• The 2014 African
    Think Tanks Summit

    A Conference on the Role of Think Tanks in Transforming Africa

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    3-5 February 2014 Pretoria, South Africa

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About the Conference

Three Days of Presentations,
Panels, and Networking

The 2014 African Think Tank Summit will be held in Pretoria, South Africa, February 3-5

The conference will facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing among African think tanks and connect think tanks with policymakers from throughout the continent.

The Vision

Think tanks can play a critical role in this process by serving as catalyst for ideas and action on key policy issues and bridging the gap between knowledge and policy and governments and civil society. For these reasons the first Africa Think Tank Summit is organized around the theme of “The Role of Think Tanks in Transforming Africa.”


The idea behind organizing the first ever meeting of African think tanks emerged at the from the successful execution of the G20 Think Tank Conference held in Philadelphia in June of 2012. The meeting outlined the role of foreign policy and security think tanks in support of G20 governments in the management of global transformations.


This Summit will be feature in a multi-format conference design that will provide for peer-to-peer exchange of best practices in think tank management and policy development as well as expert panel and individual lecture series. The objective of the peer-to-peer exchange is to provide a space for representatives of 50 think tanks (with established track records in policy relevant research) and ten to fifteen donors who are active in the region to brainstorm, discuss innovative solutions and best practices regarding the challenges facing African think tanks and the countries they serve.

This discussion should serve to assist a wide range of groups better serve the policymakers in their home countries. While Africa faces a unique set of policy challenges, think tanks in the region face challenges similar to their counterparts in other parts of the world.


The primary objective of the conference is to mobilize and connect think tanks in Africa with those in other regions of the world. In developing opportunities to create networks, the Summit aims to increase the profile of think tanks in Africa, to reinforce the importance of think tanks in Africa and to facilitate cooperation and knowledge sharing amongst think tanks on the continent.

Another core objective of the Summit is gaining a better understanding of the organizational and policy challenges facing think tanks and policymakers in Africa. Identifying opportunities to bridge information gaps between think tanks and governmental bodies on the continent, many of whom are characterized by fledgling democracies facing substantial economic or legislative challenge will be focused on.


A main expected outcome of the conference is to gain a better understanding of the organizational and policy challenges facing think tanks and policymakers in Africa, which will facilitate identification of potential ways to bridge the information gaps between think tanks and governments throughout the region.

This is an important issue given the number of fledgling African democracies that are emerging from conflict and the growing influence in the region of major powers like China, Russia, India, Brazil and the United States who are competing for resources and power. The Summit will also address the need to develop a better understanding of the unique challenges African think tanks face; how to build their capacity to serve their countries well; and how to raise their visibility both domestically and abroad, so that they can get the recognition and funding they deserve.

Sorry, Registration for the 2014 Summit is Closed


The Summit will take place in Pretoria, from Monday, February 3rd to Wednesday, February 5th. All Summit participants are expected to arrive by Monday afternoon. The Summit will commence in the late afternoon of February 3rd with a reception, dinner and keynote address.There will be a series of panel presentations and roundtable discussions on Tuesday, February, 4th. A second keynote address is planned for Wednesday morning, followed by a working session to develop plans and recommendations based on the Summit proceedings. The Summit will conclude after lunch on Wednesday.

February 3rd

The event schedule is still subject to change. Check back here for updates.

Arrival of Participants and Check-in

Transport from Protea Hotel to Summit Venue The Irene Country Lodge


Welcoming Remarks

Summit Introduction and Overview of Schedule

Introduction of Keynote Speaker

Keynote Address:

Rising Africa: Managing the Challenges, Opportunities and Threats


February 4th

The main topic of Day II will be organizational and structural issues facing think tanks in Africa. It will consist in several panels with various think tanks executives, experts, and academics.


Keynote Address:
Global and Regional Challenges and Opportunities Facing Think Tanks

Response to Keynote

Session I (Plenary Session and Roundtable):

Enhancing African Think Tanks’ Role in Informing and Shaping Policy

Coffee Break

Session II:

Impact: What is it and How Do We Measure It?


