UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


IIPP continues its work in South Africa

29 June 2023

Prof Mazzucato and a team from UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose spent a week engaging with South Africa’s government and academics on the topics of state capacity and a just energy transition in the country.

The IIPP Team at the National School of Government (Pretoria)

The visit, over the week commencing 12 June 2023, involved a suite of engagements at different levels of government, as well as public lectures at the University of Johannesburg and the Wits School of Governance.

As a member of the South African Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), Professor Mazzucato personally met with President Cyril Ramaphosa, and held bilateral talks with Minister Pravin Gordhan (Department of Public Enterprises) and Minister Ebrahim Patel (Department of Trade, Industry and Competition). The discussion focused on issues linked to South Africa’s energy crisis, the role of its public enterprises – including Eskom – and the needed, new social compact, to achieve a just energy transition and a new industrial strategy for the country.

On Monday 12 June, Professor Mazzucato was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Johannesburg with Prof. Mazzucato’s words on the need to rethink public value and the common good echoed by Prof. Letlhokwa Mpedi, UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal; highlighting UJ’s commitment towards the SDGs, to eradicating poverty and achieving social justice.

Photo: Prof Mazzucato and UJ VC, Prof Mpedi

On Tuesday 13, Prof Mzukisi Qobo and his team at the Wits School of Governance (WSG, Johannesburg) hosted a Mission-Oriented Innovation Network (MOIN) South Africa scoping workshop, led by the IIPP team including Prof Mazzucato, Sarah Doyle, Nora Clinton and Dr Lorenza Monaco.

This event marks the conclusion of months of collaboration with WSG aimed to strengthen the discussion on a mission-oriented approach for South Africa’s just energy transition, and to build a new network of SA partners working together in MOIN.

On Wednesday 14 June, Professor Mazzucato gave a masterclass at the National School of Government (Pretoria), launching the fourth IIPP Executive Education Programme. Prof. Mazzucato’s lecture on ‘Entrepreneurial and mission-oriented capable states: global lessons’ was attended by 90 participants in-person (alongside an online audience) and triggered an intense discussion on South Africa’s state capacity, on the challenges faced by government departments and local institutions, and on how to build a new transformational attitude among South Africa’s public servants.

Responding to how South African challenges are different, Prof. Mazzucato replied:

 “It’s not about glorifying the state, it’s about how to hold the state accountable, how to build strong dynamic capabilities that also protect the state from capture.”

Finally, the SA trip was also an opportunity for the South African launch of the Big Con, at the Wits School of Governance, with a lively discussion about trust towards the public sector, about possible public-private partnerships, about public procurement and conditionalities, and last but not least, about pressing challenges South Africa faces – the energy crisis, unemployment, corruption and poor infrastructure.

Overall, the week proved an excellent opportunity to exchange perspectives, build collaborations, set priorities and future objectives.