Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label eendracht hotel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eendracht hotel. Show all posts

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Northern Economist Goes to Suid Afrika!

Well, I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 World Economic History Conference held in the Western Cape town of Stellenbosch in South Africa.  Stellenbosch is just outside of Capetown and is one of the oldest towns in South Africa dating back to 1679 and today is a university town of about 130,000 people situated in the heart of South African wine country.  My session at the WEHC was a reunion between researchers on 19th and early 20th wealth in the British Empire that was organized by David Green (King’s College, London) and included along with myself, Alastair Owens (Queen Mary University, London), Jim McAloon (Victoria University of Wellington), Martin Shanahan (University of South Australia) and Roy Hora (Universidad de San Andre).

My stay in Stellenbosch was at the Eendracht Hotel on tree-lined Dorp Street.  The Eendracht was originally a home that has been converted into an elegant hotel establishment with superb accommodation and service.  Indeed, my entire stay in South Africa was marked by excellent, friendly and attentive service.  It’s a long air trip there from Canada (Toronto to Capetown via a three hour layover Amsterdam was 23 hours) but well worth the experience you are going to have.  


South Africa and the Western Cape region is an incredibly beautiful and diverse land featuring vineyards, mountains and beaches.   From an economic perspective, it was remarkable how many economic activities were clustered in the small region that I had the opportunity to visit.   Orchards and farming, vineyards, fishing, mining, forestry, manufacturing, resource and food processing, education, health, tourism were all part of the economic base of activities making it a remarkably self-sufficient region and yet with a surprising range of exports not least of which is wine – try the unique South African blend of Pinotage.  The cultural wealth was also amazing in terms of the vast amounts of local art on display especially in some of the wineries.

South Africa is a land of diversity and extremes ranging from climate and terrain to its society, which is marked by great wealth as well as great inequality.  In terms of comparisons with my own home here in Northern Ontario, some of the social issues such as employment, educational opportunity and housing were reminiscent of challenges we have with First Nations though rooted in a different historical context.  The demographic balance between the descendants of European settlement and the indigenous populations are also quite different as the share of population originating from European settlement is much smaller than in Canada.

As well, there were other interesting comparisons such as the fact that while we have forest fires, the Western Cape region also has fires during their summer (I was visiting in winter which is cool and wet and more like autumn for someone from Canada).  As well, we tend to have to bear proof our garbage containers and camp sites in provincial parks while in South Africa the concern is with baboons who are also on the prowl for things to eat.   

South Africa was an impressive place.  It was a great trip.  I can’t wait to go again.