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SAIIA ranked best think tank in sub-Saharan Africa for third consecutive year


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For the third successive year, the South African Institute of International Affairs has been voted the leading think tank in sub-Saharan Africa in the Global Go To Think Tanks Ratings for 2011.

In addition to this award, SAIIA has been rated by its international peers in the following global categories:


• Top 50 Security and International Affairs Think Tanks
• Top 30 International Development Think Tanks
• Top 50 Think Tanks with the greatest Impact on Public Policy Globally
• Top 30 Think Tanks with the Best Use of the Media to Communicate Programmes and Research

This 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 is based on a global peer and expert survey of close to 1500 scholars, policymakers, journalists, and regional and area experts. Some of the key criteria for selection are: media profile and reputation, access to and reputation among policymakers, quality of research output, and success in generating innovative policy ideas and programmes. The impact of the work of the think tank, as indicated by its recommendations having been considered or adopted by policymakers and civil society organisations is also of key importance.


“In an environment characterised by unprecedented global and regional challenges, and a shifting normative and geopolitical landscape, the work of think tanks is more crucial than ever”, says SAIIA’s National Director Elizabeth Sidiropoulos.

”SAIIA’s mission is to make a positive contribution to policy discourse and formulation in South Africa and beyond. It is extremely rewarding that our peers have recognised our work in this manner. This accolade is a credit to our dedicated staff and to our partners, donors and members who support us and make an invaluable intellectual and financial contribution to our mission.”

This year’s survey highlighted the increasing role and prominence of think tanks based in the G20 countries that are not part of the G7. It concluded that “many of the global economic solutions discussed in G20 meetings draw upon research done by these organisations [non G7 think tanks], in addition to research conducted by the group’s members.”

The survey report added that the most significant trend within the G20 focus was in the BRICS nations where the number of think tanks increased by 100% in the period 2008 to 2011, namely from 419 to 985. China and India now have the second and third highest number of think tanks in the world. South Africa, with 85 think tanks, is 12th in the world and has six of the top 10 ranked think tanks in sub-Saharan Africa.

The survey again pointed to the critical role of think tanks throughout the world and especially in developing countries where governments often lack capacity, and where a vibrant and independent think tank community can provide valuable support. This can be both in bridging the ‘operational gap’ - policymakers’ lack of access to the information and tools needed to respond to contemporary issues - and the ‘participatory gap’ - the self-perception of individuals and private organisations as excluded from policymaking.

The author of the Global Go To Think Tanks Survey Report, Dr Jim McGann concludes that “Though think tanks are just one of a wide variety of groups of civil society actors, they have in many ways become the representatives of civil society in global policymaking.”

You can access the full survey report at or download it in PDF format here.


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