Michelle, a lecturer and researcher in development economics on the campus in Vanderbijlpark, has at times been called “unnecessarily passionate” about her chosen field of research, but has decided to actively take on that title and wear it with pride.


She recently discussed the concept of “econocracy” with delegates at the NWU Alumni Business Breakfast in Vanderbijlpark. eish! asked her what this concept means.


How econocracy excludes the person in the street


Michelle says econocracy defines a society in which economic growth and advancement are mainly driven by politics and economic policy making.


In short: it is a technocratic process that excludes the person in the street from engaging with issues around the economy.


What we can do about it


Michelle says we, as members of the public, should be less apprehensive about economic matters and make a concerted effort to learn more about the economy by consulting credible news sources.


She says it is a misconception that economic matters – as they pertain to the economic wellbeing of the country – are reserved for economists and experts only.


We must also be more socially responsible when it comes to the economy, for instance by voting, supporting entrepreneurs and buying locally produced or manufactured goods. We could also become more involved in local business chambers or similar bodies.


Michelle says our hard-earned money should be working for us and we should not put the value and worth of this money solely in the hands of politicians, policy makers and economists.


The national budget tells many stories


Michelle explains that if citizens tolerate the notion of econocracy, something like the national budget becomes a one-dimensional tool without any impact.


She believes that the budget has many stories to tell – as does South Africa – and that all citizens should engage with economics and be rigorous when assessing the quality and content of the information that is available about the economy.


Understand the world a little better


Michelle says her philosophy towards research is driven by a determination to understand the world around her a little better.


“Although I am still a young researcher, I try to approach economic inquiry with a humility that I think is lacking in our profession. I think we need to read more and delve deeper into the assumptions we make and be willing to risk more by asking questions that really matter,” she says.



Kicking off her career


Michelle started her academic career studying actuarial sciences, but soon found a love for development economics.


She acknowledges that her field of interest is not without challenges, but feels that this, together with her deep desire to know more, keeps her pushing herself to find new and better ways of doing her job.


Michelle has an MCom in economics from the NWU and an MSc in political economy of development from the University of London.


She completed the master's degree after being awarded the Chevening Scholarship by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office.


Take a page from this economist’s book





Michelle Groenewald’s

research interests include

the political economy of development, the critique of economic methodology and

the decolonisation of the curriculum.

We should take a page from Michelle Groenewald’s book and start getting passionate about the economy.