Working together to produce and use better evidence for the benefit of Africa

The first Africa Evidence Network colloquium is here. In a joint effort the AEN Johannesburg office, UJ-BCURE team, and Centre for Anthropological Research staff have organised South Africa’s largest meeting of individuals and organisations interested in evidence-informed decision-making in Africa. Lengthy preparation (have a look here) will bring together over 120 international and national delegates at the University of Johannesburg from 25-28 November. Over the course of these four days, the colloquium will feature 23 presentations, six in-depth training sessions, the AEN’s annual meeting, as well as gala and networking dinners. Speakers include high-profile academics such as Prof John Lavis (McMaster University) and key decision-makers such as Dr Ian Goldman (Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa).

The colloquium hopes to bring together a community of practice that desires to improve public policies in Africa through the incorporation of research evidence in the policy cycle. Public policies in most African countries assume a developmental mandate serving as key tool to enhance citizens’ capabilities and social and economic livelihoods. National public policies play a much larger role and draw from a far greater resource pool to foster development than foreign aid. Initiatives to support development in Africa since should target to improve public policies rather than raise more donor funding (hello bono!) or to rigidly transplant social programmes without an adequate consideration of contexts. The Africa Evidence Network is part of a growing body of institutions and individuals in Africa that call for evidence-informed public policies – i.e. evidence-informed development. Our evidence movement consists of health care experts (e.g. the African Cochrane Centres), evaluators (e.g. Afrea), social scientist (e.g. CLEAR), government institutions (e.g. DPME), and other umbrella organisations (e.g. EVipNEt), which all support the increased uptake of research evidence in its many forms during decision-making at policy level.

This community of practice shares the common consensus that evidence can inform the design of more effective public policies, which in return allows for an accelerated expansion of capabilities and improved livelihoods throughout Africa. This week’s colloquium aims to enhance and develop this consensus. Practical examples of EIDM in Africa and its subsequent impact will be discussed. Individual institutions will present their programme approaches to reflect on what works and what doesn’t in supporting the uptake of research evidence. Current debates in EIDM focus on the growing demand for EIDM by national governments and colloquium discussions will explore ideas on how to best build government capacity to implement and ideally institutionalise a culture of evidence. The AEN Johannesburg team will cover these debates through daily blogs on this website, live tweets from the colloquium presentations (@africa_evidence; #AEN2014; storify: @africa_evidence), as well as a detailed colloquium report. Welcome to the 1st Africa Evidence Network colloquium!