Supporting development effectiveness through evaluation

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The role of evaluation in supporting development effectiveness was one of the topics discussed at the African Development Bank's (AfDB) Annual Meetings in Abidjan on Thursday, May 28. The session was attended by Antonin Dossou, Minister for the Evaluation of Public Policy, Promotion of Good Governance and Social Dialogue, Benin; Susan Musyoka, Member of Parliament and Vice-President of the African Parliamentarians' Network on Development Evaluation (APNODE), Kenya; Frannie Léautier, Chief Executive Officer of Mkoba Private Equity Fund and development expert, Tanzania; and Rakesh Nangia, Evaluator General, Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) at the AfDB. The debate was chaired by Caroline Heider, Director-General and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank's Independent Evaluation Group.  

In his speech, Dossou stressed the importance of independent, impartial evaluation in defining national policy, ensuring good governance and delivering productive social dialogue. He called on governments to honour their duty to produce reliable statistics – a key requirement for credible evaluation. In his view, evaluating the value chain (in the agricultural sector for example) can deliver practical outcomes. He cited the example of cocoa production in Côte d'Ivoire – an activity involving an extensive value chain from crop-growing, through to advertising and mass retail. Dossou also explained that a new master's degree in evaluation is currently under development, with the support of the UK Department for International Development. This new programme will be launched in Côte d'Ivoire, Uganda and South Africa. In closing, he stressed the need for African governments to make evaluation a key national priority, with a view to achieving greater effectiveness in public policy.

Musyoka argued that evaluation acts as a critical source of reliable evidence. Furthermore, she explained that the lessons learned from evaluation are important in developing high-quality national policies and projects that are capable of meeting key development challenges such as poverty. She also recalled the three priorities set by Kenya's first post-independence president, Jomo Kenyatta: combating poverty, illiteracy and disease. She went on to denounce the fact that these three priorities remain key challenges today. In her view, this is due to a failure to learn from past lessons – a shortcoming that could be overcome through evaluation.

Musyoka explained that Kenya is still unable to manage the impacts of climate change, which over the last few years have affected a large proportion of a population highly dependent on farming. When the rains fail, the population suffers from drought, while excessive rainfall poses a heightened flood risk.

Musyoka went on to talk about the health sector in her country, which has deteriorated since 2013. In Kenya, each county or department has its own elected government, with full responsibility for managing the local health sector. "Evaluation is essential," she explained. "When governments take decisions without notifying local stakeholders, the only possible outcome is chaos."

She also focused on the need to strengthen the capacities of African parliamentarians, ensuring that they are able to take decisions in full possession of the facts and backed by credible information. She highlighted to important role that the African Parliamentarians' Network on Development Evaluation plays in capacity-building for parliamentarians.

In her contribution, Léautier accepted that development is a complex process, and that access to information is critical, especially for civil society. Evaluation can play an important role in providing such access. In her view, there is a need to acknowledge the sheer number of stakeholders involved in any given field. The energy sector, for example, is critical not only to industry, but also to other sectors such as health (refrigerating vaccines) and agriculture (cattle breeding via artificial insemination). Evaluation can play a crucial role in identifying the direct and indirect beneficiaries of interventions. This is a key piece of information for her equity fund, which looks beyond the expected financial outcomes of applicant projects, focusing as well on their social and environmental impacts.

According to Nangia, Africa's development policies will only deliver their true potential through effective evaluation. He welcomed existing efforts to train young evaluation experts and stressed the AfDB's support for evaluation capacity building among African governments and parliamentarians. He also stated his wish for greater civil society involvement in the evaluation process, focusing in particular on the practical impacts of public projects and policies on the day-to-day lives of populations.

During the audience question-and-answer session, particular interest was shown in the training programmes mentioned by Dossou. The discussions also focused on the importance of ingraining evaluation within our cultures, and on the need for a partnership between governments and financial institutions, and professional evaluator organisations.

Heider, chairing the session, thanked the participants for their informative speeches and expressed her wish to see practical outcomes from the evaluation process. She also highlighted the need to strengthen the capacities of leaders and front-line stakeholders.

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