The IDEAS 2019 Global Assembly and 3rd International Conference on Evaluating Environment and Development took place in Prague from 2nd to 4th October 2019. It brought together M&E Practioners and political officials to deliberate on issues around the themes of: the use of evaluation for transformative change; evaluating environment and development; transition experiences and best practices in the use of evaluation for systemic changes; the utility of evaluation in contexts of fragility, conflict and violence; evaluation on gender and equity; as well as the professionalization of evaluation.
This conference highlighted the importance of using global platforms to reflect on the African voice in specific presentations. Three presentations distilled the African experience of embedding evaluation practice into country-driven monitoring and evaluation ecosystems and trying to make them more gender responsive. The first was by Benjamin Kachero on the Ugandan and Ghanaian Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) reports. The session was called, “Gender evaluation, a blind spot for SDG reporting”. The second presentation was by Eddah Kanini and myself (Angelita Kithatu-Kiwekete), on country experiences with national evaluation systems, at the session on “Advocacy, learning and behaviour.”
The session on Gender evaluation, a blind spot in SDGs acknowledged the inadequate attention given to providing policy-makers with equity and gender-responsive evidence. He also discussed the opportunities available to government to address the gender equity agenda in their work to achieve the SDGs.
With respect to voluntary national reporting by African countries, Benjamin presented a comparison of the Ghanaian and Ugandan VNRs for the SDGs. Ghana gave its first VNR in 2019 while Uganda was one of the first countries to report since 2016. He emphasised the deficiencies in these two country reports in producing gender responsive data as well as the inadequacies experienced in trying to track evidence in realising the Gender Equality goal, SDG 5.
Eddah’s presentation highlighted the gaps in gender responsiveness of Kenya’s M&E ecosystem in her evaluation on the capacity and sustainability in social equity and development issues by women-led advocacy groups. My presentation, on the other hand gave an overview of selected country experiences in building national evaluation systems with a particular emphasis on gender mainstreaming. These presentations were based on the individual country’s ability to track gender equality and the empowerment of women as a development outcome.
These presentations were similar in that the country experiences revealed the presence of national evaluation systems as well as the gender machinery within the structures of government to support the empowerment of women in the delivery of services. Similarly the presentations noted the inability of national evaluation systems to integrate gender mainstreaming due to a weak gender machinery within the country. Going forward it would be useful to work with gender champions in government and civil society to make national evaluations more gender responsive.
Integrating Evaluation Systems in Africa
While Africa remains a beneficiary of numerous evaluations that are conducted across the continent by various development partners, the above presentations highlight an important aspect that is often lost in such global platforms, that is: what is the state of country-driven evaluation in Africa? These presentations point to the presence of national evaluation systems that grapple with a country’s development imperative, while also trying to address global commitments like Agenda 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
What will be useful in integrating evaluation into government practice, is to develop and sustain country-driven evaluation practice and a deliberate attempt to realise national development imperatives in government policies and programs. It will be useful to have a vibrant evaluation system that not only monitors but also tracks the realisation of development aspirations of African countries – especially the empowerment of women in African societies. The path to building capable institutions will always be a treacherous one, but the three African presentations at IDEAS 2019 gave an honest indication of the development trajectory of some African states. It is hoped that as national evaluation systems evolve so development outcomes will be more tangible for citizens.
By: Dr Angelita Kithatu-Kiwekete