The Africa Think Tank Summit 2018 Organized by the OCP Policy Center in Morocco was a success. Coming in the wake of identifying a rising need for think tanks to be more influential in their core thematic areas, this summit promised to be very engaging.
There was a plenary address by H. E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President on Nigeria, who made a declaration to the effect that African leaders cannot forge ahead and make significant progress without the input of think tanks and their expertise.
Throughout the following deliberations, the major question at hand was how think tanks could collaborate and innovate along ways in which they can become sustainable. In my interactions with most of the other think tanks, the issue seemed to be some of the following:
- Most think tanks were young, and they had just began finding other missions from the core missions along which they were formed.
- Initial funding that set up most of these think tanks were dwindling
- Partners were hard to find to align on strategic goals
- Strategic sustainability plans were difficult to make
- Uncertainty about the political future and whether some of these think tanks could survive the existing political regimes int heir home countries
IMANI was represented in a breakout panel session that discussed innovative ways of funding think tank activity, and I shared IMANI’s methodology of using its reputation to leverage on activities that helped it to sustain itself.
Some of these strategies included identifying with private and public sector players on research in the form of convening stakeholder based interactions and presenting findings that would foster dialog and policy, while ensuring that such research is paid for via transparent funding arrangements with the parties concerned.
Identifying thematic areas of expertise and commissioning consultancy activity along those lines whose publications and recommendations helped with the bottom line.
Seeking to partner for grants and strategic arrangements in areas of specialization where insight is used to design and plan policy activity.
It was also made clear to the panel that building and investing into convening power and aggressively marketing the ability to publish groundbreaking insights were the only way think tanks could gain the reputation required to be able to maintain that marketability which could then be commoditized.
A lot of networking activities also allowed me to engage with other Think Tanks from other African countries and interactions in the space.