Young, aspiring economists are defining the future of economics in South Africa through the Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition.

The competition invites postgraduate and undergraduate students to summit essays based on innovations that could change the course of the South African economic climate.

Launched in 1972, this year sees the competition celebrate its 44th year. The initial concept of the competition was only open to postgraduate students, but in the early 90’s the undergraduate category was introduced and has been operating for four decades.

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This year entrants stand a chance to win the 1st Prize of R150 000 for postgraduates and 1st Prize of R60 000 for undergraduates.

The undergraduate topic asked entrants to suggest, in a 2 000 word essay, possible reasons for the lingering gap between high national education investment and still low national education standards, and propose ways in which the nation’s education challenges could be addressed.

Postgraduate entrants were also tasked with writing a 3 500 word essay in which they unpack the viability of the proposed National Health Insurance NHI.

Ramilane Mohlakoane a top 20 finalist and a postgraduate from the University of the Witwatersrand, said that he appreciated the opportunity given to him by the competition.

Should he win he would use his prize money towards his PHD.

“I would love to study in the United Kingdom, at the University of Oxford or Harvard University. Expanding my knowledge and studies would be great,” said Mohlakoane.

“This competition is cultivating a culture of interest in the economy of South Africa. The exciting thing is that they are our future finance leaders.”

The top 20 finalists have been engaging with economists ahead of the final winners announcement tonight on the 22nd of February.

In a breakfast meeting with South African leading economists, the finalists had an opportunity to emulate Finance Minister – Pravin Gordhan, by allocating funds to various departments such as Health Care, Education and issues around Unemployment.

Co-Founder of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation Youth Hub and guest speaker of the breakfast, Zamantungwa Khumalo said that it is important to be current with the happenings of the economy.

“We are not living in a vacuum. We all pay tax and VAT in one way or another. It’s important for young people to understand the state of the nation even if it’s not in economical terms because it affects us,” said Khumalo.

She further explained that as South Africans we need to understand that the budget speech is not just about the minister talking about his plans, but more on the effect it has on our money.

“One way or another these issues affect everyone and beyond the budget speech. It’s of great importance that our young people know how to budget and get into financial talks at a young age,” she added.

The final winner will be announced tonight.

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