February 2017

Dear Reader, 
This edition of the newsletter of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit has a special focus on the Economics of Tobacco Control Project, housed in SALDRU. You will also find an update on current working papers and journal articles, recent seminars, and new policy briefs. If you would prefer not to receive these newsletters in the future, you can unsubscribe here.
Higher Education debate
In October 2016, students’ request for free higher education again dominated South Africa’s political and public agenda. In an attempt to facilitate and contribute to much needed conversations on this topic, students of UCT’s School of Economics initiated a series of seminars on F(r)ee Reform and the accessibility of higher education. SALDRU participated fully in these engagements and has produced two information sheets on the higher education debate and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
F(r)ee Higher Education: A School of Economics engagement
Understanding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme
The Economics of Tobacco Control Project: An overview
Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of premature mortality around the world. The World Health Organisation estimates that about 6 million people die prematurely from tobacco diseases each year. A growing proportion of these unnecessary deaths are happening in low- and middle-income countries. The Economics of Tobacco Control Project (ETCP) aims to help reduce this burden of disease by conducting policy-related research, developing research capacity, and providing input that guides policy decisions.The ETCP is led by Corne van Walbeek, Principal Investigator, and Hana Ross, Principal Research Officer. Nicole Vellios, Alfred Mukong, Zunda Chisha, Tom Harris, and Vanessa Darsamo comprise the current research team. Sharon de Bruyns is the full-time administrator.

Below are snapshots of several of the current initiatives being run through the ETCP. For further information about the Project, please visit the website at
The Data on Alcohol and Tobacco in Africa (DATA) project
The DATA project is a 2-year project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that seeks to collect, archive and disseminate tobacco- and alcohol-related time series and cross-sectional economic data using the DataFirst data dissemination platform. The aim is to provide a single point of access for researchers interested in tobacco and alcohol policies in Africa. In collaboration with DataFirst, the DATA project works to establish relationships with statistical authorities in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Senegal, and South Africa in order to promote open access to their data and to increase the utilization of the existing data for research and policy making.

While there is a general perception that there is little or no data for tobacco control and alcohol policy research in sub-Saharan Africa, there is an abundance of underutilized data. The role of the DATA project is to describe and assemble as much data on tobacco and alcohol markets as possible and share these data online.

To view the portal, visit: or contact Vanessa at
Cigarette price crowdsourcing project
Data on cigarette prices within Africa are useful for making estimations such as the differences in prices between various brands, urban/rural divides, and type of packaging, as well as looking at price trends over time. ETCP is collecting this information in an innovative manner: by crowdsourcing UCT students to serve as fieldworkers. Fieldworkers visit retail outlets and street vendors where cigarettes are sold and request permission to record and take photographs of cigarette prices.

To date, two rounds of this data collection exercise have taken place. The six fieldworkers and 1025 data points collected in the first round grew to 24 fieldworkers, reaching 9 different African countries, and 8211 data points in the second round. The third round of data collection is scheduled for the December/January vacation of 2016/2017.

To learn more about this project or if you are interested in serving as a fieldworker contact Phenyo Kgongwana at
The data is available at
Study of illicit cigarette trade
The tobacco industry lobbies extensively against tax increases, arguing that these drive up the illicit trade in tobacco. This makes providing empirical evidence on actual market responses to higher taxes imperative. If tax increases do not substantially change the magnitude and the nature of illicit tobacco trade, such taxes are an effective tool to lower smoking prevalence, by lowering demand through higher prices.

The ETCP has been chosen by the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to lead a 30 month project that started in November 2016, to investigate the relationship between tobacco tax increases and the illicit trade in cigarettes in four low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The aim of this study is two-fold. The first is to contribute to existing knowledge regarding excise tobacco taxes and illicit tobacco trade in LMICs, and the second is to develop in-country capacity in LMICs around tobacco control by establishing a close working relationship between the ETCP and the in-country teams.

Evidence from this project will be important for guiding the tax decisions of government in LMICs and the results will be disseminated through media briefings, workshops, policy briefs and conferences presentations. In addition, we will leverage our FCTC Secretariat Knowledge Hub (more on this below) for further dissemination.

