UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Simon Roberts

Simon Roberts is a Visiting Professor at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP).

Simon Roberts
Simon Roberts is an economist who works across the fields of competition, regulation, political economy, industrial development and trade. He is a visiting professor at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, UCL, and an economics professor at University of Johannesburg. At the University of Johannesburg he founded and led the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED) focused on issues of competition, industrialisation, digitalization and structural transformation in Southern Africa. Initiatives included establishing the Industrial Development Think Tank and the Masters degree in Competition and Economic Regulation both housed in CCRED, and running bespoke capacity building for competition authorities and economic regulators in Africa.

Simon has been an economics director at the UK Competition and Markets Authority and the Chief Economist at the Competition Commission of South Africa. These roles included leading major investigations and strategic initiatives such as establishing the South African Commission’s prioritization framework and approach to screening for cartels. He has advised governments, competition authorities and regulators in East and Southern Africa, as well as international organisations including UNCTAD, UNIDO and the World Bank. Simon was closely involved in the development of competition law in South Africa from the establishment of the authorities, has undertaken a number of reviews of the regime for the South African Presidency, and has testified as an expert witness in a number of major cases.

Simon was an ODI fellow at the Bank of Botswana, has been a visiting scholar at the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Columbia, a member of the Africa Task Force of Joseph Stiglitz's Initiative for Policy Dialogue, and on the economic advisory panels of the Minister of Economic Development and mayor of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Research Summary

Simon is currently focusing on: competition policy and industrial development; and, agriculture and food value chains in the context of the climate emergency. This includes as a principal investigator on the innovation and inclusion in agro-processing research programme (www.iiap.info ), and on issues relating to competition and sustainability in food. With regard to competition and industrial policy I am working on the interface between these policies in the context of structural transformation, and technological change and have papers underway relating to mobile money and digitalisation in developing countries. The studies include a strong emphasis on understanding the relevant political economy context.

Simon has led a number of major research projects including on: competition and regional integration, structural transformation in South Africa; regional value chains; economic regulation in telecommunications, energy and transport; mobile money in East Africa; barriers to entry in South Africa; the role of large and transnational enterprises in South Africa's development; abuse of dominance and cartels in key sectors; political economy of competition policy in South Africa; local economic development and industrialisation in the Ekurhuleni Metro.

Selected publications


Andreoni, A., P. Mondliwa, S. Roberts, F. Tregenna (eds) (2021) Structural transformation in South Africa: the challenges of inclusive industrial development in a middle-income country. Forthcoming August 2021. OUP, Oxford.

Meagher, M. and S. Roberts (2021) ‘The Footprint of Competition: Power, Value Distribution and Exploitation in the Food Supply Chain’, in Holmes, S., D. Middelschulte, M. Snoep (eds) Competition Law, Climate Change & Environmental Sustainability. Concurrences, Paris. forthcoming March 2021.

Mondliwa, P. and S. Roberts (2021) ‘Corporate structure, industrial development and structural change’, in Oqubay, O., F. Tregenna and I. Valodia (eds) Oxford Handbook of the South African economy. OUP, Oxford (forthcoming 2021).

Roberts, S. (2020) 'Cartel enforcement – critical reflections from the South African experience’, in Healey, D., M. Jacobs, R. L. Smith eds. Research Handbook on Methods and Models of Competition Law. Edward Elgar, London. 

Vilakazi, T. S. Goga, S. Roberts (eds) (2020) Opening the South African Economy: Barriers to Entry & Competition, HSRC Press, Cape Town.

Goga, S., P. Mondliwa, S. Roberts (2020) ‘Economic Power and Regulation: The Political Economy of Metals, Machinery and Equipment Industries in South Africa’ in Francis, Valodia, Webster (eds) Inequality Studies from the Global South. Routledge, London.

Roberts, S. (2020) ‘Enterprises and Industrial Policy: Firm-based Perspectives’, in Oqubay, Cramer, Chang, Kozul-Wright (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Industrial Policy. OUP, Oxford.

Nkhonjera, M. and S. Roberts (2020) ‘Regional integration and industrial development in Southern Africa: Where does South Africa stand?’, in Bradlow, D. and E. Sidiropolous (eds)Values, Interests and Power - South African foreign policy in uncertain times, Pretoria University Law Press. http://www.pulp.up.ac.za/component/edocman/values-interests-and-power-so...

Roberts, S. (2019) ‘(Re)shaping Markets for Inclusive Economic Activity: Competition and Industrial Policies Relating to Food Production in Southern Africa’, chapter 10 in R. Kanbur, A. Noman, J.E. Stiglitz (eds) The Quality of Growth in Africa. Columbia University Press, New York

Roberts, S. (2019) ‘Competition law prescriptions and competitive outcomes: insights from Southern and East Africa’, chapter 7 in D. Gerard and I. Lianos (eds), Reconciling Efficiency and Equity: A Global Challenge for Competition Policy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK. (Nominated for Concurrences Antitrust Writing Awards, 2020)

Journal articles

Mondliwa, P., Goga, S. & Roberts, S. 'Competition, Productive Capabilities and Structural Transformation in South Africa'. European Journal of Development Research (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-020-00349-x 

Mondliwa, P., S. Roberts and S. Ponte (2020) 'Competition and power in Global Value Chains'. Competition and Change.   https://doi.org/10.1177/1024529420975154

Vilakazi, T. and S. Roberts (2019) ‘Cartels as fraud? Insights from collusion in southern and East Africa in the fertilizer and cement industries’, Review of African Political Economy, 46 (161), 369-386.
Mondliwa, P. and S. Roberts (2019) ‘From a developmental to a regulatory state? Sasol and the conundrum of continued state support’, International Review of Applied Economics, 33(1), 11-29.

Arndt, C. and S. Roberts (2018) ‘Key issues in regional growth & integration in Southern Africa’, Development Southern Africa, 35(2).

Academic working papers

Fung, S-S., and S. Roberts (2021) ‘The economics of potential price gouging during Covid-19 and the application to complaints received by the CMA’. CCP Working Paper 21-02, Centre for Competition Policy, University of East Anglia.

Andreoni, A. and S. Roberts (2020) Governing data and digital platforms in middle income countries: regulations, competition and industrial policies, with sectoral case studies from South Africa. Digital Pathways at Oxford Paper Series; no. 5. Oxford, United Kingdom  https://pathwayscommission.bsg.ox.ac.uk/Governing-data-and-digital-platf....

Bell, J., J. Fleming, S. Roberts, T. Vilakazi (2020) ‘Maize and Soybeans Markets in the Southern and East African Regions: The Case for a Regional Market Observatory, CCRED Working Paper 2020/2 

Paelo, A., S. Roberts, W. Simanegavi, T. Vilakazi (2020) ‘Understanding the role of competition in rethinking regional integration in Africa for inclusive and sustainable development’, African Economic Research Consortium working paper,

Bell, J., S. Goga, P. Mondliwa, S. Roberts (2018). ‘Structural Transformation in South Africa: Moving towards a smart, open economic for all’ CCRED Working Paper 2018/9