CAIRO: The role played by think tanks in supporting decision makers in the development and reform fields, as well as in exchanging knowledge and promoting further cooperation between African countries was discussed at a conference held by the Cabinet of Ministers’ think tank, the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) this week.
The conference titled “African Conferences of Think Tanks: Policies for a Better Future,” brought together leading Egyptian and African representatives of think tanks, international organizations, civil society and academia.
“This initiative is an excellent way to foster intellectual cooperation for peace and development. We need this today as never before. Our world is changing at a rapid speed. States and societies face challenges that are increasingly complex and inter-connected,” said UNESCO’s Assistant Director of Africa Department, Lalla Aicha Ben-Barka, on behalf of UNESCO’s Director General, Irina Bokova.
“Think tanks have a pivotal role to play in supporting states to respond to a challenging policy environment … [they] can help connect the dots between state institutions and the resources of civil society … [they] can bring unparalleled knowledge and expertise to bear in the form of policy-relevant advice on issues hat lie at the heart of public policy,” she explained.
The meeting aimed to explore the possible solutions to common challenges that face think tanks in Africa, as well as promote a dialogue about general policies between African nations and to develop new initiatives to help decision makers in developing Africa and its integration into the global community.
Furthermore, it provided an opportunity to discuss how think tanks can productively participate in African progress in light of global and domestic challenges.
The IDSC held this conference in an effort to endorse the significant role that think tanks, as policy actors, can play in confronting challenges as they arise to create new ideas to help African leaders solve developmental challenges.
Representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Mona Omar, assistant secretary of state for African affairs and the affairs of the African Union, spoke of the importance of think tanks in aiding governments to find objective solutions to common problems.
“In the past, it has been proven that research centers and think tanks play a major role in helping decision makers around the world, and finding solutions to problems that have been hanging for years and what makes them stand out is how they enjoy great technical skills as well as impartiality through which they are not effected by any political ideologies or motives, therefore they are key in decision-making,” she said.
International Cooperation Senior Advisor at the IDSC, Hussein El Kamel, pointed out that this conference is “only the beginning of an active cooperation between African think tanks.”
Together, the countries will share the common challenges that face them internally and externally and develop suitable creative solutions. They will also work on mobilizing intellectual resources for African studies, foster policy dialogue and enhance research projects related to development.
During the conference, participants discussed several issues such as the current status of think tanks in Africa in terms of independence and the efficiency of its outputs and areas of work, the challenges and opportunities facing the think tanks and the ways to enhance opportunities for cooperation between the countries.
As Ben-Barka noted, “Sharper policy is urgently needed today,” pointing out that despite the positive trends made in Africa regarding the poverty rate, primary school enrollment and better quality services, African countries are still lagging behind in many areas.
“UNESCO’s role lies here, in building capacity for sustainable growth and in underpinning the development of knowledge in Africa. [Our] objectives are to create the conditions for the development of resilient societies that have the tools to work with change and make the most of all opportunities,” she explained.