The second African Thinks Tanks Summit underlined the role of African Think Tanks in the continent’s development priorities and it said African think tanks need to be stronger and they should be given an influential position.
The summit, held in Addis Ababa from April 6 to 7 at the UNECA, had the objective to reflect on how Africa’s think tanks can best support Africa’s development priorities as reflected in Agenda 2063 and Africa’s position in shaping the post-2015 Agenda.
It was highlighted that although think tanks have significant positions in developed countries in North America and Europe, African think tanks have found it challenging to get funding as well as defining their role in the ever transforming continent.
According to Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Deputy Executive Secretary Abdalla Hamdok, even though Africa seems to be growing, the growth level has had very little effect in reducing poverty. And he recommended this issue should be taken up by the think tanks.
“The enormous economic growth Africa has had or continues to have made little dent on poverty. Think tanks can interrogate the ‘African Rising’ narrative and suggest ways in which this growth can be shared,” he stated.
Participants discussed possible ways of making the think tanks relevant to help nations’ development endeavors and have impact, and likely ways of strengthening the network of thinks tanks. It was stated that think tanks have the potential to close the gap between the government and the public by generating new concepts through intensive researches and providing space for discussions.
Despite Africa’s need to have practical ideas to help push forward its development, think tanks face the challenge of not being able to communicate with their audiences or the public, findings of different researches had shown. “Policy makers don’t understand us and don’t know how to use us. As a response, think tanks need to seize the opportunity to develop a collective response to challenges,” said James McGann, Director of Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme at the University of Pennsylvania.
The summit further underlined that Africa needs to respond to major social, environmental and political challenges the world is facing today such as youth unemployment, climate change, and peace and security among others.