Alec is a former Deputy Minister of Finance (1994 – 1996), Minister of Trade and Industry (1996 – 2004), Minister of Public Enterprises (2004 – 2008). He has also been President of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1996 – 2000).
Alec was previously General Secretary of the Federation of South African Trade Unions (1979 – 1983) and the Education Officer for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (1986 – 1988). He was a member of the African National Congress National Executive from 1994 to 2007. Alec has an Honours degree in Economics from the University of Natal where he was a lecturer in the Economics Department.
He has an Honorary Doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of the Western Cape. He currently also sits on the Honorary International Investment Council of President Jonathan in Nigeria and on the Togo Presidential Investment Advisory Council.
He has served on two WTO Disputes Settlement Panels, chairing the one Panel. The panels have dealt with the link between feed in tariffs and local content in the Ontario electricity system and plain packaging measures for cigarettes in Australia. He has also served as an advisor for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.