Twende Mbele, is a peer learning partnership of African governments to improve performance and accountability. The programme is hosted by the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results Anglophone Africa (CLEAR-AA), at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The programme is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Wits Enterprise provides the Twende Mbele Secretariat with the core contractual and financial administrative support required to manage this multi-faceted programme.
Twende Mbele is gathering traction. The first phase involved four African countries, including South Africa, collaborating to develop monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems aimed at improving governance. The next phase will see the partners – South Africa, Benin, Ghana, Uganda, Niger and Kenya – capacitated to use the monitoring and evaluation more comprehensively to support better decision-making, improve governance practices, streamline procedures and entrench effective policies.
“Effective monitoring and evaluation is a positive step towards democratisation. It signals to citizens that they can check what their governments are doing and whether they are doing what they promised to do. When a government has a strong monitoring and evaluation system, where decisions and planning are based on evidence, there is a higher probability that the outcomes yielded are greater than where monitoring and evaluation does not exist,” says Cara Waller, Senior Programme Manager.
The legal and institutional frameworks for the practices of monitoring and evaluation in most countries are weak. Furthermore, the need to improve on development results, accountability and learning requires that there is a deeper focus on strengthening country monitoring and evaluation systems. Increasingly, governments have limited budget available for development. This makes monitoring and evaluation even more relevant for Africa where budgets are severely constrained, but development is a priority.
There is also growing awareness of the need for government interventions to be more reflective of the broader realities of societal and cultural norms within its context. For that to happen there is need for monitoring and evaluation systems.
Amongst Twende Mbele’s activities is the implementation of monitoring and evaluation systems to diagnose the dynamics relating to the differences between men and women. Gender-responsive evaluation systems can augment government efforts to promote gender equality and equity by entrenching gender consciousness in government policies, plans, budgets and programmes.
The implementation of the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) has also commenced. MPAT is a tool for assessing the performance of government management against a set of priority standards. To improve the performance of public administration and the quality of public services, it is important that management practices are assessed and strengthened.
The first phase of Twende Mbele has provided a platform to address a number of the identified gaps in evaluation capacity and national monitoring systems. As a result, Twende Mbele is developing a set of common competencies and curriculum for postgraduate training with 23 universities. This is being done in partnership with CLEAR-AA.
Also in partnership with CLEAR-AA, 148 members of Parliament in six East African parliaments have received training to improve their oversight capacities, and three Massive Open Online Courses have been developed and delivered, with a total enrolment of 10 746 people.
Cara Waller says that progress in improving country-level monitoring and evaluation systems has been seen when activities are focused and targeted and have been given the dedicated time to evolve. These achievements need to continue to evolve to reach their intended outcomes, and to ensure that country partners can do the necessary ground work to get buy-in, adapt systems and tools and pilot thoroughly.
“Evidence uptake is a slow process that needs constant, continuous and multi prolonged approaches before the practice is fully adopted in the public sector. It takes time and a lot of effort over time to change the culture and perceptions to utilize evidence in decision making.
“Partnerships are an essential model to sharing and learning and Twende Mbele has learnt that having a deeper understanding of the context in which these partnerships operate is critical to capitalising on learning opportunities to strengthen realistic learning. For example, working with high-level government officials requires a large degree of flexibility, but also a focus on the ‘practical learning’ to ensure that reflection and new skills are applicable to their day-to-day technical and policy challenges. Twende does this through a very collaborative and country-driven approach.”
“Monitoring and evaluation is becoming increasingly important as governments are being called upon to demonstrate results and deepen the impact of their programmes on their citizens. Monitoring and evaluation is not widespread in Africa. Twende Mbele remains a pioneering project to capacitate partner governments to use monitoring and evaluation for better decision making, better governance and better performance for their people.”
For Wits Enterprise, providing support to the programme has been a learning curve in terms of the complexities involved in working across Africa as well as the volume of transactions required on a programme of this nature. There were opportunities to learn how to do things differently, particularly when dealing with specific challenges such as exchange rate fluctuations when paying foreign-based suppliers and contractors, and adhering to the company’s internal financial processes and systems and the funder’s requirements, whilst still enabling the dynamic nature of the programme, say Neo Molefe, Senior Projects Coordinator.