Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The crisis of African think tanks: Challenges and solutions

The crisis of African think tanks: Challenges and solutions

Brookings Institute

African think tanks are under serious threat: Many of the credible think tanks have disappeared, and the survival of the remaining ones is at stake. In fact, at the first Africa Think Tank Summit in 2014 in South Africa, Dr. Frannie Leautier, the then-director of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) reported that 30 percent of Africa’s think tanks may close within five to seven years. In addition, drawing from data collected on African think tanks, the Think Tanks and Civil Society Program has estimated that 60 percent (30 percent plus an additional 25-30 extremely fragile organizations) of think tanks are highly vulnerable with a serious risk of disappearing, given unstable funding, staff turnover, and brain drain. The nature and the scope of the think tank crisis constitute a big risk to sustained African transformation. In fact, over the past two decades, the shift of perception from an Africa facing “permanent crisis” to “Africa rising” can be partly attributed to the work of African think tanks, which have provided stronger and more nuanced understanding of and policy options for improving policy and governance. From past examinations of African think tanks, we find that they share challenges around four prominent themes—funding, independence, quality, and impact. Moving ahead, then, how can African think tanks be strengthened in order to continue Africa’s economic, political, and social development?

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