An elite university in the United States has ranked the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) as the best think tank in Southern Africa and the third best in Africa. Claiming the top spot is the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa of Senegal followed by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis.
In both regional and continental rankings, BIDPA beat better resourced South African think tanks like the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, the South African Institute of International Affairs, the Institute for Security Studies and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network. In terms of domestic economic policy, BIDPA gets position seven in Africa and 85th in the world. That is not too bad considering that it scored higher than think tanks in Japan, US, China, Canada and Denmark. On the “Think Tank to Watch in 2017” list, BIDPA occupies position 48 out of 97 think tanks.
Another Botswana think tank (that some people may not be familiar with) also performed very well in terms of environment policy. The Centre for Applied Research (CAR), whose offices are in the new Gaborone CBD, is ranked the third best in Africa after the Centre for Population and Environmental Development of Nigeria and the African Centre for Technology Studies of Kenya. Globally, CAR is ranked the 50th top environment policy think tank among 95 such think tanks. Considering some of the names below it (Program on Energy and Sustainable Development in the US, the Environment for Development Initiative in Sweden, Global Development Research Center in Japan as well as the Adam Smith Institute and Oxford Institute for Energy Studies in the United Kingdom) this is an impressive feat. Established in 2000, CAR has carried out over 100 projects of different sizes and at different locations, mostly in Southern Africa. Last year it developed a tourism plan for Shashe Dam on behalf of the Botswana Tourism Organisation. On its website, the Centre says that it has had to suspend an EIA for a soda ash plant in Ethiopia due to “instability in the area.”
The nomination and ranking criteria include such factors as the quality and commitment of the think tank’s leadership, the quality and reputation of the think tank’s staff, the quality and reputation of the research and analysis produced, ability to recruit and retain elite scholars and analysts, academic performance and reputation, impact of a think-tank’s research and programmes on policymakers and other policy actors, reputation with policymakers, ability to produce new knowledge, innovative policy proposals or alternative ideas on policy, website and digital presence as well as impact on society.
The ranking is done by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program of the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. The latter is an elite (Ivy League) university and is the alma mater of both US president, Donald Trump, and the president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy, Ndaba Gaolathe. From his public intellectualism, Gaolathe learnt a lot at that university while Trump – who says the state can never go broke because it can always print more money, clearly didn’t. The Institute developed the global index of think tanks 10 years ago “to identify and recognize centres of excellence in all the major areas of public policy research and in every region of the world.”