Session IIIa:

Strategies for Effective Resource Mobilization for African Think Tanks

Session IIIb:

Increasing Communication and Networking Among Think Tanks In Africa

Session IIIc:

Effective Strategies for Engaging Policymakers, Media and the Public

Coffee break

Session IV:

What changes in the strategy, structure and staff patterns of think tanks are required to enable them to better serve the governments and civil societies in Africa?

End of Day

Dinner and Networking

February 5th

Day III will focus on a number of substantive issues. It will open with an integrative panel comprised of think tanks executives, policymakers and donors that outlines what they see as the public policy challenges facing Africa. Subsequent panels will center on economic development, security and foreign policy as well as education.

Keynote Address:
Think Tanks in Africa Catalysts for Ideas and Action

Wrap Up and Breakout Session Reports

Concluding Session: Recommendations and Next Steps

Closing Remarks

Closing Remarks


Keynote Sessions

  • Rising Africa:
    Managing the Challenges, Opportunities and Threats

    Achille Mbembe, Ph.D.

    Dr. Mbembe will provide an overview of the major economic, social and security challenges facing policymakers, think tanks and the public in Africa.

    Professor Mbembe is currently a member of the staff at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also a contributing editor of the scholarly journal Public Culture. He is also a visiting faculty member in the department of English at Duke University.

    Education Seminar

  • Global and Regional Challenges and Opportunities Facing Think Tanks

    James G. McGann, Ph.D.
    'Funmi Olonisakin, Ph.D.
    John Ahere

    Dr. James G. McGann is a member of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and founder/director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP).

    Dr. ‘Funmi Olonisakin is the founding Director of the African Leadership Centre, which aims to build the next generation of African leaders in the fields of peace, security and development. She is the Programme Director for the ALC King’s College London MSc Security, Leadership and Society and the MSc Leadership and Development.

    John Ahere is a Senior Programme Officer in the Peacemaking Unit at ACCORD. He is responsible for the development of detailed implementation plans for programmes in the Peacemaking Unit and the execution of the strategic direction of the Unit.

    HTML5 & CSS3

  • Think Tanks in Africa:
    Catalysts for Ideas and Action

    Speaker: Frannie Léautier, Ph.D.

    Dr. Léautier will examine the important role think tanks play in shaping public policy and strengthening civil society in Africa.

    Dr Léautier is the former Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF). She is currently a Partner Mkoba Private Equity in Paris. Dr. Léautier has a rich a career in the private sector and in international development. She served as Vice President of the World Bank and Head of the World Bank Institute from December 2001 to March 2007. She also served as Chief of Staff to the former President of the World Bank from 2000-2001. From 2007 – 2009, she founded and took over as Managing Partner at The Fezembat Group, a company focused on risk management and leadership development.

    Master Class

Conference Information


The Summit will take place at the enchanting African Pride Irene Country Lodge in Centurion, South Africa

The ISS staff, our regional partners African Capacity Building Foundation, and the African Leadership Center along with the staff of the TTCSP Program are working in close coordination to assure a smooth and successful conference. If at any point you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Getting Here


OR Tambo International Airport, formerly known as Johannesburg International, is the hub of South Africa’s international and domestic air travel. The airport is located 56 km from Pretoria, the Administrative capital of South Africa.

Pretoria, is located in the northern part of Gauteng Province and is popularly known as the Jacaranda City due to the thousands of Jacaranda trees planted purple flowers that bloom each spring. As the academic, scientific, and technological capital of South Africa, the city has the most highly developed technology and research sector in Africa.

Important Contacts

For general information, please contact:

Fadwa Kingsbury

For hotel and travel Information, please contact:

Marinkie Maluleke


Sipiwe Sangqu

South Africa Country Code: 27
Pretoria Area Code: 12

South African standard time is two hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +2), one hour in advance of central European winter time and seven hours in advance of United States Eastern Standard Time throughout the year.

