Penn staff and students are organizing the first-ever think tank summit in Africa.
Penn International Relations’ Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, directed by James McGann, is working with student interns to bring representatives from African think tanks together for the first time. The three-day conference will take place in Pretoria, South Africa between Feb. 3 and Feb. 5.
The African summit is one of several conferences TTCSP is organizing around the world and follows a Middle Eastern and North African summit, which was held in Istanbul in December.
While TTCSP had expected 40 or 50 think tanks to register for the conference, McGann said that currently 71 organizations have decided to attend. He added that this “overwhelming” interest means the summit will almost definitely become a yearly event.
The summit will consist of panel presentations and round-table discussions under the working title “Think Tanks and the Transformation of Africa.” TTCSP’s Global Summit Intern Coordinator Erin McCabe, a graduate student in the School of Social Policy & Practice, said the role of TTCSP at the summit will be that of “a neutral party but also an authoritative voice.”
The organization aims to help unlock the potential in Africa’s diversity by “fortifying the think tanks” so they can have “fertile resources to stay alive and stay active,” she said.
The just-released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings says that there are 1,123 think tanks in Africa (including the non-African Middle East). The Middle East and North Africa have 16.46% of the world's total think tanks. North America and Europe have nearly 60% of the world's think tanks. With 88 think tanks, South Africa has the largest number of think tanks in Africa.