In a recent e-Panel, co-hosted by AVANTI and EvalForward, we explored the role of leadership in instilling a culture of Results-based management (RBM) in African agriculture based on evidenced experience.
Three panellists, Angela Dannson, Elias Segla and Ian Goldman, shared real life examples based on their leadership experience in African agriculture. Three points stood out for me: the importance of champions at senior levels such as the presidency, leadership at institutional level and leveraging networks within and outside government.
1. Importance of champions at senior levels such as the presidency
The highest office in Benin has not left RBM to chance but is driving and embedding a culture of results in the agriculture sector. The presidency introduced a national level initiative to drive results and accountability which saw the appointment of a minister in charge of planning and development with a mandate to oversee delivery of results. To institutionalise the results agenda an accompanying national evaluation policy was enacted and is currently under implementation. Not only is the government implementing the policy but evaluating and reviewing to improve weaknesses identified to date. In order to ensure such a culture for results thrives there needs to be stability and consistency of leadership over time. In the case of Benin – and in spite of changes in national leadership – the country has had the same minister presiding over planning and development, leading to sustained improvements, consistency and embedding of a culture for results. This is impressive and not commonly observed when there is a change in political power.
2. Importance of leadership at the institutional level
Not only is leadership at the presidency level critical, but also within institutions such as government ministries. In Ghana, a ministry with specific focus on monitoring & evaluation (M&E) was established to oversee and implement the results agenda under the leadership of a cabinet level minister. The minister’s technical background in agriculture is said to have contributed to instilling a culture of RBM. To operationalise the ministry’s mandate the government has set aside an annual budget to ensure data is collected, analysed and reported. Through its National Development Framework, Ghana accounts for results under various agreements they have signed such as the Malabo Declaration and Agenda 2030. The country established flagship agricultural programmes with accompanying monitoring and accountability structures to track results and communicate progress to citizenry. From my experience evaluating work in Ghana, I know that their flagship programme ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ has definitely made strides in the right direction, notwithstanding some improvements that can still be made.
Learning from work and studies in Benin, South Africa and Uganda also attest to the importance of the role of middle managers in embedding RBM. Questions from e-Panel participants revealed how there remains scope to venture more towards understanding effectiveness of interventions as opposed to current focus on output level monitoring for accountability and compliance. All panellists admitted to the existence of gaps in leadership and capacity at grassroots/sub-national level which inadvertently affect the quality of data at the aggregate regional and national levels. As a data quality geek, this painful reality breaks my heart as any national level data can only be as good as the sub-national data feeding into it.
3. Leveraging networks within and outside government
Last but not least is the importance of leaders leveraging on networks and alliances to enhance a culture of results. Experience from Benin, South Africa and Uganda points to the role of leadership outside government structures and systems. Evidence suggests that this role goes beyond individual to collective effort by other non-state players in the sector. It requires building trust and partnerships between state and non- state players. In Benin, South Africa and Uganda the governments leveraged the resources of Twende Mbele (a partnership of African governments promoting M&E). Discussions pointed to the importance of dialogue processes with actors outside government, including civil society. I think there is much to learn from this example, given politicisation of data and the sensitive nature of dealing with national level statistics. Some good examples of leveraging networks within the broader sector were cited in Ghana. The government receives budgetary support for M&E from the Canadian government. Further, the country has established a vibrant Agriculture Sector Working Group (ASWG) in which M&E is a sub-group. I have had a glimpse of the ASWG and can commend it as an example for other countries to follow. The networks within government go beyond Ministry of Food and Agriculture to other sector agencies such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ghana Statistical Service and the National Development Planning Commission. In addition to leveraging networks, both state and non-state leaders need to be politically savvy in identifying, negotiating and optimizing opportunities to influence evidence-based decision making.
The legitimacy of African leaders speaking about their experience of the role of leadership in RBM in African governments was in itself intriguing. As an African and an evaluator, this e-Panel left me feeling quite reassured by the pockets of success and levels of progress towards instilling a culture of results in national government institutions. It leaves me wondering whether enough is being done by the development sector to strengthen the critical role of leadership in RBM. As AVANTI and EvalForward, we endeavour to leverage our experience and networks to share knowledge on what works and what doesn’t in RBM in Agriculture and Food Security.