By a Twende Mbele Masters Scholar: Mokgophana Ramasobana
Firstly, I regard myself as an emerging scholar and a devotee of the African indigenous knowledge debates. Therefore, my keenness for the discussions in this areas is linked to my current research focus. This line of work has exposed me to the exciting current conversations on the decolonisation of higher education curriculum in which we see the post-colonial era continuing Africa’s path to contextualise the education discourse with the objective to align curriculum outcomes with its developmental agenda. In turn, African academics and activists such as Adam, (2009) and le Grange (2016) have embarked on a roadmap to champion Africa’s own curriculum decolonisation initiatives. In response to the broader education discourses, the M&E scholars namely, Chilisa and Kawulich (2009) and Ofir (2018) have conducted academic research that contributes to the decolonisation theories and its application within evaluation practice and theory. By approach, this article refers to the acknowledgement of context, culture, history, and beliefs as critical ingredients in commissioning or conducting evaluations. Furthermore, this approach appreciates the intricacy and diversity of Africa’s development.
Genesis of the MAE concept
The abovementioned approaches has often been referred as the Made in Africa Evaluation (MAE) paradigm, or an Africa-centric Evaluation Approach in other circles. Inherent in these approaches are various ideas explored via platforms such as conferences and workshops. For example, the 2012 Bellagio Conference spearheaded by the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) stands as a cornerstone to the current consensus regarding the foundations of a Made in Africa Evaluation approach, especially among stakeholders. The MAE concept has been pioneered by a cohort of M&E experts since its inception at the Bellagio Conference and the AfrEA conferences including the 2017 AfrEA conference in Kampala. Some of the leading academics include but not limited to Prof. Zenda Ofir, Prof. Bagele Chilisa, Dr. Sukai Prom Jackson and Dr. Sully Gariba. They jointly believe that the MAE concept gives rise to how M&E approaches contribute to Africa’s broader development.
Fast forward, and we begin to see tangible outcomes emerging from these theoretical conversations. Arguably, the prominence of the MAE strand during the recent 8th AfrEA conference in Kampala in 2017 attests to a growing demand for further engagement in this topic and bringing in new voices. Its ability to attract participation from globally recognised developmental partners and donors, such as the Global South and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation towards the institutionalisation of the initiative shows its importance in the global community. Additionally, the recently launched annual flagship programme titled “Development Evaluation Training Programme in Africa (DETPA)” by CLEAR-AA, in collaboration with Wits University, embraced the MAE philosophy as its golden thread in the delivery of the programme. This entailed an establishment of curriculum advisory team comprised of Prof. Zenda Ofir and Dr. Sukai Prom-Jackson, both thought-leaders in the indigenisation of the evaluation practice discourse. In its second iteration, the involvement of Prof. Bagele Chilisa – internationally acclaimed MAE proponent – will bring further gravitas to the advancement of the initiative. As the DETPA coordinator, I was privy to the intellectually stimulating debates in relation to MAE which significantly contributed to shaping my keeness to explore the concept.
Notably, there are a number of new collaborative initiatives involving scholars from across the African continent. Firstly, the African Evaluation Journal takes an explicit approach to publishing African scholars in an attempt to document the current and emergent evaluation trends and approaches in Africa. This approach gave me a pedestal from which to launch my academic journey of publishing, for that matter, our article titled “ Measuring the effect of Evaluation Capacity Building Initiatives in Africa: A Review”. Engrained in this practise is the systematic promotion of the African scholarship and methodologies which ultimately leads to strengthening African-centred paradigms within international evaluation discourse.
Secondly, the unfolding South to South project titled “Moving forward with ‘Africa-rooted’ evaluation – Next Steps” between the University of Cape Town, CLEAR-AA and other stakeholders headed by Dr. Nombeko Mbava and Sarah Chapman is encouraging. Chief amongst the objectives of this project is to faciliate collaboration amongst stakeholders towards the development of a Made in Africa Evaluation course to be delivered across universities.
Thirdly, in partnership with Twende Mbele, CLEAR-AA is implementing a collaborative curriculum development project involving ten universities across the continent. In the curriculum design work, MAE as an approach is being interrogated and integrated; these debates are geared towards the codification of the MAE concepts into the broader evaluation practice discourse through a continental consensus building and a collaborative method. The relevance of the adage of President Julius Nyerere which says “If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved”, is intrinsic in the decolonisation of the evaluation curriculum programme.
Therefore, this Part 1 article is an attempt to appreciate the centrality of the MAE concept and provide my perspective as well as concur with the President Julius Mwalimu Nyerere mentioned above. Ultimately, African’s development is reliant on the incorporation of indigent knowledge and methodologies. In Part 2, I will explore some of the constraints around the fruition of the MAE agenda.