Development efforts in Africa were energized today with the launch of AFIDEP, the African Institute for Development Policy based in Nairobi, Kenya. AFIDEP aims to facilitate the creation, translation and utilization of research evidence in development planning and resource allocation on the continent.

AFIDEP will strengthen poverty alleviation efforts by helping national and regional level policy makers and the international community to have the requisite information to address Africa’s urgent development obstacles, namely, rapid population growth, poor public health outcomes and systems, deteriorating environment, and low levels of education.

The founding Director of AFIDEP, Dr. Eliya Zulu, notes that “currently there is a lack of reliable and accessible scientific evidence needed to inform development policy because the vast amount of research conducted across Africa is largely inaccessible to policymakers because it is fragmented in numerous scientific journals and not packaged clearly. Our main objective at AFIDEP is to help make research add value to development efforts by synthesizing and generating cutting edge evidence, and proactively work with policy makers to ensure that the evidence informs public policy and is translated into more effective programs”. AFIDEP will work with policy makers to identify knowledge gaps so that the most needed knowledge will be available for policy and program development.

Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, the Director of Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office, argues that “policy makers need consistent cutting edge research to guide their decisions, particularly evidence that help them understand the likely consequences of action or inaction”.  According to Dr. Musinguzi, “AFIDEP will add considerable value to ongoing efforts to address Africa’s critical development challenges, particularly in its commitment to produce the evidence that will challenge policy makers to prioritize family planning and other reproductive health services as central development investments”.

Dr. Martha Campbell, the president of Venture Strategies for Health and Development based in Berkeley (California), noted that “Venture Strategies decided to provide the initial support for the establishment of AFIDEP in order to strengthen southern leadership and voices in addressing Africa’s development challenges”.  She went on to note that “Whereas the limited application of research evidence in decision making is a global problem, the need for evidence-based policies and programs is much more acute in Africa because the scarce resources need to be used efficiently to have sustainable improvement in people’s wellbeing”.  Dr Campbell notes that Venture Strategies is pleased to have provided the support that AFIDEP needed to get started because the Institute stands to fill a very important gap in development, moving evidence into action and ensuring that programs and policies are evidence based.

Creating, assessing, synthesizing and repackaging scientific evidence from across Africa are unique elements that AFIDEP is bringing to boost development efforts and ensure effective evidence-based planning and resource allocation. Dr. Yazoume Ye, a Public Health Expert and one of the architects of AFIDEP, argues that “While some scholars and research organizations working on Africa should be commended for paying more attention to the policy relevance of their research, the impacts of these efforts are limited because the scholars tend to focus on the narrow angles of their own findings, thereby depriving policy makers of the broader perspectives that are needed to develop proper policies and programs. By collating evidence from a wide range of sources and placing the evidence on decision-makers’ tables, AFIDEP will ensure that decisions are made based on a comprehensive evidence base”.

AFIDEP’s knowledge generation tools include systematic reviews and synthesis of existing evidence, policy analysis and evaluation of interventions, and future scenario building and forecasting. According to Dr. Samson Wasao, a development economist with extensive hands on experience in working with policy makers to promote application of evidence on environmental issues in the Ministry of Planning in Kenya, and one of the founding Directors of AFIDEP, “Policy makers are tired of being bombarded with evidence that stops at depicting the gravity of problems that the continent is grappling with, and they are yearning for the evidence that shows them how to tackle the problems effectively”.  Dr Wasao believes that “AFIDEP will contribute to addressing this shortfall by promoting implementation research, documenting best practices, and providing a platform for cross-country learning and knowledge sharing”.

Knowledge generated will be appropriately packaged and shared with policymakers in one-on-one meetings and workshops as well as through its online knowledge sharing center, the African Development Bulletin.

To implement its programs, AFIDEP brings together a multidisciplinary team of scholars trained in various fields including social sciences, public health, policy analysis, and communication. Apart from a highly trained team of core staff, AFIDEP has forged a network of experts who contribute to the Institute’s work and participate in annual networking activities to enhance collaborative engagements with each other and the Institute.

Acknowledging that getting research evidence to influence policy is not an easy task, Dr. Frederick Mugisha, a senior health economist at AFIDEP, notes that “Establishing trust through strong and sustained partnerships with national and regional policy-making institutions is a key priority for AFIDEP. Our Institute will work with policy makers throughout the knowledge generation process from identifying knowledge gaps to using the evidence in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation”.

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