Globally, it is not in doubt that we are living in the most extraordinary times of our generation. For instance, the evolving technological advancement that have reduced the global economy into a “village”, that provides access to real time unfolding of global events at the click of a button and at the same time spreading the negative consequences of emerging events from one country to another such as the Covid pandemic and Russia/Ukrainian war. In Africa, the population especially of the youth is growing. That in itself can be an asset if the human resource potential is harnessed by prudent management of economies, including by providing opportunities with fairness and justice. This is not largely the case, in most of Africa. Compounding this is the evidently, run-away corruption that continues to run down promising economies as well as denying most of the population access to meaningful education, employment and Medi-care, opportunities to realize their human potential. That not only for their own benefits, but the wider public good.
Exacerbating that are the recent un-precedented and evolving devasting socio-economic impacts of the “Triple Crises”, Covid, climate change and security. Combined with the long-existing ones such as growing poverty, youth unemployment and social/gender inequality levels in most of the continent., these have literally left the citizens “groaning” in distress and hopelessness like never before in our times.
Amidst these, is evidently a growing need for “no-business-as-usual” approaches towards tapping into the existing opportunities and redressing daunting challenges. Relatedly, this paper posits that tapping into the hitherto, under-utilized M&E great transformative potential, towards much-needed evidence-driven socio-economic recovery and growth in the continent, could be game-changing.
To potentially set the momentum towards the “no-business-as-usual approaches”, are the existence of government-led national M&E Systems and other data systems. In Kenya, e.g., exists the National Integrated Monitoring & Evaluation System and County Integrated Monitoring & Evaluation System (CIMES), Evaluation Society of Kenya (ESK) and long-time running donor/NGO-driven M&E. The Systems track the implementation of the Vision 2030 which is also aligned to the Sustainable development goals and Africa 2063 agenda. The ESK mandate is equally aligned.
Reinforcing the data systems are the routinely generated ministries/counties administrative/Research Think Tanks/Academia and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data systems. Largely and evidently, all these data systems are un-harmonized and uncoordinated. The national culture and practice for M&E remains weak.
This paper posits this has greatly limited the harnessing of the data systems’ full potential, especially towards better evidence-driven policy/programme/project decision-making, implementation and ultimately improved developmental outcomes/impacts upon the citizenry.
Against this backdrop, this paper proposes a more stakeholder harmonized/coordinated approach in harnessing the under-utilized continent’s great evidence potential, including through the aforementioned data systems. Strengthening of capacities for this, including for more quality supply, increased demand and utilization especially by governments towards harnessing the vast resources’ potential in the country such as human and natural wealth as well as redressing the aforementioned daunting challenges.
Focus on realization of these, it is proposed to be on those who generate evidence (such as government administrative data systems/VOPEs like ESK through their evaluators’ membership/Research Think Tanks/academia/National Bureaus of Statistics) and those who need to increasingly demand it (especially governments). Integral to this, the paper posits is the need for more concerted funding and political goodwill support from relevant development partners, especially for the national government systems, parliaments and VOPEs (who are largely weak and are operationalized on voluntary basis in most of the continent).
Significantly proposed here is that institutional strengthening needs to also include more support to governance strengthening. More so, because M&E is founded on the tenets of transparency, accountability and integrity. The paper posits that for it to be able to realize its reformist /transformative potential, including of influencing better government policy/decision-making/implementation and public trust, M&E’s, have to lead by example. Otherwise, if governance is not strengthened as we move forward (the paper posits), including in government management of economies the trends of political instability that are currently being witnessed globally, will increase with potential devastating consequences.
The expectations are that the proposed aforementioned efforts, including to increased demand and utilization of evidence, will in turn contribute to the M&E professionalization journey, in light of its emerging global professional status. That, while learning from long established professions and their networks such as law and accounts, based on national contexts.
The key lesson here is that for the proposed aspirations to be achieved, there is need for intentional financial/technical/political goodwill investments in the afore-mentioned data systems. That, not only on increase of demand for evidence and its utilization but towards redressing of social equity/gender and climate-change responsiveness gaps. That, while giving them room to evolve and grow strong overtime through persistent and consistent multi-stakeholder efforts.
Going forward, the paper posits that the “Evidence Fraternity”, including M&E is presented with the most strategic moment of our times. Notably to contribute towards the continent’s much-needed socio-economic recovery and growth. The call, therefore, is for the fraternity to position itself towards harnessing this potential in order to influence Africa in the exploitation of its diverse resources, including evidence, human and redressing of the long-standing social/gender inequalities as well as the emerging covid/climate change devastating impacts.
Acknowledgements: The author(s) is solely responsible for the content of this article, including all errors or omissions; acknowledgements do not imply endorsement of the content. The author is grateful to Siziwe Ngcwabe, the content committee and the Africa Evidence Network team for their guidance in the preparation and finalisation of this article as well as their editorial support.
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