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Education, research, and innovation are important drivers of regional development and integration. They serve as key pillars that empower individuals, foster economic growth, and facilitate cooperation among nations. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) recognizes the importance of these pillars and by prioritizing them through engagement with regional centres of excellence and centres of specialization, SADC demonstrates its commitment to building a knowledge-based society that can effectively respond to regional challenges and maximize opportunities. The community understands that these pillars are not only essential for individual development but also serve as catalysts for sustainable economic growth, social progress, and regional integration. Through its efforts, SADC aims to create a vibrant and prosperous Southern Africa, where education, research, and innovation are at the forefront of regional development and integration. The meeting of Think Tanks, like a constellation of brilliant stars, illuminates the path towards achieving this.

The meeting which was held at Johannesburg, South Africa on 31st May – 2nd June 2023 was a fertile ground where seeds of innovation, collaboration, and transformative change are sown. In this symphony of ideas, policymakers, researchers, and visionaries harmonize their voices, engaging in intellectual discourse that transcends borders and embraces ingenuity and diversity. From the corridors of academia to the chambers of decision-making, the information and insights generated at this meeting is meant to permeate the fabric of the SADC region in order to achieve the goals of education, research, and innovation.

ANAPRI (Africa Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes), a beacon of academic excellence and technical expertise within the realm of agricultural policy research in Africa, was duly represented by Dr. Nalishebo Meebelo, Executive Director at the Secretariat during this meeting on think tanks. With her presence, ANAPRI’s rich knowledge and experience were seamlessly woven into the discussions, illuminating pathways for research, collaboration, and evidence-based policymaking. Also present at the meeting were SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration; Ms Angele Matombo N’tumba, Africa Director for Alliance for African Partnership (AAP); Prof Richard Mkandawire, Dr Barassou Diawara from the African Union’s Africa Capacity Building Foundation, Co- Director UP Center of Excellence in Food Security); Prof Liza Korsten, Dr Deon Cloete (SAIIA), and Dr. William Chadza from MwAPATA Institute & ANAPRI (Malawi), among others. 

Regional centres of excellence and centres of specialization serve as hubs of knowledge and expertise, fostering collaboration and sharing of best practices that can boost the socio-economic development of the SADC region. By strengthening the partnership between SADC and these institutions, the region can harness their potential to address critical regional challenges and achieve sustainable development goals. By leveraging the skills, knowledge and expertise of regional centres of excellence and centres of specialization, SADC member states can enhance their human capital and technical capacity, leading to improved socioeconomic outcomes.