This report provides a review of two dimensions of evaluation practice in Malawi: (i) the conditions under which demand for evidence is generated; and (ii) the areas in which supply can be strengthened to meet and foster this demand. The review serves to highlight the prevalence of active, latent and potential demands for evaluation. The latent and potential demands are nested within requests for evidence from principals and government agents. This demand is not necessarily only conditioned by development partners, but results endogenously from government, based on articulated development objectives. Supply could in the short-term be strengthened through work with the main research centres of the Universities of Malawi (Centre for Social Research, Economics Department) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The major thrust of the review is that, within Malawi, there is a stronger demand for evidence for policy contestation than there is for systematic evaluations. This demand is circumscribed by politics of patronage, except on matters of common destiny or clearly science dominated fields like health. Evaluation studies are, in contrast to other forms of evidence, seen as a tool applied to support accountability for management or political leadership and sometimes used to explore complex areas on performance, be it good or bad. On the whole, both evaluation supply and demand is very limited in the country.
International consultants usually lead major evidence gathering or evaluation exercises, with local consultants playing a support role or taking the lead for smaller in-country assignments. As a result of which, for there to be a growth in systematic evaluations, as a useful tool for development, capacity enhancement efforts need to emphasise that evaluation can support learning that enables policy makers and programme implementation agents to understand how public investments could be improved. The limited supply of evaluative expertise shows some legitimate and good practice, and it is mostly linked to country-led demand by government, local donors and non-governmental organisations. Within this context, there are some examples of evaluation being applied to inform policies and development strategies.
There are a number of individual entry points for improving evaluation capacities in Malawi within the framework of the evolved National Development Monitoring and Evaluation System (NDMES). The existence of functional sector working groups, involving a number of institutions both in demand and supply, is perceived to be a resource that can be used to enhance the governance of evaluations and its growth as a tool for development policy. Malawi’s central government uses a large array of donor-funded technical assistance to supply evaluative expertise. Some of the demand is endogenous and there are cases where evidence does feed into decision-making, especially on matters where substantial donor funds are at stake. It is unlikely that if donors withdrew resources, Government would identify substantial internal resources to support evaluation activities beyond programmes that have little popular support.
In undertaking evaluation capacity development (ECD), the central identifiable challenge from the review is the establishment of a coordinating framework or institutional mechanisms that would serve to foster evaluation capacity and be the target of genuine transfer of skills programs over the long term. These would strengthen the University Sector and other higher level technical institutions to deliver appropriate certified training in this field. The study brings to the fore the importance of shaping supply to fit with capabilities within the demand space and the importance of enhanced coordination in government and institutional development for evaluations within the wider society.
Kumwenda, H.; Latib, S. Study on the demand for and supply of evaluation in Malawi. Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results Anglophone Africa (CLEAR-AA), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa (2013) v + 30 pp.