

Mpungose contributes to growing the South African economy through participating in provincial and national bodies such as being a member of the board at Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal where he serves on the Trade and Investment Committee and the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee.

He has been certified as a director by the Institute of Board of Directors; served as a part-time economist at the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and contributed to the Presidential Jobs Summit that was aimed at addressing the country’s jobs bloodbath, serving as the co-ordinator for Small, Medium and Micro enterprises.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Sethu Dlamini

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