PhD graduates, Dr Edson Vengesai, Dr Wilfred Akinola and Dr Magret Olarewaju, are indebted to the Macroeconomics Working Group (MWG), a body of economists comprising academic staff and post-graduate students from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, for enhancing their doctoral journey. MWG aims to advance and develop research in the field of economists.

Vengesai, who is from Zimbabwe, said while studying towards a PhD path can be daunting and draining, a support system makes enabled one to cope with challenges associated with attaining the qualification. ‘The first time I attended an MWG meeting, I was so inspired to see some students like me doing this exploit. From there, being part of the group made my research life easy. Getting input, advice and guidance from a supportive supervisor, fellow students and academics who are part of the MWG network lessens the burden and closes the research gap. Learning from the presentations of other researchers in MWG and senior academics in the school helped in developing my own work,’ said Vengesai.

Through his thesis titled: Firm Investment Behaviour: The Role of Leverage, Liquidity and Cash Flow Volatility: African Evidence, Vengesai examines the impact of leverage on investment behaviour of African firms to ascertain if the increase in leverage is a good strategy for developing economies. The study was supervised by Dr Farai Kwenda.

‘Financial practitioners in developing economies adopt finance and investment theories founded based on developed economies fundamentals and yet there is no turn around or growth in the developing economies. In reality, there is persistent structural and behavioural heterogeneity between firms from developed and developing economies due to different economic structures which results in different economic implications. The study found evidence that leverage actually constrains investment and the impact is stronger for firms with low growth opportunities. Hence, it is not a good idea for African firms to match developed economies leverage levels. The effect of liquidity was found to be heterogeneous with financial constraints and growth opportunities,’ explained Vengesai.

Higher Education Enrolment, Human Capital and Economic Growth in the Sub-Saharan African Countries was the title of Akinola’s thesis. The study was supervised by Dr Gerry Bokana. ‘The research looked at 30 Sub-Saharan African countries. Through it, I was able to discover which factors determine higher enrolment among these countries; the productivity effects of human capital among these countries and that the Sub-Saharan African region has the lowest enrolment rates among the regions of the world, what causes the high dropout rates and offer solution to this problem,’ said Akinola.

When Akinola, who is an economics lecturer at Nigeria’s Federal University Oye decided to embark on his PhD studies, he knew it would be challenging. Those challenges however ended up bringing his wife and three children to South Africa and he is thankful that he had a group of people who understood what he was going through. ‘Getting a direction in this research work was the major challenge I had. My first two years in South Africa were really challenging but in January 2017, at a conference organised by the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, solutions to my challenges were offered to me through MWG. Thank you to my research colleagues at the Macro-Economic Working Group. When the going got tough, they supported me. I have this qualification today because of their support and that of my family,’ he said.

Finishing her PhD in the record time of one year, 11 months was not the only highlight of Olarewaju’s PhD journey as it has led to the publication of her research.

Dividend Policy, Agency Cost and Bank Performance in Sub-Saharan Africa was the title of Olarewaju’s thesis. The study was supervised by Professor Mabutho Sibanda and Professor Stephen Migiro.

‘During my PhD, I published five journals articles in Department of Higher Education and Training accredited journals. I attended and presented three papers at different international conferences across the United States of America, Dubai and South Africa. My greatest challenge during this programme was insufficient finance, but I survived through determination, hard work, persistence and I also appreciate MWG for their immense contribution to the successful completion of this degree and my family for their support,’ said Olarewaju .

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photographs: Rogan Ward