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Partners Pledge $30 Million to Strengthen African Think Tanks to Inform Development Policy - Bill & Melinda Gates

24 African think tanks selected for new initiative that will support locally created development policies and drive positive change for millions of people

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé
Phone: +1-613 696-2343

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

DAKAR, Senegal – Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the 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 US$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 US$10 million, while the Hewlett Foundation has committed US$40 million and the Gates Foundation has committed US$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 policymakers 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.

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.

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

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