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East Africa’s latest top ten think tanks

The latest global think-tank index shows that institutions in East Africa continue to rank highly on the continent.

The 2013 rankings, released last week by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tank and Civil Societies Programme, show the Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) as the top think tank in the region. The AERC moved from 7th position in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 to 3rd in 2013.

The index was launched in 2008 and is compiled through balloting by other research institutions and journalists. The highest-ranking think tank in the world is the US-based Brookings Institution.

The AERC, which celebrated its Silver Jubilee last year, is a research network of economists. It holds bi-annual research workshops and has been at the forefront of training economists through collaborative doctoral and master’s programmes in economics and agricultural and other applied economics programmes.

Other institutions highly rated in the East African region include  the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) (Uganda) ranked 15th and 17th respectively.

The 2013 global report also shows that most of the top think thanks in Africa are located in South Africa, with 10 among Africa’s top 40. Kenya and Ghana follow with six institutions each. Uganda has three, Tanzania one, while Rwanda and Burundi have none among the top 40 in Africa.

In the 2013 index, the five East African Community (EAC) countries have a total of 117 think tanks (about 19.1 per cent of the total number of think tanks in sub Saharan Africa). Some 57 of these are in Kenya, followed by Uganda, with 29 institutions.

Globally, Kenya is ranked 17th in terms of countries with the largest number of institutions, below African leader South Africa (88) but beating countries such as Spain (55 institutions) and Nigeria (51).

The concentration of think tanks in Kenya, in comparison to its economic muscle, may partly be linked to the significant presence of global philanthropic institutions, key in financing think tanks. Institutions such as the United Nations (UN), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC-Canada), Rockefeller Foundation and MacArthur Foundation have regional offices in Nairobi.

Such international institutions are a significant source of funding for think tanks. Kenyan think tanks have also had a significant focus on international development. Unlike other countries where think tanks primarily address domestic issues, a substantial number of think tanks in Nairobi deal with Africa-wide and international development challenges.

Still, institutions in Africa account for only nine per cent of the world’s 6,826 institutions. Overall, think tanks in the region remain instrumental in the formulation of public programmes. Besides capacity-building activities, think tanks in East Africa have been supporting evidence-based policy making especially during the formulation of national visions and development plans.

Top 10 think tanks in East Africa

No. Institution Country Rank in Africa
1. African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
Kenya
3rd
2. Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) Kenya
15th
3. Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) 
Uganda 17th
4. Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA)
Tanzania
19th
5. Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) Uganda 
24th
6. Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Kenya 25th
7. Centre for Research and Technology Development (RESTECH  Centre)
Kenya
30th
8. African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) 
Kenya
31st
9. Rift Valley Institute 
Kenya
35th
10. Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) Uganda 
37th

Source: 2013 Global Go to Think Thank Index, University of Pennsylvania

The author is principal research fellow at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).

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