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What we do

The PII provides central institutional support and academic leadership, promotes knowledge sharing, cross-disciplinary collaboration and communication – both within and beyond the university community – to expand and raise the profile of UCT’s collective contribution to addressing challenges posed by poverty and inequality. The PII brings together high-profile members from diverse disciplines across the university – at regular meetings, seminars and other events – to share knowledge and promote collaborative research into the complex challenges posed by poverty and inequality. In addition, the PII plays a leading role in the Carnegie3 national inquiry into strategies to overcome poverty and inequality, launched at a September 2012 conference at UCT. During 2014, the PII assessed major research gaps and the areas of ‘Youth’ and ‘Social Cohesion’ were identified as underdeveloped but crucial areas; both at UCT and also in the national space. The decision was made to build these themes and the PII appointed two theme leaders, Dr Ariane de Lannoy (Youth) and Professor Justine Burns (Social Cohesion), to lead these processes. Under their guidance both themes hosted national launch workshops and developed multi-and interdisciplinary programmes for these areas. For more on the PII research on Youth and Social Cohesion, click here.


Our team supports and contributes to the strategic focus of the Poverty and Inequality Initiative:   

Professor Murray Leibbrandt, Pro Vice Chancellor Poverty and Inequality
Professor Leibbrandt is Director of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), NRF/DST National Research Chair of Poverty and Inequality Research and a Research Fellow for the Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) in Bonn, Germany. Professor Leibbrandt is also a past president of the African Econometric Society and of the South African Economic Society. He completed his PhD at Notre Dame University. He is a past president of the African Econometric Society and immediate past president of the Economic Society of South Africa, and is Project Director of the Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3). Professor Leibbrandt has held a visiting fellowship at Cornell University, and visiting professorships at the University of Michigan and Yale University. Professor Leibbrandt has participated in a number of committees tasked with poverty reduction and improving standards of living in South Africa and internationally. He was a member of South Africa’s first post-apartheid Labour Market Commission, has been a member of the International Panel Evaluating World Bank Research into poverty and inequality and a member of the International Panel on Population Growth and Human Welfare in Africa. Professor Leibbrandt has been the recipient of numerous honours, scholarships, bursaries and awards. He has researched and published extensively on South African poverty‚ inequality and labour market dynamics using survey data and‚ in particular‚ panel data. In 2013, Professor Leibbrandt was appointed Pro Vice Chancellor Poverty and Inequality at UCT.


Haajirah Esau, Program Manager
With experience as a manager in research funding and committees at the Research Office at UCT, Haajirah Esau manages the programs and strategic activities of the Poverty and Inequality. She was previously the Collections Coordinator of the District Six Museum and brings to the PII team a diverse array of skills in analytical research, project planning and management, and communications.


Justine Burns, Associate Professor
Justine Burns is a behavioural economist who works on issues of trust, identity, and social cohesion, with a focus on how these impact labour market outcomes and well-being. With a PhD from University of Massachussets (Amherst), she is a Professor in the School of Economics at UCT, and a research associate of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit. Currently, Justine is leading the Social Cohesion sub theme at UCT within the Poverty and Inequality Initiative.



Ariane De Lannoy, Senior Researcher
Ariane De Lannoy is a sociologist and senior researcher, heading up the work programme on Youth within the Poverty and Inequality Initiative. Ariane holds Masters degrees in languages and international politics from the Universities of Ghent and Antwerp (Belgium) and a PhD from the University of Cape Town (South Africa). Her research focuses on youth in rapidly changing urban environments, mostly using a Qualitative and Mixed Methods approach. She is especially interested in youth transitions, identities and decision-making in the complex context of post-apartheid South Africa. Her most recent work, in collaboration with Katherine S. Newman, Provost at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (USA) is After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa. The work discusses the political expectations and social experience of men and women in their early 30s. They were children in the final years of apartheid, but are trying to shape their adult lives today, in the rather uneven and halting process of democratization. The study has resulted in a co-authored, narrative-style book, published in April 2014 by Beacon Press (Boston).