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The 2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Survey report has adjudged the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) as the leading think tank in sub Saharan Africa for the fourth consecutive year.

The SAIIA is ranked 45 in the worldwide Top 100 Think Tanks ? excluding the USA, occupies 81 position in the Top 150 Think Tanks ? worldwide including the USA, as well as ranked 43 in the Top 70 Security and International Affairs Think Tanks (the top African think tank in this category), and ranked 26 in the Top 80 International Development Think Tanks (the top African think tank in this category), among others.

Think tank is a public policy research, analysis and engagement organization tasked to generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues for governments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society, as well as engage policymakers, the media and the public on key policy issues.

The other institutes, which complete the top five think tanks in sub Saharan Africa, all South African institutes, are Institute for Security Studies (South Africa); African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) (South Africa); Africa Institute of South Africa (South Africa) and Africa Institute of South Africa (South Africa).

The annual survey is conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in the United States and is the most comprehensive ranking of the world?s top think tanks.? It covers 6603 think tanks across the world of which 554 are in sub Saharan Africa.? It is based on a global peer and expert survey of 1900 scholars, policy-makers, journalists, and regional and area experts from 120 countries.

The 2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Survey focused on substantive challenges that confront think tanks globally, especially in relation to dramatic changes in funding patterns, increased competition, assessing output versus impact, the growing importance of the internet and social media, and a greater emphasis on marketing strategies to promote the work of think tanks.

Ghana?s IMANI Center for Policy and Education is the only organisation in the top ten, occupying the eighth position. Center for Policy Analysis (11), Centre for Democratic Development (13), Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) (21), Centre for Development Studies (34), Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (35), Justice and Human Rights Institute (41), and Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC), occupies the last position of 50, according to the report.

The five worldwide top think tanks, excluding United States of America, are Chatham House (United Kingdom); Bruegel (Belgium); Stockholm, International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (Sweden); Amnesty International (United Kingdom) and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

However, the top five global think tanks, with the USA inclusive, are Brookings Institution (United States); Chatham House (United Kingdom); Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (United States); Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (Sweden);? as well as Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

SAIIA Chief Executive, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos paid tribute to her team for the quality, dedication and exceptional work ethic that has made this accolade possible, often under difficult external circumstances, as highlighted by the survey.

?At the interface between policy makers and academia, think tanks can fulfil a significant function of providing policy-grounded analysis and alternative perspectives to enrich the policy debate. The survey shows that the think tank community in South Africa is diverse and of a high quality. We are proud to be part of it and to see sister institutes from South Africa fare so well in the global rankings?, she says.

The survey editor, Dr Jim McGann, in his conclusion to the Global Go To Think Tanks Survey Report, states that ?gone are the days when a think tank could operate with the motto of ?research it, write it, and they will find it.? Today think tanks must be lean, mean policy machines??.

?New technologies are being developed every day and at an accelerated pace that will continually force think tanks to identify new and faster ways to collect, sort and analyze data and then communicate their findings to a highly segmented target audience using a variety of communication tools. This has certainly been our experience and we will continually look at innovative ways to ensure that our research findings reach you as a key audience timeously and in a user-friendly format??, he added.

By Samuel Hinneh

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