Monitoring and Evaluation Professionals for Development Projects in Africa.
Dr Yohannes Aberra Ayele 2-16-19
Any serious intention to bring about sustainable development via programmes and projects should be guided by appropriate policies and realistic strategies, and be supported by the right legislative provisions. The implementation of development intervention is broken down into programmes and/or projects with a clearly specified time frame for launching and completion. The allocation of human resource, finance, equipment, infrastructure, and other services is also stringently planned.
The success of development interventions depends not only on how well they are planned but more importantly on how satisfactorily they are implemented. Planning, implementation, and the impact on societies and economies thereof must be monitored and evaluated using programme and project indicators. These indicators the parameters of which are measured at the planning, preparatory, implementation process and winding up stages must be standardized. Of course, each development intervention, however small like community water supply and however big like the Hidase Dam (Ethiopia), have their own uniqueness’s and, thus, require idiosyncratically indicators. The selection of indicators standardized or unique to specific interventions, and the scientific methods, procedures and tools employed for running the monitoring and evaluation processes, cannot be the works of amateurs. They require monitoring and evaluation professionals with graduate degrees in monitoring and evaluation. The professionals are well trained not only in the scientific methods and tools of monitoring and evaluation but also baptized with the ethics the profession badly needs.
Professionalism in monitoring and evaluation in the developed world is well established. In Africa, monitoring and evaluation of development programmes, donor driven and/or government initiated, has gone some distance. However, professionalizing it is still in its infancy. In view of the existing commonalities in the nature of development interventions in Africa collaboration is vital in the process of professionalizing and standardizing the methods and tools of monitoring and evaluation. There are already national monitoring and evaluation professional associations in several Anglophone and Francophone African countries. These associations meet regularly to chart a shared roadmap for professionalizing monitoring and evaluation in Africa.
In Ethiopia there is a monitoring and evaluation professional association led by Berhanu Assefa. For the first time we met in the Kenyan School of Government in Nairobi where I traveled to for a monitoring and evaluation workshop. The workshop was organized by CLEAR a South Africa based organization coordinating monitoring and evaluation in Anglophone Africa. I was the only Ethiopian academic in that meeting. Most attendees were drawn from several Anglophone African universities who are already offering monitoring and evaluation graduate programmes in their respective universities. They were delighted that a participant from Ethiopian universities joined them. This was in March 2016. In that workshop it was planned that a standardized curriculum for graduate degrees in monitoring and evaluation for Africa will be prepared starting from the next meeting.
We discussed with Berhanu Assefa about the status of monitoring and evaluation for development interventions. I came to realize that the association he is leading is very weak given the scant government attention given to monitoring and evaluation professionalism in Ethiopia. While there is a growing government support and encouragement for monitoring and evaluation in many African countries, this has not been the case in this Country. The only academic programme for monitoring and evaluation in Jimma University, strictly caters for the health sector. Development interventions in other sectors are underserved by professional monitoring and evaluation. Much of the mismanagement, disastrous failures, and rampant corruption in big and small projects in Ethiopia can be attributed to the lack of professional evaluators. Monitoring snd evaluation in Ethiopia has been misconceived by the public by the introduction of a queer sort of evaluation known as " gimgema". Gimgema has been so politicized and abused to such an extent that it was dreaded by the public. Evaluators of this genre would use politics as key indicator and intimidate the evaluated into submission. That was partly the reason why I faced cold reception in the need assessment survey I conducted in various development related government organizations. In Keya I promised the monitoring and evaluation societies of Africa to introduce professional training in an Ethiopian university. After my return, with the consent of the Dean of the College of Development Studies, Addis Ababa University, I planned to open a master’s programme in monitoring and evaluation. This was good news for the monitoring and evaluation association of Ethiopia. They promised to help me. Encouraged by this I launched a need assessment survey and came up with some favorable, but weak results. I was not surprised because I cannot expect euphoria about monitoring and evaluation professionalism in a Country plagued by endemic corruption in the almost endless number of development projects. I put all my hope in the approving body of my College-the academic commission. To my dismay, the academic decision making body rejected the plan of opening a master’s programme in monitoring and evaluation. In a University where masters and PhD programmes are opened like downtown cafes, this programme of great National importance was disallowed. The hope of improving our performances in development projects and joining the African course for professionalizing this important field was nipped in the bud. I notified the Anglophone group for monitoring and evaluation about what happened and bid them farewell.
I was invited to the Accra, Ghana workshop regardless in October 2017. This time they were more interested in what I can contribute as an individual to the preparation of a standardized curriculum in monitoring and evaluation for Africa. In Accra I was assigned to be a member of the curriculum task team. After our return home we spent the whole year identifying and exchanging the competencies needed for a monitoring and evaluation professionalism that would lead us to the drafting of modules, and at last, the curriculum document. We again met in Accra, Ghana in September 2018 to finalize on the competencies and the modules based on them. The process is still active and we may finalize the standardized curriculum for Africa soon.
Monitoring and evaluation professionalism is key to success of the development projects in Ethiopia. Until now non-professionals are doing that complex job of monitoring and evaluating development projects. A look at the academic requirements for monitoring and evaluation job vacancies in Ethiopia could be quite revealing. Degrees in one or more of the several social science and related fields are considered to be adequate for the job.