Dr Elias Phaahla

Researcher, National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Elias Phaahla’s academic research journey has been underpinned by a desire to fully understand South Africa’s economic trajectory in the post-apartheid era and the implications it has had on those living on the margins of society.

Brought up in the Sekhukhune district of Limpopo, Phaahla has lived his 30 years by the motto “live boldly and bloom to your fullest potential by taking small but fearless daily actions in the direction of your dream”.

With an honours degree (cum laude) in international political economics from the University of the Witwatersrand, Phaahla was awarded a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship to study his master’s in international studies at the University of Stellenbosch. He followed this with a doctorate in the subject, thereafter working briefly for the Helen Suzman Foundation on various research projects.
He is currently based at the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), and is part of the Institute’s Brics team working on the implementation of South African Brics Think Tank (SABTT) initiatives.

He is responsible for supporting Brics-related research projects as well as serving as an intermediary between the SABTT and the Brics Think Tank Council, which oversees the affairs of Think Tanks across all Brics countries.

Phaahla keeps inspired knowing that it is a long, yet worthwhile, journey to reach a point where the playing field in the knowledge generation space is levelled enough for Global South theories of knowledge to be accorded similar respect as those from the north.

Challenges within Phaahla’s field of research have so far been few.

“There has been buy-in from many stakeholders and various corners of society — from government officials to intelligentsia, policy practitioners to students and civil society alike. Perhaps a need for more concerted efforts is needed to strengthen already existing research ties between the South African research community and its counterparts in Brics, as well as moving to forge new ones for greater impetus,” says Phaahla.

— Linda Doke

Twitter: @Elias_Phaahla