Globalization in general and regional integration in particular raises the need for regional economic policy analysis. Countries in the region have well-established policy research institutions that contribute substantially to national policy making.
However, when it comes to regional issues potential clients often continue to use foreign consultants instead of local consultants because of various reasons. The capacity of local consultants to conduct larger regional studies is often limited and regional networks to build on and to link up with were missing. Regional co-operation between research institutions was of a sporadic nature rather than formalized.
Realizing this, six institutions from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia founded the Southern and Eastern Africa Policy Research Network (SEAPREN) in November 1999, which was officially launched in 2000.
In addition, the network was joined in November 2001 by a Kenyan institution. The main objective was to enhance capacity for shaping policy via analysis in these regions through and among others by exchanging best practices, building on those best practices and optimizing the prioritized employment of local experts that often find their skills underutilized and sometimes finding themselves surviving without employment, while at the same time more adept for the local research in demand.
Eventually, this should strengthen the use of regional research and consultancy capacities for region-wide policy analysis.
The active promotion of the network on international, regional and national levels will increase the demand for local research resources. Instead of looking for and contacting various local institutions in the region potential clients will benefit from the existence of a network secretariat that provides information, arranges contacts and co-ordinates regional research activities.
Finally, the network will benefit regional policy analysis since researchers with in-depth knowledge of the local and regional situation are available and potentially more utilized. This is of course made simpler by using the internet, which enables researchers to access information irrespective of their current location. For example although many websites and sources of information can be accessed online they may be restricted to people in specific locations. However by using proxies and VPNs researchers can bypass these blocks much like this web page explains – how to watch BBC iPlayer Ireland. This technique allows anyone to switch their ‘virtual location’ by changing their IP address by routing through a proxy server.
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