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Celebrating twenty years of ACBFs support to capacity development in Tanzania

02 Mar, 2014

Economic and Social Research Foundation, Tanzania

Among the 15 think tanks in Tanzania, the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) stands out. Since its creation some 20 years ago, it has been playing a catalytic role in the country’s socio-economic reforms. Little wonder it was ranked as one of the top 30 think tanks in Africa in a study done by the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. With the active support of ACBF over the past 20 years, ESRF has been able to undertake core research for the public and private sector, civil society organizations, Parliament and the East African Community’s secretariat. It also carries out commissioned studies for international organizations like the World Bank, the AfDB and the UN agencies.

The primary objective of ESRF is to strengthen capabilities in policy analysis and decision making through research and strategic thinking. ESRF has successfully put in place a team of qualified professional staff and has created a favorable environment for discussing economic and social development issues. This was made possible through a partnership between policy makers and practitioners on the one hand and the research community on the other.  Around its core function of conducting research, ESRF articulates and facilitates policy dialogues, conducts trainings and extends short term advisory services in the form of commissioned studies, consultancies, as well as through membership of various task forces and government commissions.

The Foundation has undertaken extensive analytical work on social economic assessment, education, health, water, agriculture, poverty trends, pro-poor growth and chronic poverty, to name a few.  To a larger extent, these studies informed the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP) or MKUKUTA Review process as it is called in the local language. It is also acknowledged by key stakeholders as an instrumental institution in capacity building for economic policy analysis. Beneficiaries of its capacity development programmes cut across a broad spectrum - public, the NGO community, civil society and private sector organizations. 

Participation in policy reviews, policy discussion workshops and policy seminar dialogues has been the most popular activity of ESRF.  Amongst highly rated results of policy reviews it helped to facilitate are the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, the Development Vision 2020 for Zanzibar Islands, the Mining Policy, the Investment Policy, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the Rural Development Policy and the Rural Development Strategy.

ESRF is the manager of the Tanzania Development Gateway - an internet portal that provides online networking with about 6,000 visits per day, and Tanzania Online - a gateway to information on development issues with more than 32,000 visits per day.  It is also hosting the Tanzania Knowledge Network (TAKNET) – a forum that provides opportunities to professionals to network, share and exchange experiences and knowledge with about 500 registered members.  The ESRF library, together with information technology, provides an adequate backbone for a stronger national and regional Knowledge Management Centre (KMC) in the areas of policy analysis and development management. It is also worth pointing out that ESRF was first assigned by the government of Tanzania in 2000 to lead the process of preparing Tanzania’s National Development Vision 2025.

Between 2010 and 2011, which was about 10 years after ESRF prepared the Vision 2025 document, it was again picked by the Planning Commission in the President’s Office to review the status of implementation of the Vision and to identify new or emerging issues – such as the global financial crisis, fuel prices, competition between bio-fuels and food crops production, climate change,  alternative energy sources, urbanization, exploration and mining of natural gas and iron ore and uranium --  to be addressed in fulfilling the stipulated goals.

The institution has also been involved in continental studies. Two of such projects are the Economic Transformation of African countries: the case of Tanzania, which it executed in collaboration with the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) of Ghana, and regional studies such as the East African Community (EAC) regional integration studies which it carried out in collaboration with think tanks in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Among its key publications are research working and discussion papers.  Others include the Tanzania Political Economy series, the Quarterly Economic Review (QER), ESRF Newsletter and the ESRF annual reports.  Some other ESRF research outputs are published in non-ESRF sources such as through the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Southern and Eastern Africa Policy Research Network (SEAPREN), the Consumer Unit and Trust Society (CUTS) and a number of referred journals.

Although ESRF is considered to be a matured think tank, its major constraint still remains inadequate funding. Although it receives a fee for some of these activities, the income generated is insignificant in comparison to its needs. Over the past 20 years, ACBF has approved a total grant of USD 11 million to support the institution, ensuring it of long term investment to enable it continue rendering valuable services to the country and the region. It requires all the assistance it can get to remain relevant.

About ESRF Project

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Thomas Kwesi Quartey

ACBF has been granted the status of a specialized agency because of the potential to transform Africa through capacity development.

H.E. Thomas Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, AU Commission
Erastus Mwencha

The recognition of ACBF as the African Union’s Specialized Agency for Capacity Development launches the beginning of a new era for capacity building by ACBF, which will require an appropriate level of political commitment and financial support from all stakeholders.

H.E. Erastus Mwencha, Chair, ACBF Executive Board
Lamin Momodou

The remarkable achievements ACBF has registered over the past 26 years is not by accident in our opinion. They have come through hard work, dedication, commitment, purposeful leadership, support from the member countries as well as productive partnership building.

Mr. Lamin Momodou MANNEH, Director, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa
Goodall Gondwe

Africa needs ACBF as much, probably more now, than at the time it was created in 1991.

Hon. Goodall Gondwe, former Chair of the ACBF Board of Governors and Minister of Finance – Malawi
Ken Ofori Atta

Ghana’s partnership with ACBF is a tremendous blessing for us and therefore the opportunity for Ghana to host the 26th ACBF Board of Governors Meeting is something that we treasure.

Hon Ken Ofori Atta, Chair of the ACBF Board of Governors and Minister of Finance - Ghana