Think tanks in sub-Saharan Africa: how the political landscape has influenced their origins

Research reports and studies
December 2011
Mwangi S. Kimenyi and Ajoy Datta


Building on research on think-tanks and political parties in Latin America , ODI’s Research and Policy in Development (RAPID) programme set out to investigate the relationship between think-tanks and politics in other regions. This has yielded two papers to date, one on think-tanks in East Asia (Nachiappan et al, 2010) and another on Bolivia (Bueno and Datta, 2011), particularly in the context of Evo Morales’ rise to power.

This paper explores the relationship between think-tanks and politics in sub-Saharan Africa. It tests the hypothesis that different types of think-tanks existed in the region before so-called ‘independent’ US-style think-tanks emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, and that the character and activities of these, as well as the types of knowledge they produce, have been influenced primarily by the prevailing political environment.

This report tries to capture the broad political context across sub-Saharan Africa over the past five decades and assess what impact, if any, this has had on the origin and development of think-tanks.