The Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Canada’s International Development Research Centre announced in May a $90 million effort to bolster think-tanks in poor countries. The so-called think-tank initiative aims to provide governments and philanthropies with research and policy recommendations that are based on the needs of poor countries. Gates and Hewlett are each giving $40 million, while the IDRC is providing the other $10 million. A $30 million first instalment of grants has been awarded to 24 think-tanks in Africa focusing on economics, technology, social and environmental policy, in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia and Senegal. Four think-tanks were funded in Kenya and Nigeria and three in Tanzania. Next month, the partners expect to ask organizations in Latin America and South Asia to apply for the remaining two-thirds of the grant money. Mark Suzman, director of policy and advocacy for the Gates Foundation’s global development programme, spoke of the paucity of information in some countries of ‘things we take for granted … What is the real distribution of poverty, what are the regions where things are working well or not? Often they just don’t have that information at hand.’ Grants to the African think-tanks range from $434,000 to $2.08 million, reflecting the diversity of the grantees, some of which are only a year old, while others have existed for decades.
Seattle Times, 12 May 2009