Dr Michelle R. Maziwisa, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape, under the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) in Multilevel Government, Law and Development, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Ronald Watts Young Researcher Award.

‘In 2014, the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies (IACFS) inaugurated the Young Scholar Award, an annual award for the best unpublished article or paper on an aspect of federalism. In 2015, this award was renamed in honour of Ronald L. Watts.’

The purpose of the award is to encourage young scholars to conduct research on federalism and multilevel government.

Dr. Maziwisa will be giving an oral presentation of her paper titled ‘The Role of South African Cities in External Economic Engagements’ online at the virtual Board Meeting of the IACFS Conference on 14 October 2020.

Her paper focuses on the external engagements of cities in two areas: international relations (paradiplomacy) and international trade and investment. These two areas have traditionally been associated with the national sphere of government “yet we increasingly see local governments and especially metropolitan cities stepping up and participating in these areas. Due to globalisation, cities have a heightened interest to participate in the global economy as a way to help fulfil their constitutional mandate of promoting local economic development. Part of the reason is that cities are hubs of economic activity, with growing populations that can benefit from increased job opportunities and affordable goods and choices of goods due to competition. Cities also stand to benefit from increased cooperation with foreign states by identifying shared priorities and friendly relations that enable local businesses to access foreign markets and vice versa, and cities can advance their policy objectives through preferential procurement and investment incentives that facilitate the training of young people to match the skills needed by investors, and matching them to jobs. This is important because cities are responsible for raising a large proportion of their own revenue to supplement national transfers, and as the Covid-19 lockdown has demonstrated, job losses have had severe impacts on city finances” Dr Maziwisa noted.

She is currently conducting research on multilevel government with a focus on women’s rights, economic development, and international trade and investment law, and managing various book projects including Stellenbosch Annual Seminars on Constitutionalism in Africa volumes, and the upcoming volume ‘The Value of Comparative Federalism: The Legacy of Ronald L. Watts’, which she is especially excited about. Dr. Maziwisa also coordinates (within the Dullah Omar Institute) the EU-Rise LoGov Project on the Changing ‘Local Government and the Changing Urban-Rural Interplay’ under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSC) actions. She is an assistant editor of the Dullah Omar Institute's Local Government Bulletin, and a member of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) where she is proud to be involved in advocating for women’s rights.

Prof Jaap de Visser, Director of the Dullah Omar Institute, is excited to see this award go to one of the Institute’s postdoctoral researchers: “We’re very proud of Dr Maziwisa. This is a prestigious award, the result of a global competition and Dr Maziwisa is a deserving winner. It underscores the quality of her research and her hard work. The award is testimony to the Institute’s contribution to African scholarship.”

The award includes a return flight ticket to the IACFS annual conference in Innsbruck, Austria (2021), plus three days’ accommodation and a certificate.