Summit Organizers

The conference is co-sponsered by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP)at the University of Pennsylvania (USA). ISS is the Country Host and ACBF and ALC are Regional Partners. Grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Humanity United have helped make the Summit possible.

Host and Organizer

  • About

    The Institute for Security Studies is an African organisation which aims to enhance human security on the continent. It does independent and authoritative research, provides expert policy analysis and advice, and delivers practical training and technical assistance.

    The vision of the ISS is a peaceful and prosperous Africa for all its people. The mission and overall goal of the ISS is to advance human security in Africa through evidence-based policy advice, technical support and capacity building.


    The ISS was founded in 1991 as the Institute for Defence Policy by the current Executive Director, Dr. Jakkie Cilliers, together with Mr PB Mertz. In 1996, the organization was renamed the Institute for Security Studies. Reflecting on the origins of the ISS, Dr Cilliers noted in 2009 that ‘We often forget the difficult times of our past and where we come from. The idea and motivation for the ISS was born during a meeting organised by Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA) between a number of concerned South Africans and members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC, in Lusaka, Zambia in May 1990. This was a groundbreaking conference of security specialists and analysts from within and outside South Africa – the first of its kind despite the unbanning of the ANC earlier that year’. The meeting was dominated by a debate on the future of the military in a post-settlement South Africa that took place between Chris Hani, commander of MK, and Jakkie Cilliers. Several years before this meeting, Dr Cilliers had resigned from the South African Defence Force (SADF) for political reasons.

    Shortly after the May 1990 meeting, the forerunner of the ISS – the Institute for Defence Policy (IDP) – was established with offices in Midrand and a staff of three people. Dr Cilliers explains that ‘These were difficult times as South Africa was still under effective National Party apartheid rule. As former military comrades considered [Jakkie Cilliers who had been] a Lieutenant Colonel in field artillery a traitor, the phones of the IDP and its staff were tapped; we were under heavy intimidation by the Civilian Cooperation Bureau and the lives of the staff and those associated with the staff were placed in considerable danger. Ironically, IDP’s credibility was guaranteed by an MK enquiry into whether the Institute was a military front organisation, only to find out that military intelligence thought that we were an ANC front organisation’. For a non-governmental organization, working on security related issues at this time in South Africa’s history was a major challenge. Dr Cilliers explains that ‘We shouldn’t forget that at that time civil war threatened. The true transition of power in South Africa did not happen during the elections of 1994, but during the events in the then homeland of Bophuthatswana when the SADF neutralised the right wing coup that had been organised by the leader of the Freedom Front, a former chief of the SADF, General Constant Viljoen, and a band of rag-tag racist thugs (the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging). Remember that the former SADF was a formidable military force, that white South Africa was a heavily militarised society at this time of regional war and internal unrest, and that Gen Viljoen had something of a cult status amongst many Afrikaners’. Nevertheless, despite the challenges, the applied policy work of the IDP meant that the organisation played a key role in South Africa’s transition from an apartheid state to a democracy.

    After focusing on South Africa’s transition in its early years, the work of the ISS took on a regional dimension after 1996, resulting in the thriving continental organisation that it is today. The development of the ISS would not have been possible without the support of partners from South Africa and the international community. The first funds that the Institute received were from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Bonn and Anglo American and De Beers Chairman’s’ Fund. Subsequently the Hanns Seidel Foundation would become an important partner of the ISS, along with many valued local and international partners.

  • About

    The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the International Relations Program, University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world.

    The Program maintains a database and network of over 6,600 think tanks in 152 countries. Often referred to as the “think tanks’ think tank,” TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations.


    Over the last 25 years, the Program has developed and led a series of global initiatives that have helped bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environmental issues, information and society, poverty alleviation, and healthcare/global health. These international collaborative efforts are designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that improve policy making while strengthening democratic institutions and civil societies around the world.

    TTCSP works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs. TTCSP produces the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index that ranks the world’s leading think tanks in a variety of categories. This is achieved with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments around the world. TTCSP has strong relationships with leading think tanks around the world and its annual Think Tank Index is used by academics, journalists, donors and the public to locate and connect with the leading centers of public policy research around the world. TTCSP’s goal is to increase the profile and performance of think tanks and raise the public awareness of the important role think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the globe.