Contact Zunda Chisha at for more information.
Tobacco pricing and packaging strategies in middle-income countries
There is overwhelming evidence that higher cigarette prices reduce tobacco use, with greater reductions among young people and those in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. And yet, the tobacco industry asserts that higher tobacco taxes harm vulnerable populations, lead to increased consumption of illicit cigarettes, and that packaging policies are ineffective. This ETCP project will study the impact of tobacco prices on smoking onset, smoking cessation, and tobacco consumption in South Africa, focusing on vulnerable communities. To supplement the existing data, the ETCP will conduct two waves of a targeted survey in five townships across South Africa. These surveys will allow us to investigate tax avoidance behaviour, the importance of illicit cigarette trade, and any changes in these factors across time.
Evidence generated by this research will be used to address the industry's claims about the regressivity of tobacco taxes with the aim of influencing tax policy and tobacco product labelling practices in South Africa specifically, and in low- and middle-income countries more generally, with the goal of ultimately preventing ill health and deaths caused by tobacco consumption.

To learn more about this project you can email Nicole Vellios at
The WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub on Tobacco Taxation
The ETCP was nominated by the South Africa National Department of Health to establish a Knowledge Hub on tobacco taxation and illicit trade on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Secretariat. Establishing this Knowledge Hub illustrates South Africa’s support of the WHO’s FCTC, and its leadership within the realm of tobacco taxation. The aim of the knowledge hub is to support parties from around the globe, especially those in low- and middle-income countries, to implement better tobacco excise tax structures, to raise the excise tax, and/or to curb and measure illicit trade.

The Knowledge Hub envisages providing support in two ways: 1) knowledge dissemination and training, and 2) technical support. The Knowledge Hub will provide workshops and training to government officials from a variety of countries. Additionally, rather than simply offering parties a means to outsource technical expertise, the Knowledge Hub will focus on building capacity and helping governments develop the internal capabilities in the areas of taxation and illicit trade.

The Knowledge Hub in Cape Town forms part of a global network of six WHO FCTC Knowledge Hubs, each of which has a different area of expertise.
Highlighted publications

Wages and Wage Inequality in South Africa 1994–2011: Part 1 – Wage Measurement and Trends
Martin Wittenberg
Meredith Evans, Kathryn Risher, Nompumelelo Zungu, Olive Shisana, Sizulu Moyo, David D Celentano, Brendan Maughan-Brown, Thomas M Rehle
Working papers

Dictators Walking the Mogadishu Line: How Men Become Monsters and Monsters Become Men
Mare Sarr

Start up Capital and Women's Entrepreneurship: Evidence from Swaziland
Zuzana Bixiova and Thierry Kangoye

In-Work Poverty in SA: The Impact of Income Sharing in the Presence of High Unemployment
Kezia Lilenstein, Ingrid Woolard and Murray Leibbrandt

Drivers of Inequality in South Africa
Janina Hudenborn, Murray Leibbrandt and Ingrid Woolard

Aiming for a moving target: The dynamics of household electricity access in a developing context
Tom Harris, Mark Collinson and Martin Wittenberg

How much does military spending affect growth? Causal estimates from the World's non-rich countries
Giorgio d'Agostino, John Paul Dunne and Luca Pieroni

The effects of the Employment Tax Incentive on South African employment
Amina Ebrahim, Murray Leibbrandt, and Vimal Ranchhod

Washing with hope: Evidence from a hand-washing pilot study among children in South Africa
Justine Burns, Brendan Maughan-Brown and Aurea Mouzinhoc

Assessing the usability of the Western Cape Graduate Destination Survey for the analysis of labour market outcomes
Nicola Branson and Murray Leibbrandt
In the media

Tough school for jobless
13 February 2017 | Dispatch Live

Populism will not fix problems of economy
9 February 2017 | Business Day
Recent Seminars

SALDRU seminars take place on Wednesdays at 13.00 in the 4th floor SAB Seminar Room in the Economics Building, UCT. Lunch is served at 12.30 in the Staff Lounge. Please contact Cally Ardington with queries or to be added to the mailing list.

Switching to prepaid electricity, Signaling work-seekers' skills, Encouraging political participation: A snapshot of on-going randomised evaluations at J-Pal Africa
Laura Poswell

What's wrong with macro: Why central bank models failed and how to repair them
John Muellbauer

Some Alkire-Foster Global Multi-Dimensional Poverty Indexes are flawed-South Africa's are garbage
Charles Meth

The Heterogeneous Impact of a Successful Tobacco Control Campaign: A Case Study of Mauritius
Hana Ross

The last newsletter included an incorrect link to Nicola Branson and Tanya Byker's policy brief Youth friendly clinics make inroads in reducing unintended teen births in South Africa. The correct link can be accessed here.

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SALDRU, UCT · School of Economics Building · Middle Campus, UCT · Cape Town, WC 7700 · South Africa

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