CLEAR-FA Hosts Event on Strengthening National Evaluation Systems Within the Context of the African Principles of Evaluation
On January 18, 2007, a special session was held during the fourth conference of the African Evaluation Association in Niamey, Niger, to discuss the theme "Owning Evaluation: Strengthening the Foundations for Monitoring and Evaluation Rooted and Led by Africa.” This conference aimed to stimulate debate on how monitoring and evaluation can be led and owned by Africa.
South-South cooperation in evaluation opens up new possibilities for innovation and new discourses on development and evaluation in Africa. However, the concept of “Made in Africa” evaluation is vague to most, and some outright reject the idea that evaluation in Africa is, or should be, different from anywhere else in the world.
In light of this, the African Evaluation Association developed the African Evaluation Principles (EAPs). They are to be used by individuals, organizations, and coalitions that fund, commission, manage, conduct, and teach evaluation in Africa. All stakeholders who have a stake in advancing evaluation in Africa have a responsibility to ensure that the principles are widely applied.
The 2021 EAPs were developed between 2019 and 2021 under the auspices of the African Evaluation Association by a group of over 30 representatives of Voluntary Organizations for the Professionalization of Evaluation (VOPEs) and volunteers from across Africa.
As part of gLOCAL 2023, CLEAR-FA held an online discussion panel to assess the state of knowledge and the implementation of these principles in French-speaking African countries, approximately one year after the principles were launched during the March 2022 AfrEA conference. Beyond a simple inventory, the panel took a critical look at EAPs and their integration into national evaluation systems with examples from Niger, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivoire. This event was a reflection of the theme of the 2023 gLOCAL Evaluation Week: “The Future of M&E: Culture, Context, and Collaboration.”
Summary of Discussion:
In 2021, the African Evaluation Principles were formalized to reflect the new demands on evaluation as contexts changed and opportunities emerged. Five principles have been developed to provide a guiding framework for good evaluation practice in Africa:
- Evaluation empowers Africans;
- Evaluation is technically robust;
- Evaluation is ethically sound;
- Evaluation is rooted in Africa, but encourages new ways of thinking and working worldwide;
- The evaluation shows the connectivity of the world, with a particular focus on where humanity's footprint calls for new ideas and knowledge for change and transformation.
However, some countries in French-speaking Africa face challenges in appropriating EAPs in project, policy, and program evaluations. The growing demand for evaluation is often hampered by the lack of qualified expertise and appropriate training. Producing high-quality evaluations that are useful for decision-making remains a major challenge. In some cases, the results of evaluations are poorly disseminated and not used in the decision-making chain of the state and local authorities.
In Cameroon, Niger, and Côte d'Ivoire, despite these challenges, we can observe a promotion of evaluation and integration of EAPs. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, Initiative Ivoirienne pour l’Evaluation (2IEval), which is a VOPE, supported the Ministry of Planning and Development in drawing up the national guide for the evaluation of policies, programs, and projects in 2021; participated in the validation of the National Evaluation Policy; and, helped to organize the 9th biennial conference of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), held in Abidjan in 2019.
To make the “Made in Africa” evaluation culture even more deeply rooted in the practices of M&E stakeholders, the following recommendations were made:
- Evaluation requires responsible practice. Evaluation is intended to be used. It can affect the lives of millions of people and the ecosystems on which they depend. Funding, commissioning, carrying out, or using evaluations in Africa is therefore a task of great responsibility - particularly in the presence of vulnerable economies, evolving institutions, or the diversity of worldviews, experiences, and traditions in African societies.
- Africa is part of an interconnected world. The world connects the local to the global; humanity to natural ecosystems; the rich and the poor; the economic, the socio-cultural, the technological, and the environmental. Challenges and their solutions are complex and influenced by factors that transcend the geographical, sectoral, and demographic boundaries of stakeholders. This means that evaluation cannot be considered and carried out independently of the systems that are influenced by intervention - or independently of the urgent challenges we all face. As responsible global citizens, we must honor what is important to the global community and for the stewardship of our beautiful planet.
- African evaluation must be part of the solutions the world needs today. Evaluation has the power to help accelerate change and support transformative development. The global evaluation community must therefore act to address issues from within and beyond borders - in an era defined by the Anthropocene, growing global upheaval, and rising inequalities and geopolitical tensions. This is particularly important for Africa. Knowledge from the continent can complement and enrich evaluation theory and practice worldwide.
- Evaluation in, and for Africa, must be rooted in Africa. The African evaluation community must contribute to the theory and practice of evaluation, in ways that benefit all, while drawing on experience from other parts of the world. In the process, African knowledge systems must be strengthened, revitalized, and respected. At the same time, valuation in and for Africa must build on international, regional, national, and local agreements, policies, and efforts to advance the well-being of African societies and ecosystems.
- New perspectives and partnerships are essential. For decades, North-South cooperation has determined the priorities and direction of evaluation in Africa. South-South and triangular cooperation aimed at development in economically poorer countries encourages new ways of thinking and working, based on a different set of principles, development models, and support modalities. South-South cooperation in evaluation thus also opens up new possibilities for innovation and new discourses on development and evaluation.
Image by Vincent Tremeau / World Bank Flickr