Celebrating the African evaluation community at the 9th AfrEA Conference

Agriculture Strand
©Nicola Theunissen

Celebrating the African evaluation community at the 9th AfrEA Conference

The 9th International Conference of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) took place in Abidjan, from 11 to 15 March.

Its 650 registered participants from over 60 countries showed the vitality of the African evaluation community and the attention that evaluation attracts among national and international institutions. This success is certainly a result of 20 years of active engagement of the African Evaluation Association.

The conference theme: “Accelerating Africa’s Development: Strengthening National Evaluation Ecosystems” stimulated debate on ways to develop and affirm Africa’s body of knowledge related to evaluation, on how to promote Africa-rooted and Africa-led evaluation through sharing African evaluation perspectives and to gain recognition of the role of Africa in the evaluation “ecosystem”.  The African evaluation community needs to advance more strongly in adapting evaluation practices to the African context, thus ensuring that evaluation supports meaningful and sustainable progress. Necessary conditions for this to happen, highlighted during the Conference, are the development of capacities of African evaluators and the growth of evaluation as a recognized profession.

At the same time, advancing the African evaluation practice and its relevance relies on a stronger demand for evaluation and more practical use of evaluations, independent from the requirements of donors and development cooperation agencies. In this regard, the presence of parliamentarians and of several government representatives and national and regional institutions definitely gives an encouraging sign.  

Fora for delegates to share their knowledge on specific topics and areas of evaluation were offered across 12 thematic Strands, organized in parallel sessions.

Among them, the well-attended Strand on “Improving Agriculture and Food Security through Evaluation” hosted lively exchanges on lessons, challenges and results in evaluating agriculture and food security in Africa. This Strand was organized with the technical support of EVAL-ForwARD as convener of the three Rome-based agencies, FAO, WFP and IFAD and featured AGRA and the Tegemeo Institute as sponsors and session chairs.

The use of evaluation was a central thread of the Agriculture Strand: on the one hand, involving stakeholders at the beginning plays a critical role for the uptake of evaluation findings and recommendations; on the other hand, it is important to identify the right stakeholders and to avoid evaluation “fatigue” that can jeopardize the utility of the evaluation. Examples of evaluations carried out jointly with governments showed how collaboration improves the effectiveness of the evaluation process as counterparts learn from each other and strengthen their ownership of the results of the evaluation.  

Different methods to undertake evaluations in agriculture and rural development sectors were showcased and discussed: quantitative methods for conducting impact evaluations and randomized controlled trials were compared with qualitative and mixed method approaches, and the advantages and limitations of each were discussed.

The next AfrEA Conference will take place in Addis Ababa in 2021.

To get a feel of what participants gained from the Conference, listen to main take-aways on the right hand side of the webpage: Jennifer Mutua, founder of the Evaluation Society of Kenya; Thiery Tsou Fematouo, President of the Réseau Francophone de l'Évaluation (in French); and Christine Kataike Abong from the Local Government Finance Committee, Uganda.