Thursday, 11 February 2016

ECA hosts launch of global think tank index report
Addis Ababa,  The Global Go To Think Tank Index Report launched at the Economic Commission for Africa features 140 think tanks from Africa and includes 1,432 think tanks that made the top lists in 50 categories globally.
The launch of the 2015 report, titled ‘ Why think tanks matter to policy makers and the public’, a second one in a series of global launches was attended by academics, think tanks professionals and the diplomatic corps to discuss the role of think tanks  in society and policy making.
The Global Go To Think Tank Index,produced since 2006 by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme at the University of Pennsylvania  ranksthink tanks globally and by region for influence on policy and knowledge delivery and on research areas such as environment, foreign, security, energy and international development.
Mr. Steve Glovinsky, Special Adviser to the Executive Secretary of the ECA, explained “think tanks have come under great focus, given that there are multiple sources of information, it is harder for think tanks to grab attention of policy makers.”
ECA, he clarified, plans to work intensively as Africa’spremier think thank by improving knowledge delivery work and leveraging access to policy makers. “Think tanks improve decision making and promote discussions,” said Mr. Glovinsky. ECA along with three other Ethiopian think tanks is included in the index.  
On the role of think tanks, Professor Herman Musahara, the Acting Executive Director of the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa said “think tanks enable policy makers and public to make informed decisions about public policy. Think tanks can bridge between state and civil society.”
Think tanks are seen as having a pivotal role in many areas including influencing policy on Africa’s economic transformation. Mr. Mekonnen Manyazewal, Advisor to the Ethiopian Prime Minister for International Trade Relation Negotiation Affairs, defined the niche think tanks occupy. “Decision makers are pre-occupied with management and the time they need to reflect on emerging issues, will be relegated to second priority. These decision makers need the service of support of the think tanks.”
To stay relevant in a world with dwindling funding opportunities, think tanks must be in business to provide knowledge, communicate that knowledge well and promote themselves, said Mr Jim Ocitti, Director of Public Information and Knowledge Management Division, the moderator of the launch.
Mr. Bartholomew Armah, Chief of Renewal of Planning at ECA’s Microeconomic Policy Division, counselled think tanks to “view how they fit in initiatives such as Agenda 2063 and the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals and how they can serve these.”
“We must strive to channel the resources of our think tanks towards our shared development programmes and priorities,” suggested Mr. Armah. Think tanks can help fill the capacity deficit, Mr. Armah elaborated, for example on tracking SDGs, as these will require serious skills because the goals, targets and indicators are bigger and more complex than those of the MDGs.
Think tanks are often faced with difficulties in establishing research priorities, recruiting top talent while dependent on donor funding and maintaining independence. Mr. Armah acknowledged that funding constraints compel think tanks to multi-task just to make money but this raises the question of sustainability.
Experts advise think tanks not to depend on a narrow range of funding opportunities. For think tanks to survive, they must be credible, impactful and sustainable, those attending the launch concurred.
The Global Go To Think Tank Index, has been produced by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme at the University of Pennsylvania since 2006 and ranks 140 think tanks from Africa. In the category of number of think tanks per country, South Africa leads with 86 followed by Kenya with 53, Nigeria at 48, Ghana at 37 and Uganda with 28.
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