Since COVID -19, virtual meetings have become a norm. One has had to orient oneself with the different online platforms that transport you to these virtual spaces. Although sometimes it might be tiring jumping from one platform to another, the convenience of it is that there are no area code boundaries that prevent us from meeting one another from anywhere in the world. That is why the virtual Africa Evidence Week (AfEW) festival is a virtual winner; this social-media based event connects people from all over the world with no travel cost. This year, the Africa Evidence Network (AEN) hosted the second biennial AfEW on 13-17 September 2021. It was a weeklong celebration that showcased and promoted the state of evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) in Africa, specifically highlighting the involvement of decision-makers.
The global pandemic has put policy-makers at the forefront of informed-decision making in the interest of the population and this involves many players in the evidence ecosystem. For this reason, the AEN has created a virtual platform to showcase Africa’s vibrant and innovative evidence ecosystem that supports the use of evidence in decision-making. With overwhelming support from the AEN membership, a network of over 3 400 members, the AfEW 2021 programme had 104 activities arranged by 37 organizations from 11 African countries. These activities include live webinars, pre-recorded events, blog posts, Twitter conversations, shared resources, stories of change, and emerging EIDM leaders.
Celebrating the use of Evidence across Africa and Beyond
Africa’s EIDM landscape came alive through fifteen lived-streamed webinars hosted by organisations such as PACKS Africa, eBase Africa, African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Western Cape Government, Evaluation Society of Kenya and the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care. These webinars were attended by over 900 people who participated in the discussions that contributed to the advancement of evidence use in decision-making in Africa. Furthermore, the secretariat facilitated Twitter conversations that showcased EIDM resources covering topics such as evidence-based first aid education in Africa, using innovation to fast-track EIDM in resource-poor contexts, lessons of connecting evidence to policy and the benefits of collaboration in the evidence community through AEN membership to name a few.
Highlights from the week include contributions by Instituto Veredas sharing EIDM experiences from Latin America and other international organisations such the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) showcasing resources that support the use of evidence in policy-making processes in Africa. More highlights are captured in the AEN’s special edition newsletter. In addition, twelve emerging EIDM leaders from Africa were spotlighted through the series called “Why I fell in love with EIDM”. This increased engagement and interaction on Twitter, and as a result, the #AfricaEvidenceWeek2021 hashtag attracted three hundred and ninety-nine online participants from 15 different countries representing 91 organisations, reaching over 6 million people on Twitter.
Lessons and Takeaways from this Innovative Event
In the second year of AfEW, we are amazed by how the event managed to bring together a multitude of stakeholders from across Africa working towards the same goal: to support the use of evidence in decision-making. This online festival has become a regional premium event that attracts a global audience because of its efforts to showcase and celebrate the innovations and initiatives that supports EIDM in Africa. Every year there are new actors across Africa and beyond who contribute to the showcase and are actively involved in the conversations that take place on AEN’s social media platforms through the #AfricaEvidenceWeek2021 hashtag, confirmed by Twitter analytics. These engagements led to peer-to-peer learning, more connections, and opportunities for collaborations. A reflection blog post by Kirchuffs Atengble from PACKs Africa echoes these sentiments and shares how his organisation has benefited in participating in AfEW for the second time around. Furthermore, the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) Western Cape Network captures the insights it received in attending a webinar hosted by the South African Western Cape Government on “Time to talk Data- use and power of data in decision-making”. In her closing message, the AEN chairperson Professor Ruth Stewart, shares how colleagues from Latin America have reached out to the AEN to learn more about running successful regional networks. These are a few of many testimonials about the impact of the Africa Evidence Week celebration.
The success of this global celebration will not be possible without the commitment of the AEN team. A team that remains ambitious and innovative because of the support it receives from the AEN membership. The AEN Secretariat could not have been happier to be part of showcasing a diverse evidence ecosystem for supporting evidence-use in Africa! We are committed to continuing this work through our biennial event next year – EVIDENCE 2022 – taking place in the 10th year since the formation of the AEN. We look forward to seeing you at #EVIDENCE2022.
About the author
Precious Motha works in the field of networks for policy engagement in the evidence-informed decision-making sector as a Programme Officer for the Africa Evidence Network and Events Administrator at the Africa Centre for Evidence based at the University of Johannesburg.
The author(s) is solely responsible for the content of this article, including all errors or omissions; acknowledgements do not imply endorsement of the content. The author is grateful to Natalie Tannous for her editorial support.