Takeaways from the AfrEA conference 2017 in Kampala

Melanie Uhlen's picture

In March 2017, I attended the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA) conference in Kampala, Uganda. I got the chance to present our web-based M&E software WebMo and our consultancy and training services. The conference was a great opportunity to meet M&E practitioners and listen to their experiences and needs when it comes to software. These are my personal takeaways:

  1. Excel: M&E practitioners like to use Excel and appreciate training. Excel continues to be a popular tool for data analysis and management. It is widely used, especially in locations with an unreliable internet connection. In Kampala, dozens of people signed up for a free copy of our M&Excel Guide. Lesson learnt: We should extend our Excel training offers, especially the ones that are online and thus accessible for everyone around the globe, via our Excel webinars.
  2. Language: The AfrEA, hosting members from all over Africa, did a god job to facilitate the exchange between English and French speaking participants by providing enough time for simultaneous interpretation. Nonetheless, language remains a challenge and hinders dialogue between practitioners. Lesson learnt: We should do more to reach out to French speakers. We already have our WebMo available in French, but we should do more to promote WebMo and offer our trainings and services in the Francophone world, for example by translating our website into French.
  3. Networks: You can do all the internet research you want, some important information might still escape your attention and can only be learnt when present on local events. For example, I learnt about the existence of the Africa Evidence Network, supported by the University of Johannesburg, which organizes events and shares knowledge on issues that are highly relevant to our work: Transparent and effective development policy and programming and how to gather and use evidence about what works.

  1. Personal contacts matter: As always, it was highly enriching to speak to practitioners face-to-face. I heard about the hopes and fears that web-based software triggers: On the one hand, most people are aware of the merits of web-based work. On the other hand, in some locations people have reasons to worry about internet connection, synchronization across devices and data privacy. Lesson learnt: Frequent presence at local events in Africa or other developing regions are helpful. Therefore:

    1. We will continue to be present at similar events to nurture and grow our network.
    2. We are considering to create a permanent presence of energypedia consult in East Africa, namely in Rwanda. This would allow us to stay in close touch with the regional development community and offer our services on a local level. We will publish updates on these plans as soon as we can!

Last, but not least, it was nice for me to be back in Africa, enjoy the pleasant Ugandan culture, go to the market, taste local food and so on…