The focus for this year’s African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) international conference in Kampala, Uganda, was progress. The conference, held last month, brought together 500 monitoring and evaluation professionals under the theme, “Evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Opportunities and Challenges for Africa.”
We were impressed with the quality of the presentations, and were pleased with the partnership between our organizations – Pact and The MasterCard Foundation – that enabled 14 evaluators from 10 African countries to attend. Together, they gave eight engaging presentations in the education, resilience and poverty, health, financial inclusion, and SDGs conference strands.
The MasterCard Foundation funded the scholarships, which covered travel expenses, and Pact managed the competitive application process. The travel scholarships were open to African evaluators living and working on the continent who planned to present under the education or financial inclusion strands, or were youth evaluators (under age 30). We received 88 applications for the travel scholarships, with an acceptance rate of 16 percent.
It was the second time that Pact and The MasterCard Foundation have partnered as part of the AfrEA international conferences. At the 2014 AfrEA meeting, in Yaoundé, Cameroon, The MasterCard Foundation provided funds to Pact to support a conference strand on technology-enabled monitoring and evaluation. Pact also curated a strand at the 2017 conference on climate change, supported by the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds.
Among the conference’s goals were to strengthen Volunteer Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs) in their collaboration with governments to evaluate SDGs; develop the skills of emerging evaluators by focusing on youth; and instill best practices in evaluation early in the process. Challenges discussed included growing diversity in goals and targets, financing for evaluation, and effectively communicating evaluation findings.
Among the conference’s standout presenters were Olukolade Shobo and Solomon Ojemuyide, who discussed Pact’s State Accountability for Quality Improvement Project (SAQIP) and the Chevron-funded PROMOT II project, which are improving maternal, neonatal and child health outcomes in Nigeria. Dr. Shobo, Pact's Nigeria MERL director, detailed SAQIP's success in bringing disparate development efforts together to implement a unified results framework in Gombe State. A lively discussion followed the presentation, which underscored the importance of promoting locally-driven indicators and reducing redundancies when measuring the SDGs. Ojemuyide presented on PROMOT II’s assessment of health facility capacity to implement quality HMIS activities, and complemented several other presentations from the health strand about using evaluation to promote quality health services across Africa.
The MasterCard Foundation is committed to supporting African-led research and evaluation institutions working in the fields of financial inclusion, education, livelihoods, and poverty alleviation. Sponsoring young evaluators to participate in the AfrEA conference is one way the Foundation is working to support research and evaluation expertise on the continent.
For both Pact and The MasterCard Foundation, it was important that the scholarship recipients have the best possible learning experience to take lessons with them and engage with other evaluators and VOPEs back home. We met with the group before the conference to share ideas for maximizing their conference participation, and to set measurable goals for their experience. Afterward, we reviewed our experiences together and scholarship recipients reflected on whether they fulfilled their objectives as well as unexpected results of their attendance.
Following the conference, some scholarship recipients provided feedback on their experience, demonstrating the commitment that African evaluators are making to benefitting their communities and continent:
“I was inspired by this conference and I am planning to adapt peer-to-peer mentorship approach to build capacity of other young Rwandans. Additionally, based on my own assessment, there is a need for trainings on evaluation using rigorous methods, especially in health sector. This is a hard thing to do but I will continue to put my thoughts together on how this can be done.” –Marie Paul Nisingizwe, Senior Evaluation Coordinator, Clinton Health Access Initiative
“The connections I made, learning opportunities experienced and ideas thought through while at the conference have impacted a great deal of how I think about M&E, especially in the African context.” –Jonathan Tumwebaze, Faculty, Ugandan Christian University, Mukono
Erica Kuhlik is a results and measurement advisor at Pact. Anna Rose Miller is an associate manager with The MasterCard Foundation’s learning and strategy team.
Lead photo: Olukolade Shobo presents at AfrEA.