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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Sarkodie

The Hague Factor: Mentoring Story of Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor (PhD)

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Dr. Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor is an Economist, and currently Assistant Professor in Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (FARE) at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He consults on occasion for international organizations such as the African Development Bank and International Trade Centre. He loves to share his academic and career experiences to inspire the youth in Africa.

Dr. Sylvanus K. Afesorgbor speaking at a Conference

Dream Come True in The Hague - Opportunity for Graduate Studies

After I completed the University of Ghana with a Combined Major in Economics and Statistics, and I really wanted to do my master’s degree with full scholarship outside Ghana. I had nurtured this dream since the year 2000 when my uncle, Charles S. Sakyi completed his master’s degree abroad. Although I had applied for many scholarships which were unsuccessful, in 2009 by God’s grace and hard work I was successful. As a graduate student at the Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, in The Hague, Netherlands, I met Prof. Peter van Bergeijk, who I now call my mentor.

Follow your Convictions, Not the Masses - The Choice of a Supervisor

This is quite interesting! I took a course with Dr. Bergeijk and although I passed, the performance of the whole class was really abysmal. So, there was the concern of most students to avoid or not to choose him as a thesis supervisor or advisor. However, I was interested in his line of research in International Economics and Political Economy, so I made a proposal around his research interest and he was appointed as my advisor. On the completion of my thesis, he was so impressed as my thesis was adjudged and awarded with two other theses as the best within my specialization, Economics of Development.

Supported by a Mentor - Career in Academics

Dr. Bergeijk encouraged me to work further on my thesis and convert it into a working paper. This later became my first journal publication in the South African Journal of Economics. He was instrumental in my search for a PhD and wrote many recommendation letters for me. I remember after my master’s program, and I went back to Ghana in 2010, but he helped me to obtain a travel grant in order to present my paper in Berlin in 2011. He travelled all the way from the Netherlands to just watch me present in that conference.

Once a Mentor – He Still Acknowledges My Value

I owe my academic success, both my career and research to Dr. Bergeijk for identifying the potential in me. I continue to work with him till date. More recently, I have a chapter forthcoming in the Research Handbook of Economic Sanctions which is edited by him. I remember vividly when I got my first “brutal” rejection of an article submitted to the Journal of African Economies in 2011 and thought that was the end of my academic career and PhD dream, but his admonition and guidance made me resilient. Through his mentoring and coaching, I have developed a “though skin” for the vicissitudes of academic life since then.

What I Know – Others can Have

It took me almost four years before I was successful in securing a full scholarship for graduate studies. So, perseverance is an important requirement to achieve success. Never stop trying.

It is always good to have a mentor to guide you in your life’s journeys. However, those hoping to find and work with mentors must understand the need to play their part. Perseverance from the mentee should be 99% and 1% from the mentor. Mentees should not shift their responsibilities to the mentor in any way.

Dr. Sylvanus Afesorgbor and his mentor Dr. Peter Van Bergeijk.

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