DAKAR, Senegal – Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced US$30 million in grants to 24 think tanks in East and West Africa. The Think Tank Initiative (TTI) will support independent policy think tanks in developing countries, enabling them to provide sound research that informs and influences national policy. The three donors have committed a total of $90 million to the initiative.

The partners made the announcement during the annual meetings of the African Development Bank and were joined by executive directors of two think tanks from Senegal and Tanzania.

Policymakers in developing countries often lack credible, objective information to address increasingly complex social and economic issues. Independent think tanks can play a critical role in supplying this information and improving the national debate about policy options. TTI will give core funding to local think tanks, helping them produce high-quality research that will lead to better policies and, ultimately, more equitable and prosperous societies.

“The value of providing think tanks with enduring, long-term support cannot be overstated,” said Rohinton Medhora, IDRC’s vice president, Programs. “Predictable core funding gives institutions the certainty and continuity they need to build skills that can lead to path-breaking work and constructive public policy influence.”
The initiative received nearly 300 proposals from a wide range of African think tanks that focus on broad national, social, and economic policy issues. Following a thorough and rigorous review process, 24 think tanks were selected from 11 East and West African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“The core support provided by the Think Tank Initiative will allow us to strengthen our research program, enhance our communications strategy, and further invest in effective partnerships and networks, therefore helping us towards fulfilling our mission of building research and analysis capacity in Senegal,” said Abdoulaye Diagne, the executive director of Senegal’s Consortium pour la Recherche Economique et Sociale, one of the 24 institutions selected to receive TTI support.

The Think Tank Initiative is envisioned as a long-term investment over at least 10 years. For the first five years, IDRC has made a commitment of $10 million, while the Hewlett Foundation has committed $40 million and the Gates Foundation has committed $40 million.

“We believe good national development policy decisions are best made when informed by robust research and analysis grounded in local realities,” said Mark Suzman, director of policy and advocacy for the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The Think Tank Initiative marks an important step forward in helping forge stronger partnerships between researchers and policy-makers in the developing world. We believe it is a powerful model for achieving change and hope that other donors will join us in this initiative to help improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.”

“The Hewlett Foundation has made a total commitment of $100 million over 10 years to strengthen research in the developing world because we believe that public policies work best when they are informed by the research of local scholars, and that good local research requires strong local institutions,” said Paul Brest, president of the Hewlett Foundation. “Today’s announcement is a central part of that commitment, and we are confident that this approach will go a long way toward helping advance policies that will reduce poverty in the developing world.”

In August 2009, IDRC will issue a call for Expression of Interest from think tanks in Latin America and South Asia. As the initiative grows, the think tanks will form networks that provide opportunities to build and share best practices in policy research.

Notes to Editors
The 24 African think tanks receiving grants include:

  • Benin: Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy (IERPE)
  • Burkina Faso: Centre d’étude de documentation de recherches économique et sociale (CEDRES);
  • Ethiopia: Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) and Ethiopian Economic Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute (EEA/EEPRI);
  • Ghana: Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – Ghana and Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER);
  • Kenya: Center for Research and Technology Development (RESTECH Center), Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) – Kenya, Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) – Kenya, and Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA);
  • Mali: Groupe de recherche en économie appliquée et théorique (GREAT);
  • Nigeria: African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE), Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA), Centre for Population and Environmental Development (CPED), and Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER);
  • Rwanda: Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) – Rwanda;
  • Senegal: Initiative prospective agricole et rurale (IPAR) – Senegal and Consortium pour la recherche économique et sociale (CRES);
  • Tanzania: African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) – Tanzania, Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), and Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA);
  • Uganda: Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), and Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR).

For more information about the Think Tank Initiative, visit www.idrc.ca/thinktank

About IDRC
Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is one of the world’s leading institutions in the generation and application of new knowledge to meet the challenges of international development. For nearly 40 years, IDRC has worked in close collaboration with researchers from the developing world to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies. www.idrc.ca

About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, and population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at www.hewlett.org.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org.

Media contacts:

Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé
Tel: +1-613 696-2343

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Jack Fischer
Tel: +1-650 234-4500 x5744

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Tel: +1-206-709-3400