Dr. Oliver Masakure shares about his background, what makes Tshepo Institute special, and a memorable summer read…
How long have you been the Director of the Institute?
I started my term on April 4th 2014, so I’ve been director for around seven months. It is a two-year term therefore I’ll be the director until April 2016.
Can you tell me a bit about your career and what brought you to Wilfrid Laurier?
I am from Zimbabwe and completed both my undergraduate and masters’ degrees there. I am an agricultural economist by training. In 2000, I moved to England and completed my PhD at the University of Reading in Agricultural Economics. I graduated with that degree in 2005. Then I came to Canada to complete a post-doc at the University of Guelph. I worked in the Department of Agriculture, Economics and Resources. I worked there for four years and in 2009 I was hired to teach classes on leadership, human rights and human diversity at Laurier Brantford. It was during this time that I also joined the Tshepo Research Institute as a fellow and have been with the Institute ever since.
What are your specific research interests?
I have lots of them! Some of my key interests are issues related to food safety, food security, and food trade. I am interested in innovation within organizations. I’ve worked quite a bit in organizational economics as well. This would entail looking at what is happening within organizations and the incentives firms use to increase productivity, motivate, and reward workers.
Do you have a memorable book that you read this summer that you would recommend to others?
“The Tyranny of Experts” written by William Easterly. He is an economist who has done interesting work on development. His famous book is “The White Man’s Burden”. He is very critical of foreign aid and its effectiveness. “The Tyranny of Experts” provides an interesting angle in exploring why experts are not always the best ones to make decisions and how experts tend to suppress or undermine the opinions of people they are supposedly helping. He argues that these experts drive the field of development and yet they are not necessarily aware of what’s really going on in the situations they are working in.
What makes the Tshepo Institute special?
Tshepo brings together scholars who are interested in advancing our understanding of current African issues but who are also interested in what is making Africa move forward. African economies are booming, fostered by a lot of progress in politics and democracy in general. There has been a lot of advancement in areas of human rights, education, and health and these are things to celebrate! At the same time, there are areas of improvement and issues that merit our concern and attention. Tshepo brings together scholars from different disciplines that work on key and interesting current issues. We inform African scholars both on and off the continent and in doing this, our work can serve to inform policy-making. It is a Centre that has the potential to be a focal point for research on and for Africa.
As the only institute at Laurier that focuses on contemporary African issues, we want Tshepo to be a focus point of both research and academic discourse but also a centre that is welcoming to anyone who wants to talk about African issues. The institute is a tremendous resource centre with scholars in business, economics, politics, human rights, gender and sexuality, health, community practice and development. Together we approach issues with all these different perspectives and angles and I think that’s really important.
What are some things that the community has to look forward to this school year?
In February we will be collaborating with Global Engagement and the Criminology Students Association at the Brantford campus in celebrating Global Engagement week. We are pleased to welcome a scholar from University of Southern Texas, Dr. Ihekwoaba D. Onwudiwe, who is an expert on issues of security. He will be talking about improving African security through international co-operation and human stability. This event will be on the 2nd of February at the Brantford Campus.
Why do you think that having a research institute like Tshepo is important?
It elevates relevant and important research. Laurier is focussed on being an international, research-intensive university, yet one that is still rooted in community. Tshepo advances that in many ways. We are involved in our community; we bring in scholars and specialists in areas that are pertinent to Tshepo and in areas that highlight leadership. We hosted the memorial event to commemorate Nelson Mandela and in doing this showed our commitment to peace and leadership. In many ways, Tshepo is here to advance the whole mission of the university: to encourage students to live lives of leadership and purpose. We seek to enrich students’ research and academic experiences through their involvement with Tshepo.
What are some of your hopes for Tshepo?
I hope that it grows to be an Institute that is not only relevant to the ongoing research and progress in Africa but also remains integral to Laurier’s goal to create a comprehensive, international, innovative and dynamic institution of learning. I hope Tshepo continues to promote global awareness and knowledge on African issues to inspire meaningful change and purposeful action.