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DRG TIG Week: Made in Africa Evaluation: Applying Tanzanian Indigenous Knowledge Systems by Francis Mwaijande

Francis Mwaijande

I am Francis Mwaijande, former Chairman of Tanzania Evaluation Association (TanEA) and the Principal Investigator (P.I) of Democratizing Learning and Evaluation-Supporting evaluation ecosystems and opportunities for contextualized approaches: Made in Africa Evaluation (MAE). I’m grateful to the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) and the U.S. Department of State who provided research support for this project to examine an inventory of scholarship in Africa-rooted evaluation approaches. MAE, “birthed” in the 2007 AfrEA Conference in Niami, was formally articulated by AfrEA in 2021 in a set of African Evaluation Principles designed to guide evaluation from an African perspective.

Using the Swahili evaluative approaches that underpin MAE, I articulated the African rooted evaluation practice, theory, and methodologies emanating from Swahili local cultures, indigenous knowledge systems, African philosophies, and African paradigms. The Swahili culture is rich with many Bantu ethnic tribes that use proverbs for various purposes including proverbs focusing on Accountability, Transparency, Responsibility, and Governance, Highlighting the Importance of Social Inquiry, Casual Analysis, and Discernment of Truth, Assessment, Measurement, and Performance and Importance of Planning, Foresight, and Capacity Building. I identified Swahili Proverbs embodying evaluative insights which categorized for specific evaluative purpose in particular social context.

  1. Ahadi ni deni”: The embedded evaluative insight holds accountable for attaining targets described in project documents or even government commitments to citizens [such as water service promises to citizens, the promises by politicians to citizens during elections must be accountable by Swahili evaluators because “ahadi ni deni.”
  2. Aisifuye mvua imemnyea“: Swahili evaluators are keen on credible source of information:- Evaluators should get information from project participants because they have deeper knowledge on it. Data collection is given high importance in Swahili proverbs; “Mgaagaa na upwa hali wali mkavu”- meaning those who are closely related to people with data are likely to get information. In fact they become the key informants in evaluation.
  3. Issues of stakeholder involvement, collective effort, and political discretion is given prominence in African rooted evaluation. A Swahili proverb says; “Shuguli ni watu, na watu ndiyo sisi,” meaning there is nothing that can be done without people and for the people. No evaluations can be done without people and for the people. You need people to implement projects; and you will need people to conduct interventions. Swahili proverbs carry evaluative insights and moral resources in fostering democratic learning and engagement of stakeholders in deliberating important societal issues in the evaluation process.
  4. Methodological belief: African rooted evaluation has systematic approaches to facilitate gathering of credible information and evidence about the evaluand. They are anchored on triangulation of evaluators with different lenses. A Swahili proverb says; “Kidole kimoja hakivunji chawa.” The emphasis is on collaboration evaluation research that include multiple evaluators because evaluation results conducted by more than one evaluator have more credibility. The concept of triangulation in the African rooted evaluation is embedded in Swahili proverb which says; “Akili za kuambiwa changanya na zako,” giving the social context meaning that Evaluators are expected to inquire information from various people; collect information / data from different sources. But not all sources will have correct and credible information. It is therefore advised that evaluators collect information, process, analyze and integrate with their own analysis.

African evaluators create conditions for supporting co-learning and co-production of credible information and evidence about the evaluand through meaningful dialogues, reflections and consensus in homogenous, intra-homogenous and heterogeneous stakeholder groups with the notion “Akili za kuambiwa changanya na zako.”

Lessons Learned

For Democracy, Rights and Governance (DRG) Evaluative Practice which:

  • Acknowledges agency of people (the evaluand).
  • Utilizes mixed methods for triangulation, credibility and rigor.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Democracy, Human Rights & Governance TIG Week with our colleagues in the Democracy, Human Rights & Governance Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our DRG TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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