Until 1999 there were few opportunities to network and share evaluation experiences in Africa. Evaluators worked in isolation. They were seldom trained in evaluation approaches, methodologies and standards, and tended to be technical specialists or management consultants recruited to serve as evaluation consultants.
Although a few national evaluation networks existed, they were isolated and often unable to mobilise the capacities and resources to facilitate effective networking and sharing of knowledge within and between countries. Evaluation capacity building efforts were sporadic and mostly driven by international development organisations.
There were few attempts to nurture advanced level evaluation expertise, to promote training placed in African contexts and evaluation approaches, or to highlight African evaluation expertise on international platforms. Demand for evaluation was low and the use of evaluation for learning and decision-making limited and dominated by accountability to international aid agencies.
AfrEA was founded in 1999 to address some of these challenges. It was established as an umbrella association for national evaluation associations and networks, and as a resource for evaluators in countries without such networks. Like other evaluation associations around the world, AfrEA is not exclusive. Its constituency consists of national associations and networks that include professional evaluators as well as policy makers, academics, government officials, researchers, development practitioners and any other individuals interested in evaluation.
AfrEA Founder, who presented a keynote address at the 8th AfrEA Conference in Uganda, had this to say about AfrEA’s early days:
Download the early day history from Dr Mahesh Patel here.
Some early day AfrEA highlights for the period 2003 – 2008 include:
- Since 1999 the number of formal and informal national evaluation networks and associations in Africa has increased often established or nurtured with AfrEA advice (from six to around 30)
- AfrEA coordinated several contributions to the literature, including the UNICEF/IOCE publication on Creating and Developing Evaluation Organizations: (http://www.ioce.net/resources/case_st udies.shtml)
- AfrEA facilitated the development of the African Evaluation Guidelines (AEG), adapted from the International Programme Evaluation Standards to suit African contexts. Seven African evaluation associations developed the guidelines in 2002. They were updated in September 2006 by 25 representatives from 14 evaluation associations. The Guidelines provide a checklist of 30 items essential for quality assurance and ethical conduct in evaluation
- An AfrEA website (www.afrea.org) was established. It contains database with detailed skills profiles of evaluators in Africa, evaluation training materials and other evaluation resources, information about associations and networks, news, training and evaluation opportunities
- An African evaluation information network is operating through the AfrEA listserv. It brings news and opportunities to share information, issues and queries for professional support to a growing list of more than three hundred subscribers in Africa and elsewhere (to subscribe, post a blank email to AfrEAfirstname.lastname@example.org)
- AfrEA has established funding and other forms of partnerships for its main activities with over 35 organizations, thus avoiding being beholden to one or a few selected sponsors
- AfrEA has raised funds to stimulate the exposure of African evaluation specialists to international expertise. Between 2003 and 2007 it has fully or partially sponsored more than 30 international evaluation experts to come to African evaluation events