Think Tank-University Relations in Africa

Think tanks and universities are important institutions with a key role to play in improving the lives of Africans by producing high-quality research that addresses Africa's policy challenges. The potential for think tanks and universities to contribute to development debates can be affected by the nature of their relationships with one another and/or the kinds of support provided to both types of institutions. Regional and international organizations, governments, and groups concerned with developing research and higher education capacity in Africa also influence how think tanks and universities interact.

The Partnership for African Social & Governance Research (PASGR) is undertaking a study in collaboration with IDRC's multi-funder Think Tank Initiative (TTI) to achieve a better understanding of think tank-university relations. The goal is to help inform thinking on capacity building and support, and to provide lessons for effective collaboration.

Specifically, this project will seek to:
-improve mutual understanding of organizational interests, dynamics, and priorities;
-consider examples of effective collaboration and the factors that contributed to it;
-assess the nature of competition between organizations, contributing factors, and possible mitigating actions;
-stimulate thinking and dialogue on new or better ways to interact in a country context; and,
-identify ways in which organizations can collaborate in investing in human capital to develop competent researchers.

Most African-led policy-relevant research involves researchers who work in two very different settings ? universities and think tanks. Both need support to play a role in improving the living conditions of Africans. Those who support capacity building of universities and think tanks believe that better research and skilled researchers will contribute to policies that lead to improvements in peoples' lives.

Think tanks and universities, both heterogeneous groups of institutions, have multi-faceted relationships. They can share synergies, and may in other cases be competitive or uncooperative. Differences in the nature of those relationships may occur across countries, individuals, institutions, or national contexts. Each type of organization has differences in culture, functions, and in the perceptions of governments and external funders about roles and capabilities. Differences may also occur across Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone countries. The study will explore these different relationships between African think tanks and universities, and examine how different types of capacity-building support influence them.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, February 1, 2013

End Date

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


12 months

IDRC Officer

Taylor, Peter

Total funding

CA$ 157,500


North of Sahara, South of Sahara


Think Tank Initiative

Project Leader

Darlison Kaija


Partnership for African Social and Governance Research Limited

Institution Country


Institution Website