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Rwandan think tank benefits from international rankings

Competing in international rankings has helped at least one African think tank successfully obtain more funds.

The deadline for the next round of think tank nominations closes today.

The Rwandan branch of the non-profit Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) was listed at the beginning of this year as among the top 20 best new think tanks in the world.

The rankings were released as part of the fourth Global Go-To Think Tank Index Rankings, compiled in 2010.

Antonia Mutoro, the executive director for IPAR Rwanda, which was begun in 2008, said this anonymous nomination did much to raise their profile.

Before they appeared in the ratings, the economics think tank “used to get an average of three small commissioned projects per year,” she said.

Since IPAR Rwanda featured in the think tank rankings, clients this year have expanded to include the Rwandan senate and the ministry of youth, sports and culture, the ActionAid Rwanda charity and Concern Worldwide, a non-governmental organisation.

“We also have a number of requests pending,” said Mutoro, who was formerly scholarships coordinator at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

“All this raised about US$ 700,000,” she estimated.

The Kigali-based think tank, with ten employees, is struggling to keep up with the growing demand for its services since its vote of approval in the international rankings.

“After the report, we are getting many clients and we sometimes have no capacity, just a few researchers, so we have to put that on hold sometimes,” Mutoro confessed.

Another positive side-effect of the recognition is that the research is making more of an impact, particularly among policymakers, she suggested.

“To influence policy you have to be trusted as an institution that can provide reliable policy options. By being recognised internationally, we demonstrated that we are credible to many potential partners,” Mutoro said.

“There are signs that our stakeholders are increasingly seeking advice, and commissioning us to do more work for them,” she said. “This of course increases funding.”

“The tax research we concluded two months ago is topical. It has stirred positive discussion between the government and the private sector. It is too early to tell, but it is likely that the government is going take some of our recommendations,” she said.

“I am certain that the think tank rankings can bring recognition by governments,” said Mutoro.

ActionAid Rwanda commissioned the tax research, which is entitled the Impact of Tax Incentives in East Africa: Rwanda Case Study. The study was directed by IPAR Rwanda lead researcher Pamela Abbott, with peer review done by Dixon Malinda and Serge Masana.

The research by IPAR, which was released in June this year, said Rwandan government could increase its revenue by 14 percent if it relaxed some of the tax exemptions and concessions given to businesses.

The IPAR Rwanda research team leaders were Florence Batoni, Roger Mugisha and Paul Kayir, while the research assistants were Marklin Rucogoza, Mansur Kakimba, Jackson Ruhigula, Suzan Mutavu and Adelite Murindangwe.

IPAR Rwanda was one of just three African organisations in the top twenty for new think tanks this year.

The others were Nigeria’s African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), run by human rights activist Otive Igbuzor, and Morocco’s interfaith Casablanca Institute.

Nominations for the fifth edition of the survey have to be in today, 15 August 2011. The call for nominations was sent from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the USA to 6,500 think tanks and approximately 3,500 journalists, public and private donors and policy-makers from around the world.

These nominations will be tabulated and institutes with five or more nominations will be included in the next step of the 2011 think tank rankings process.