Prof Ezra Suruma, the former finance minister, said the government has to come in and fund their research. He said this can be done through the creation of an independent body or panel that can distribute these funds to several think tanks such that they aren’t biased.
government has been asked to actively fund activities of local think tanks as
their dependence on foreign funders could be affecting the kind of research
Think tanks are organizations staffed with experts providing advice and ideas
on specific political or economic problems.
Prof Ezra Suruma, the former finance minister, said the government has to come
in and fund their research. He said this can be done through the creation of an
independent body or panel that can distribute these funds to several think
tanks such that they aren’t biased.
//Cue in: “In the case of Uganda…
Cue out: … our interests.”//
Suruma was on Saturday discussing the paper by James Magara, the director of
Castle Think, a think tank, on the importance of think tanks in the policy
system in the country.
The call comes at a time when there is expected squeeze in the money that comes
into the country to fund such things as research at different local think
tanks. This is mainly due to COVID-19 that has hit most funding agencies and
countries’ economies. These may not prioritize funding in foreign lands like
Magara said most think tanks in Uganda depended on foreign funding and most
were likely to churn out research that reflects the views of the foreign
funders and not what is on the ground and what the country needs.
Think Tanks make research that informs policy. They also generate knowledge
that can be used for various purposes, including to determine whether
particular government policies are have having intended impact or not.
Prominent think tanks researching in Uganda include Makerere Institute for
Social Research (MSIR), Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), and Advocates
Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) among others.
Most of these get funding from donors. EPRC gets 75% funding from the government,
according to its leader Dr Sarah Ssewanyana.
Ssewanyana said think tanks were critical in the entire knowledge system and
must be supported to do their work. She also said think tanks needed to up
their communication of research so that it doesn’t gather dust when so much
money has been spent to generate it.
She said a lot of institutions were seating on heaps of research that they
don’t how to communicate these studies.
Dr John Muvwawala, the Executive Director of National Planning Authority (NPA),
said the government was weak at financing think tanks and on those “we like are
financed” which needs to change.
He said as NPA, their role was more of a synthesizer of think tanks in the
country. And that they should be able to take critical information into