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Top 10 think tanks telling Sub-Saharan Africa’s new story

By Bayero Musa
19 September 2021   |   2:06 pm
Africa is increasingly gaining recognition as a continent with prospects despite its history of economic, social and political challenges. This shift in perception owes much to the growing intervention of think tanks. A think tank is a body of experts that provides evidence-based research and advisory on specific socio-economic problems. Most are non-governmental organizations, but…

Africa is increasingly gaining recognition as a continent with prospects despite its history of economic, social and political challenges. This shift in perception owes much to the growing intervention of think tanks.

A think tank is a body of experts that provides evidence-based research and advisory on specific socio-economic problems. Most are non-governmental organizations, but some are semi-autonomous government agencies, businesses or political parties.

Think tanks are often funded by private individuals, businesses or government grants. They foster high-level stakeholder dialogues, publish articles or draft legislation used by governments or private entities to achieve their goals.

In Africa, think tanks grapple with inadequate funding, political opposition, and often lack effective platforms on which to engage policymakers. Nonetheless, some like the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) are holding their own and have been ranked by global rating bodies for their impact on Africa’s growth.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG)
The NESG is Nigeria’s foremost private sector-led think tank and policy advocacy group. It was established in 1993 as a first-class research institution to help stakeholders from the public and private sectors dialogue on the future of the Nigerian economy.

From 1996 till date, NESG has successfully organized 26 economic summits, its flagship event focused on dismantling the pillars of corruption and encouraging sustainable growth and development.

The Group currently runs NESG Radio, a weekly syndicated podcast that helps communicate critical information to a cross section of Nigerians on economic policies, ideas, health, trends and interventions.

The NESG is arguably sub-Saharan Africa’s most influential think tank, considering Nigeria’s size, burgeoning population and economic impact on much of the continent.

The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA)
KIPPRA was ranked second top think tank in Sub-Saharan Africa by the Global Go-To Think Tank Index Report 2020.

The Kenya-based Institute was established in 1997 as an Act of Parliament. Its mission is to provide quality public policy advice to the Government of Kenya through objective research, analysis and capacity building towards the achievement of national development goals.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS)
ISS was founded in 1991. Its mission is to enhance human security in an effort to achieve sustainable peace and prosperity in Africa. The non-profit has offices in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, and its interventions cover transnational crimes, migration, maritime security and development, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, criminal justice, and conflict/governance analysis.

In 2019, ISS was ranked first in Africa by the Global Go To Think Tanks Report for “Think Tanks with Outstanding Policy-Oriented Research Programmes,” and the second best independent Think Tank in Africa.

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
In 1997, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) was established in the United Kingdom as a not-for-profit research and advocacy organization.

CDD is based in Abuja, where it shapes global opinion and provides resources to address challenges hampering democratic development in West Africa.

The Centre advances its objectives through its national and regional programmes on democratic governance and people centred development. This includes budget monitoring and capacity building for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Counterterrorism and West Africa Insight.

The CDD’s focal areas include: parliamentary engagement, peace and human security, democratic governance and transparency.

In 2020, the Global To Go Think Tank Index of the University of Pennsylvania ranked the CDD as the 11th top-rank civil society think tank organization in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA Kenya)
IEA Kenya was founded in 1994 as a civic forum to promote public policy and efficient management of public finance and economic policies in Kenya.

A platform for stakeholder engagements aimed at influencing public policy in Kenya, IEA conducts public education on key economic and topical issues in public affairs, leveraging the outcomes to influence dialogue and policymaking.

IMANI Centre for Policy and Education
IMANI Center for Policy and Education was founded in Accra, Ghana in 2004. Its aim is to develop objective, independent analysis and critique on policy issues, using tried and tested techniques that apply across different disciplines.

IMANI is funded through donations from individuals and foundations, and was ranked first in Ghana and third in sub-Saharan Africa on the Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (2019).

Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
CODESRIA was established in 1973. Based in Dakar, Senegal, its aim is to promote, facilitate and disseminate social science research across Africa and create a community where members can work without language, country, age or gender barriers.

CODESRIA grants research scholarships and organizes conferences and programmes focused on the social sciences and humanities.

Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA)
BIDPA was established in 1995 to provide research support and policy analysis services to key economic ministries and agencies. Its mandate is to promote policy analysis through research, and develop local capacity for policy analysis and management through in-service training and fellowship programmes.

In 2020, the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania recognized BIDPA as a Center of Excellence following its ranking as a top think tank in Sub-Saharan Africa for 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The Africa Institute of South Africa and Centre for Conflict Resolution
The CCR is an independent non-governmental organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa. The Centre promotes constructive, creative, and co-operative approaches to conflict resolution in Africa.

Over the course of 50 years, it has continued to research African security and governance issues, and conducts extensive capacity-building training to facilitate peace processes across Africa.

The South Africa Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
SAIIA is an independent public policy think tank based in South Africa. Its mission is to advance a well-governed, peaceful, economically sustainable and globally engaged Africa.
The interventions of SAIIA cover foreign policy, governance, the environment, economic policy and social development.

It also provides a platform for the public to engage with these issues, and facilitate discussions between a wide variety of partners.

Musa is an Abuja-based banker.