    Since its inception in 1989 TTCSP has focused on collecting data and conducting research on think tank trends and the role think tanks play as civil society actors in the policymaking process. In 2007 TTCSP developed and launched the global index of think tank which is designed to identify and recognize centers of excellence in all the major areas of public policy research and in every region of the world. To date TTSCP has provided technical assistance and capacity building programs in 81 countries. The TTCSP is now working to create regional and global networks of think tanks in an effort to facilitate collaboration and the production of a modest yet achievable set of global public goods. Our goal is to create lasting institutional and state-level partnerships by engaging and mobilizing think tanks that have demonstrated their ability to produce high quality policy research and shape popular and elite opinion and actions for public good.



Regional Partners

  • About

    Established in February 1991, ACBF is the outcome of collaboration between African governments and the international donor community. Its mission is to build sustainable human and institutional capacity for sustainable growth and poverty reduction in Africa.

    ACBF’s vision is for Africa to be recognized for its socio-political and economic capabilities and endowments.


    The creation of ACBF was in response to the severity of Africa’s capacity needs, and the challenge of investing in indigenous human capital and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. ACBF was also designed to serve as a coordinating mechanism for donor support to capacity building on the Continent, through the pooling of resources and common governance and reporting system. Until January 2000, ACBF interventions focused on building and strengthening capacity for macroeconomic policy analysis and development management, its initial niche in capacity building. In 2000, this focus was expanded as a result of the integration of the Partnership for Capacity Building in Africa (PACT) initiative into the Foundation’s fold. PACT aims at mobilizing greater support for capacity building in Africa. The expansion broadened the Foundation’s scope to cover the following areas:

    1. Support to projects and programs designed to strengthen the core public sector and its interface with the private sector and civil society in order to enhance their contributions to good governance, poverty reduction and sustainable development.

    2. Support to regional initiatives in the areas of training, policy analysis, applied policy research, trade policy development and negotiations as well as policy advocacy.

    3. Support for the emergence of institutional frameworks for country ownership and coordination of capacity-building activities as well as for participatory development.

    4. Knowledge generation and sharing for the transformation of the Foundation into a knowledge-based institution and to support the emergence of knowledge-based economies in Africa.

  • About

    The African Leadership Centre (ALC) was established in Kenya in June 2010 as a joint initiative of King’s College London and the University of Nairobi.

    The ALC has successfully produced a new generation of Africans and serve as a forum for transformative discourse on peace, security and development in Africa.


    The need to contribute to efforts to promote stability and peace in Africa is self-evident. The continent accounts for more than 40% of global conflicts, suffers from a perpetually weak economy and has fragile political and social infrastructures. The ALC is able to:

    • Address the problem of ‘brain drain’, where talented young people leave their states due to limited opportunity for growth;

    • Build a sound knowledge base of critical issues affecting African security and development within the youth population;

    • Provide opportunities to develop untapped talent among emerging African youth leaders and facilitate their participation in processes of national development and regional integration.


    The ALC grew out of a programme of the Conflict, Security and Development Group (CSDG) in the School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London. In 2005, King’s College London introduced the Peace and Security Fellowships for African Women as an initial step in mentoring and knowledge building for Africans.

    The Fellowship Programme is designed to expose young and mid-career professional African women to the complexities of conflict, security and development and provide them with the practical tools needed to develop policy and drive transformative change.  It has already developed a network of African women working in the field and linked them with African regional institutions. The programme has been tremendously successful with hundreds of applications received annually from African women. In 2007, CSDG developed a second programme designed to support African regional organisations – a degree awarding Fellowship programme – for young African men and women who received MA degrees from King’s in addition to a structured mentoring programme. 

    These Fellows were subsequently attached to regional organisations. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been a critical partner in this regard. A third programme, also degree-awarding, was established in 2009, which aims to develop capacity within African Universities.

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