“Think Tanks in Africa: Catalysts for Ideas and Action” by Dr. Frannie Léautier

26 March 2014
SERIES African Executive Directors 12 items

[Editor’s note: This is the third post in a series of reflections on the think tanks’ Summit help in Pretoria in February 2014. Peter da Costa focuses this time on Dr. Frannie Léautier‘s presentation. The first post can be read here and the second one here]

Dr. Frannie Léautier, former Executive Secretary of ACBF who now runs Mkoba, a private equity firm, is among the smartest analysts of African think tanking, and she never disappoints. By the way, she sees value in McGann’s index, arguing that it raises visibility. She pointed to a specific example – the Index put ACBF on the map with major funders, precisely because ACBF-funded think tanks have steadily risen up the rankings in successive years.

Frannie delivered an excellent presentation on the final day titled ‘Think Tanks in Africa: Catalysts for Ideas and Action’. Here are some of the highlights, culled from my scribbled notes and then tweeted:

  • There are four types of think tanks in Africa: Mediators, Trusted Advisors, Transformers, and Independent Thinkers;
  • She laid out an African think tank change model – from ‘inside-out’ to ‘outside-in’;
  • She drew on detailed data from the independent ACBF evaluation to provide lessons for successful think tanking in Africa;
  • Lessons learned relate to: concentration, autonomy, patience, local knowledge, space for change, and on-the-job training;
  • Emerging challenges include autonomy, independence, competition, shifting aid paradigm, results versus impact debate;
  • Alluding to the obsession with results, she said: “If ACBF wanted immediate impact it would never have invested in think tanks for more than 20 years!”; and
  • African think tanks need to be more relevant to the African business reality if they are to be sustainable. Given the huge pent-up demand for capital, think tanks should do more research on SMEs and private equity.

I highly recommend you read the full presentation, and follow Frannie on Twitter.