Evaluation is serious business at the African Development Bank. This is the conclusion that can be drawn from the recently completed AfDB 2012 Evaluation Week (December 3 - 6, 2012), which saw strong participation from all over the Bank, starting with the President of the institution, Donald Kaberuka, who launched the event and also participated in a Davos style debate on evaluation and development challenges and opportunities.
Yes, independent evaluation is definitely serious business at the African Development Bank. President Donald Kaberuka, AfDB Executive Directors, in particular, CODE members - past and present-- department directors, division managers, and Bank staff participated actively in the 2012 Evaluation Week signaling that evaluation plays an important role in the work of the Bank and in development work in general.
Indeed, leading development practitioners and evaluation specialists answered OPEV's call to convene in the Tunisian capital to discuss how evaluation contributes to and can better contribute to development work. Panelists and participants hailed from the African Capacity Building Foundation, the AfDB, the Asian Development Bank, the Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement - BOAD (West African Development Bank), the Islamic Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, NORAD, the World Bank, some regional member countries, evaluation associations like AfREA, and more.
By all accounts, the Week was a runaway success: It put the spotlight on evaluation and garnered great interest and participation across the board. From Day One-- when the event was launched by the AfDB President--to Day Four, when a series of well-deserved awards were presented to strengthen good practices and former OPEV Directors recognized, there was a definite buzz in the air about evaluation.
The Week won high praise from participants, who described it as a great learning event that had put important development topics on the table for discussion by development practitioners and evaluation specialists alike: Lessons from private sector, water sector, and fragile states evaluations; challenges of managing knowledge for development effectiveness, challenges of mainstreaming gender, environment and private sector into development programs, dealing with project disbursement delays, and more.
The discussions were rich, insightful, interesting, and thought-provoking. Participants were alert, engaged, and in high spirits. Session chairs, for the most part, AfDB Executive Directors, moderators, panelists came well prepared. Sharing experiences, brainstorming and networking were the order of the day. The week highlighted the crucial role that evaluation plays in development work, confirmed by the presence and participation of AfDB management and evaluation and development leaders from other institutions. In his welcome address, Rakesh Nangia, the Director of OPEV praised the AfDB President for his strong support for evaluation work:
"How many leaders do you know who openly appreciate and list evaluations that have made a difference? How many leaders do you know who argue with their own management team on why the suggested actions do not go far enough? How many leaders do you know who meet with their evaluation head every month? How many leaders do you know who request an evaluation on certain topics? How many leaders do you know who would change their travel schedule to participate in evaluation activities?"