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Dr Azwifaneli Nemushungwa

It is on a partly cloudy morning in Gqeberha, Port Elizabeth on Wednesday, 15 December 2021 when Azwifaneli Nemushungwa enters the Nelson Mandela University Hall to obtain her PhD degree in Economics. Her study focused on the forecasting of exchange rates in the presence of instabilities. Nemushungwa, who is draped in a red and blue doctoral robe; and a mortarboard, sits amongst other doctoral graduates, waiting for her turn to ascend the stage. Her achievement places her in the ranks of a select few who have dedicated their time to finding solutions for finance managers to make better estimates in the calculations of exchange rates. 

When her time arrives, she ascends the stage and her promoter, Professor Ncwadi reads the citation of her thesis titled “Symmetric and Asymmetric GARCH Models in Forecasting Exchange Rate in South Africa’’. After reading of the citation, she proceeds to the Chancellor, Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi who confers the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics. 

“The problem addressed by the study was to find out symmetric and asymmetric models that will help financial managers in forecasting exchange rates in South Africa in the presence of economic instabilities,” said Dr Nemushungwa in her interview with UNIVEN Alumni News after her graduation 

Why is forecasting in the presence of economic instabilities important in exchange rates? 

‘’The need for accurate forecasting of volatility in financial markets is critical regarding investment, financial risk management and monetary policymaking. As the world becomes more integrated, more firms are becoming international businesses, engaging in international transactions which require that money be converted from a firm’s home currency into a foreign currency and vice versa. Since currency exchange rates vary in response to changing economic conditions, financial managers in international businesses should develop management strategies to deal with unexpected exchange rate changes, which represent a risk to the financial position of the business. As this study provides knowledge of the models with the best predictive ability, it may help financial managers to make accurate exchange rate forecasting,” she said. 

How do you feel about being one of the few women who navigated their way into a PhD in Econometrics? 

“Economics is one of those disciplines which is male-dominated, I am therefore elated to be counted among the few women, who have attained a PhD degree in this discipline in South Africa, particularly in Econometrics.” 

She thanked her supervisors, Professors Ncwadi and Mishi for their great supervisory work which resulted in all external examiners giving positive feedback. “One of the examiners supported the view that the topic is the first to be written in South Africa, implying that it will pave way for future studies particularly in fields like Applied econometrics, Applied Mathematics, Business Finance, International Finance, Statistics and Actuarial sciences. Forecasting is one of the most popular topics that researchers in these disciplines focus on.” 

It comes as no surprise that Dr Nemushungwa obtained a PhD in Econometrics. She has been a lecturer in Economics at the University of Venda for the past 14 years. She also regularly features on television and radio programmes on economic matters, budget analyses and exchange rates as an economic analyst. 

Dr Nemushungwa was born and bred in the dusty village of Ha-Mutsha, in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. Like any other child whose parents worked in Johannesburg, she visited them during the school holidays. Due to Soweto uprisings, her father thought it wise to let her stay in Venda to complete her studies. 

What is the most important decision your parents made about your life? 

“As a child, I thought my parents did not love me because they chose me amongst my siblings to study back home in the Republic of Venda. Little did I know that I was being destined for greatness. The wise decision made by my parents has borne ripened fruits 40 years later. Contrary to my name, Azwifaneli, this achievement perfectly befits me.” 

“My PhD journey which started few years ago was stressful, mentally exhausting yet very rewarding. I take this time to thank my family especially my husband and my children for supporting me throughout the years of my studies. I had to sacrifice time to spend with my family. However, the sacrifice has brought great reward. Now it’s no longer my family but many people who are inspired.” 

What is your advice to women who still doubt their capabilities especially in the field of economics? 

“The attainment of this degree will help to change the mindset, especially amongst some that a PhD in Economics is not a space for women. I, therefore, believe that this will inspire other women to follow in my footsteps. Let me borrow from the former president, Dr Nelson Mandela who once said that ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’. If I could do it, someone else can do it, too.” 

How will the knowledge gained in this study benefit your students and society? 

“The knowledge that I gained from this qualification will help me in supervising students and thereby contribute to increasing research throughput rate in Economics. ‘It will bring about change in the lives of others’ as Madam Chancellor, Dr Fraser Moleketi put it.” 

UNIVEN Alumni News interviewed the Vice-Chancellor and Principal on this glorious achievement 

“I extend heartiest congratulations to Dr Azwifaneli Nemushungwa on her achievement. As the UNIVEN community, we are so proud of you and your tremendous academic success. Your accomplishment is even more impressive as you made it during a worldwide pandemic,” says UNIVEN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni 

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Issued by: 

Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication 

University of Venda 
Tel: 015 962 8338 
Date: 16 December 2021 

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