The African Development Bank wrapped up Evaluation Week 2018 with one particular message resonating among the hundreds of participants: Close collaboration and sharing of ideas and experiences among stakeholders are key to ensuring that evaluation and learning have greater impact on the Africa’s development agenda.
Evaluation is key to measuring the progress and success of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and ensuring that learning from evidence improves development results, and the level of participation in this year’s event reflected that importance.
More than 450 evaluators, development practitioners, policy-makers, government and civil society representatives, parliamentarians, academics and students attended the 5-7 September event at the Bank’ s headquarters in Abidjan held on the theme of “Strengthening Development Impact”. Development Evaluation Week, which this year included a capacity building workshop, a knowledge café, keynotes and interactive panel discussions, is a biennial global knowledge event organized by the Bank’s Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV).
“One of the primary reasons why recommendations from evaluations are not adopted is that the beneficiaries and end users of these evaluations are not consulted in the process,” noted Girma Kumbi, Principal Evaluation Officer at IDEV, at the closing of the conference.
Foday Turay, Chief Evaluation Officer at IDEV, had set the tone for the conference on the opening day.
“This Evaluation Week is about the learning objective of evaluation in achieving greater development outcomes,” Turay told 65 participants gathered in the Knowledge Café to share ideas and experiences on how evaluations can have greater impact in Bank operations.
The Knowledge Café focused on the key question of improving stakeholder engagement within the evaluation process. Another group of 77 evaluators and experts met in a capacity-building workshop to discuss improving the understanding of gender in evaluation. Specifically they brainstormed on raising awareness on the need to generate and use sex-disaggregated indicators in measuring development impacts as they affect women and men as separate groups.
The workshop included presentations by Elena Bardasi, Senior Economist, and Gisela M. García, Evaluation Officer of the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) and Monica Lomena-Gelis, Principal Evaluation Officer of IDEV.
“Operational staff and evaluators should work together to ensure that the right indicators are included in project design to be able to capture gender-relevant results at closing,” Garcia told the meeting.
Another key discussion session on Day 1 was on updating the evaluation criteria established by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1991. The participants were of the view that the world had changed a lot since then and agreed that the criteria need to be reviewed and updated, notably to align them with Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063. Participants in particular discussed the need to refine the criteria of “relevance” and “impact” in evaluation.
In her keynote on Day 2, Hon. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister in the Presidency of South Africa for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation told the audience that “Agenda 2063 is an approach on how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, [and] build on the progress now underway,” adding that “The African Development Bank’s Development Evaluation Week is a relevant forum to discuss how we are going to measure attainment of Agenda 2063 objectives”
Hon. Dlamini-Zuma’s keynote was followed by a rich interaction among participants on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure development. PPPs are increasingly popular on the African continent where 30 countries enacted a PPP or concession law between 2004 and 2017. However, the session highlighted the need to meet certain conditions such as institutional frameworks and regulation, to ensure successful PPP projects.
Keynote speaker Caroline Heider, Director General and Senior Vice President of the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), World Bank Group noted that “quality of the regulation network is needed to attract investment, particularly private sector investment”.
The theme of achieving inclusion through agricultural value chains took center stage on the the third and final day of the conference. Wambui Gichuri, Director of the Water & Sanitation Department of the Bank told the audience in her Keynote that while the proportions of stunted children in Asia and Latin America had fallen between 2000 and 2016, Africa has seen a 17% rise. A key takeaway from the session was the need for partnerships between the private sector, governments and other development actors to ensure access to finance as well as deliberate and targeted efforts to ensure inclusivity along the whole agricultural value chain.
The final session of Evaluation Week 2018 focused on the need for partnerships to create a culture of evaluation on the one hand, and the capacity to carry out evaluations on the other. “For evaluation, there is a need to have well-chosen partnerships. We also need to involve civil society in the process,” said Hon. Abbas Imbassou Ouattara, Member of Parliament of Côte d’Ivoire and Executive Committee member of the African Parliamentarians’ Network on Development Evaluation.
Those who joined Evaluation Week 2018 learned that successful partnerships between governments, civil society, development partners, beneficiaries and other stakeholders are often complex and require actors to move outside their comfort zones to collaborate and create useful evaluations that can inform and help to strengthen development impact and help Africa to attain the goals of its Agenda 2063.
OLIVIA NDONG OBIANG