RESEARCH WITH IMPACT

Sparking Dialogues that Make a Difference

“We want to give East Africans from all backgrounds a voice, and get everyone thinking about how we can work toward common goals.”

AKU’s new Nairobi-based East African Institute launched its first major project in 2014, aiming to help the region deal with issues related to youth, urbanization, urban food systems, economic growth and inequality and the oil, gas and mining industries by fostering evidence-based and inclusive dialogue.

Supported by funding from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation Canada and Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the Institute’s Dialogue Series kicked off with a focus on you​ng people ages 18 to 35 – a critical area given East Africa’s exceptionally large youth population.

First, EAI commissioned a survey of young people in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Then it gathered 200 young people involved with youth initiatives and organizations from across the region to discuss the findings. Next, the Institute plans to release the data to the public and organize discussion forums in each country, followed by a dialogue with regional policymakers and experts in the capital of the East African Community, Arusha, Tanzania.

“Our goal is to develop and distribute data and evidence and stimulate productive conversations,” said EAI Director Alex Awiti. “We want to give East Africans from all backgrounds a voice, and get everyone thinking about how we can work toward common goals.”

In the case of urbanization, the Institute will investigate how community-level perspectives on issues such as security and waste removal can inform higher-level planning. In tackling the question of how East Africa can avoid the so-called “resource curse,” the Institute is working with both the extractive industry and with residents of Kenya’s oil-rich Turkana region.

And as it investigates ways to reduce hunger in East Africa’s booming cities, the Institute is collecting evidence on food prices, accessibility and quality in Nairobi, and advising the county government on fostering agricultural activity within city limits.

“The East African Institute can be a thought leader in East Africa,” Awiti said. “This is just the first step.”