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The Nkafu Policy Institute, a think tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation, has successfully organized a two-day Leadership and Advocacy Immersion for Think Tank leaders of Central Africa with discussions centred on “pooling actions to raise the impact of Think Tanks in Central Africa.”

The leadership immersion at Djeuga Palace Hotel, Yaounde, ran from July 25-26, bringing together some 15 think tank leaders from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), with the think tank leaders coming from Burundi, Rwanda, Congo Brazzaville, Congo Kinshasa, Central Africa Republic, Gabon, Chad and Cameroon.

This leadership immersion program falls under the project “promoting women’s rights, accountability, security and integrated governance,” funded by Open Society Foundations and implemented by the Nkafu Policy Institute.

“Think tanks in Central Africa are very fragile and we need to strengthen their capabilities so that they can be more efficient and impactful in terms of policy changes,” Jean Blaise Nkonga, Interim Chief Operating Officer, DLFF told journalists.

“We want to make sure that think tanks in Central Africa know each other, set up a network where they can discuss together and pool the means together to be more impactful in terms of policy changes.”

Discussions focused on ways to: Strengthen the capacity of think tanks in Central Africa in order to produce relevant, high-quality research and influence policy; enhance the leadership and research capacity of think tank researchers, particularly women researchers to conduct research, policy advocacy and to expand visibility and reach; techniques to overcome challenges faced by think tanks; funding and how think tank leaders can strive to make balance and well-being a priority for themselves and their loved ones.

Think tanks are vital for Africa and lacks funding

Think tanks can unpack current and future issues at stake in African societies. Unlike in Western countries, think tanks in Africa still fight for recognition. If their expertise is generally respected, the political and security establishments in several countries often consider them agents of some hidden powers. Behind this suspicion lie interconnected issues related to independence and funding.

Jean Blaise Nkonga said: “Think tanks are fragile in Central Africa and they can be strengthened. When you go to East and West Africa, think tanks are funded but that is not the case with Central Africa. With funds, the think tanks can better plan but without it, it is difficult for them to plan their activities.”

“Getting funds to do research, get the quality of the research and disseminate it is a major hurdle for us in Rwanda. We are surviving on small projects which are not sustainable for research institutions,” Eugenia Kayitesi, Executive Director of the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research, IPAR-Rwanda said.

“Think tanks also face the challenge of having quality and competent researchers. Mostly, we need at least PhD holders and there are very few on the continent. Not only in Rwanda but across the continent, there is a problem of having quality researchers to produce quality works.”

“When I talk of researchers, women are not there. There are very few and getting competent, qualified is a problem. This is an area we need to work on and to have women researchers coming on board is important,” Eugenia Kayitesi said on the need to get more women on board on the aspect of research.

“We have very few women and even those who come are coming just to do the little work like data collection. They are not doing the real research that informs policy changes across the continent.”

About the Nkafu Policy Institute

The Nkafu Policy Institute is a think tank within the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation whose purpose is to produce independent analysis to inform public debate. Its mission is to advance public policies that help all Africans thrive in free, fair and democratic economies. The Institute has distinguished itself as a leading research centre in Cameroon, committed to promoting open debate that builds consensus towards a democratic future.

About Open Society Foundation-Africa

OSF-Africa’s vision is to build a globally respected, dynamic and integrated Africa characterized by democratic governance, sustainable development and economic systems that produce more just, inclusive and accountable outcomes with and for Africa’s people and environment. In pursuit of this vision, OSF-Africa’s mission is to advance gender justice and women’s rights, deepen democracy, accountable governance and inclusive development in Africa through participatory and strategic grant-making and advocacy.

Source : Pan African Visions.