AfriHeritage Calls for Government Support to Think-Tanks
Stakeholders have called on the government and other well spirited individuals and corporate organizations to appreciate the work of Think-Tanks and to show support by making available funds to keep their works going. Speaking at a forum on Why Think-Tanks Matter with the theme: Think-Tanks and Policy Advice, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, Executive Director of the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), whose Institution organized the problem, lamented the lack of adequate support to think tanks in Nigeria inspite of critical roles being played by these organizations in ensuring good governance and sound development of the society.
Professor Okeke-Uzodike who identified some of the critical functions of Think-Tanks to include acting as catalysts for change and effective evidence-based policy decisions; incubating and sharing ideas and driving development issues for transformative change; using evidence to suggest policy alternatives and innovations, and many other functions. He however decried the fact that in many other countries, including some African countries, Think-Tanks enjoy not only appreciable support from the government and organized private sector through statutory funding opportunities, but also have the opportunity of being consulted before important decisions/policies of government are made.
“Sadly, Think Tanks are especially vulnerable in Africa where many governments often see them as enemies. In fact, many governments (including here in Nigeria) are challenging the autonomy of independent think tanks”. The Executive Director however, acknowledged the emerging difficulties most think-tanks all over the world are facing, as they include: – changes in attitudes from policymakers (often overwhelmed by growing demands and expectations from rising populations and more aggressive constituencies); exponential increase in the number of think tanks which has created greater competition and narrowed opportunities for funding; increased demands by funders for short-term and project-specific funding, accountability, and evidence of impact, etc. According to him, this has resulted into “an environment of uncertainty and public frustrations which has served to increase question marks about the historical role and usefulness of Think Tanks as change drivers and protectors of the public interest and conscience”.
In his contribution, one of the panelist at the event the Regional Coordinator of DFID in the South-east and South-south regions of Nigeria, Dr. Olachi Chuks-Ronnie, charged Think-tanks to improve themselves in the area of data collection and storage as this quite crucial in giving credibility to the work of think-tanks. She pointed out that given the lack of credible statistics in policy planning and formulation in Nigeria, it beholds on think-tanks to fill-in this gap and increase their relevance in the value chain of governance. She decried the lack of sincerity on the part of think-tanks institutions in preparing financial reports for donor agencies. She opined that the society is a dynamic one and thus requires frequency of data collection and update in order to make relevant and informed suggestions for policies in the country. She also pointed out the use of special advisers in place of think tanks in government which results in the “fire-brigade” approach often used to combat situations in the country.
On the issue of expectations from Thin-Tanks, another panelist, Dr. Chiwuike Uba noted that think tank institutions are presently demand-driven instead of supply-driven which mitigates its position in strengthening policy advocacy. According to him, think tanks are “universities without students” as such should be non-partisan to the government to enable think tanks advocate effectively until changes occur. He noted that think tanks should be innovative, competitive, educate and inspire policy makers, monitor government programmes, promote strategies on how to deal with pressing issues and above all, provide credible research. He suggested that AfriHeritage Institution should hold a stakeholders meeting involving the media, post short videos on social media and make recommendations to government on crucial issues.
Other contributors at the event while admonishing Think-tanks not to be weary in helping the government by influencing evidence-based policy making, also called for a tacit support from the government to independent thin-tanks as a way of helping to ensure their sustainability and functionality. The event which was moderated by Uche Gabriel (UC De MC), was well attended by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), research institutions, members of the academia and the media