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Creating Global Reach: Brookings’s Partnerships with Think Tanks in Africa

Children hold flags as they gather to wish former President Nelson Mandela happy birthday outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital, in Pretoria July 18, 2013

This week, the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings is holding a communications and study workshop in Johannesburg with our six African think tank partners.  These think tanks— the Development Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, the Economic Policy Research Center (Uganda), the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana, and the Consortium for Economic and Social Research (Senegal)— have been collaborating with AGI for the past three years.  The central motivation for this partnership has been to identify how African think tanks can learn strategies from Brookings in order to improve the impact they have on public policy in their respective countries and regions.  In addition, our partnership has sought to leverage the breadth of perspectives by bringing informed African voices to Washington and beyond.   

Our collaboration has involved undertaking research on various policy issues related to African economies.  In addition to these collaborative efforts, we are striving to work together in crosscutting issues that are critical to the growth and development of Africa. 

While many African think tanks may not have the luxury of the independence that Brookings enjoys, the African policy landscape is changing quite rapidly. As a result, there is a widening space for objective research in policymaking.  Our partnership with the six think tanks in Africa seeks to exploit these emerging opportunities in order to maximize policy impact for sustainable and inclusive growth. In addition, with the increasing importance of Africa globally, our partnership provides an important resource on opportunities to engage Africa for policymakers outside of the continent.

A centerpiece of policy impact is of course quality research, and this is at the core of what Brookings does. Our partnership has therefore sought to institute high standards of quality research, which is also what our African partner think tanks are trying to achieve. But quality research by itself does not necessarily impact on policy. The packaging of research and how it is communicated are critical for achieving true impact.  Therefore, much of our workshop this week will be focusing on elements of communicating policy research, including utilizing social media and digital outreach. The workshop will also focus on media engagement with a session on the changing landscape of reporting from Africa, and we will be hearing from correspondents from the New York Times, the BBC and the Wall Street Journal.

The workshop will also focus on evaluating the lessons learned from this unique North-South and South-South collaboration among think tanks. AGI and our partners will look to identify how to strengthen our collaboration in order to advance quality research and engage policy stakeholders. With Africa’s increasing global economic importance and the accelerated pace of regional integration, the Brookings AGI model of fostering North-South and South-South collaboration holds some great potential for impacting public policy within Africa and beyond.

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