To accompany the AfDB’s new development strategy to transform Africa, the Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) of the Bank held its Development Evaluation Week 2016 on the theme “Driving Africa’s Transformation”. Evaluation experts, academics and practitioners from diverse horizons converged in Abidjan to examine the Bank’s High-5s: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Integrate Africa; Industrialize Africa; and Improve the quality of life for Africans. Participants at Evaluation Week discussed how lessons learned from the AfDB and other development institutions can inform the design and implementation of policies and operations in the five priority areas, and how innovative solutions can contribute to success.
How should we go about evaluating the High 5s? What kind of theory of change will guide IDEV’s evaluation in such a context? Will IDEV continue to rely on its conventional evaluation criteria or will it fashion new ones that will focus on the specificities of the High 5s?
In delivering his Welcome remarks, Rakesh Nangia, the Evaluator General, AfDB, welcomed participants to the Development Evaluation Week 2016. He emphasised that the goal of the Evaluation Week is to share IDEV’s experience with participants and also learn from them with the aim of raising awareness of the important role of evaluation in development work. He noted that evaluation is growing, though slowly, as a full-fledged discipline and practice within governments and organisations. This evolution positively affects the development process, course correction, fostering the learning of lessons and focussing most importantly on evidence. Looking forward, Mr. Nangia spoke of an evaluation community that has greatly diversified its areas of interest by opening up evaluation thinking to various political and development themes. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including a comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework, global public policy will take on a new dimension with an increased consideration for important development factors such as human and environmental factors, gender, equity, sustainability, inclusion, etc. He further pointed out that the prescribed use of evaluation in the SDG framework will put greater emphasis on the relevance and effectiveness of public policy by responding to the dual question: ‘Are we doing the right things and are we doing them the right way’? For some time to come the debate will continue to be about re-engineering—how to evaluate strategies and policies—triggering innovative solutions to focus more on questions that mater to end users in such areas such as inclusion, gender, equity and efficiency. The ability to strengthen the learning process through evaluation, to ensure positive change and knowledge sharing will also be put to test, with out-of-the-box and technology-informed thinking needed to reach the next level.
In his Opening remarks titled ‘Evaluation: A critical link in the AfDB’s Learning Ecosystem’ Bright Okogu, the Chairman of the Bank’s Committee on Operations and Development Effectiveness (CODE) emphasised the imperatives of using knowledge to effect change in society. Drawing inferences from an African proverb, he noted that knowledge like the Baobab tree is so big that no single individual can embrace it, rather it must be embraced and shared by all. He also noted that the Bank must position itself to measure what it achieves, and independent evaluation will be central to the measurement of the impact of the High-5s. He further noted that, in line with the above, IDEV’s mandate is to ensure that evaluation results are used to shape Bank strategies, programmes and projects. He concluded by noting that knowledge without application is not knowledge. Real knowledge must be applied and applicable to one’s life and indeed to all aspects of human endeavour. It is in this context that the results of independent evaluation (as a body of knowledge) will be a key factor in measuring the outcome of the High-5s.
In launching the 2016 AfDB Development Evaluation Week, Charles Boamah, Vice President Finance, AfDB (standing in for the AfDB President), observed that while the Bank has achieved a lot since its establishment, it needs to reorganise itself and capitalise on its past achievements in order to achieve even more. Doing this makes the implementation of the High-5s an imperative, and evaluation will assist in measuring results. The Bank, in his opinion, must innovate, partner with others, and carry out timely evaluations to be able to inform decisions and improve performance.
Following the official launch, there was a High Level Panel discussion on the topic: ‘Opportunities and Challenges for Delivering on the High-5s’. The panel was moderated by Mr. Erik Nyindu, News Director, VOX Africa.
Delivering a Keynote on behalf of the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Nialé Kaba, Minister of Planning and Development of Côte d’Ivoire, stressed the importance of evaluating the High-5s, which collectively are fundamental to transforming the continent. The moderator of the session Erik Nyindu highlighted the need to showcase what works and what has been done well. In his contribution, Batio Bassière, Burkina Faso’s Minister of the Environment, urged the Bank to work at transferring responsibility for the High-5s to African countries themselves and to focus on the conditions under which to implement them. In this context he informed the audience that Burkina Faso has taken on the responsibility for one of the High-5s by adopting a policy aimed at ensuring that every Burkinabe has access to energy. Mr. Nubukpo, Economic and Digital Director, International Organisation of Francophonie, in his contribution noted that Africa is experiencing transition in three areas—demographic transition where the population doubles every 25 years; ecological transition where like in the case of Togo, about 5-10 meters of land is lost to erosion every year; and a fiscal transition which impacts on economic performance. He further noted that Africa operates in an environment of shocks which affect economic performance and suggested that Africa build a common vision about what countries want and the results they obtain.
Mr. Yao Koffi, Director of Cabinet, Ministry of Planning and Development, Côte d’Ivoire, observed that Africa has recorded growth rates of over 5% in the last two decades but at the same time the number of poor people has increased. This, in his opinion, is as a result of Africa’s failure to manage its population. In spite of the growth rates of the last two decades, growth in recent years (2015 and 2016) has dropped significantly; he attributed this to Africa’s continued dependence on the export of raw materials. Mr. Koffi closed his intervention on the note that Africa must transform its economies by focusing on industrialisation, integration, and improvements in energy resources.
Mr. Dossou, Director at the Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO), in his intervention maintained that Africa has the potential, and, guided by the vision of the African Union, the hope that a strong and united Africa can be realised. He pointed out that the challenges facing the continent are sociological and political, and that achieving the vision will require a rethink of how to build a society with values and orientate people’s values towards development. The issues to address here are how to increase the Continent’s capacity for leadership, strengthen Africa’s capacity for independent thinking and how to improve capacity for implementation. He was also of the view that the Bank can help address issues confronting Africa since the High-5s serve as a timely reminder that development in Africa is quite possible.
What emerged from the discussions was the imperative for Africa to take its development into its own hands—promote pro-development values and address the binding constraints to its development like climatic change. Finally the panel emphasised the small size of most economies, lack of access to energy and governance problems as key challenges that need addressing.
The full, day by day program of Evaluation Week discussions, videos, papers and photos from the event can be found here.