Kenyan policymakers appreciate value of evidence in development
17 March 2016
Author: Diana Warira
L-R: Dr Eliya Zulu (Executive Director, AFIDEP), Hon Susan Musyoka (MP, Machakos County) and Prof Francis Dodoo (Chair, AFIDEP Board of Directors) cut the cake during AFIDEP's 5th anniversary celebratory dinner. Photo: Diana Warira

Through fascinating accounts of struggles and triumphs, AFIDEP’s five-year journey was narrated at a colorful dinner held on 7th March 2016 at Serena Hotel, Nairobi. Guests at the dinner included government representatives, development partners, UN agencies, civil society, the media and AFIDEP’s Board members and staff.

The story of how AFIDEP was born in 2010 is heart-warming; a noble cause that started off as a humble start-up in Dr. Eliya Zulu’s garage, its founder and Executive Director.

Speakers generally expressed palpable surprise and awe at the rapid growth in both stature and achievement that AFIDEP has accomplished over this short period. One of them, Hon. Dr. James Nyikal (a former Director of Medical Services, and now MP and member of the Parliamentary Health Committee), lauded AFIDEP’s focus on bridging the gap between research evidence and policy. He also stressed, “What determines the value of research is what you do with it.”

Hon Nyikal further challenged Parliamentary Health Committee members to always consider relevant research evidence whenever they deliberate on policy issues.

“We need to move away from politicking when debating policy issues and present verifiable evidence to make our contributions.”

Speaking on the experience the Ministry of Health has had working with AFIDEP, Dr. Charles Nzioka, the Director of the Division of Health Research and Development, expressed gratitude for the capacity building that AFIDEP has been offering to health officials on Evidence-informed Policymaking (EIPM).

He said that the trainings conducted under AFIDEP’s programme on Strengthening Capacity on Evidence Use in Health Policymaking (SECURE Health) have been invaluable in building much needed capacity in the application of research evidence in decision and policy-making.

“We are taking our partnership [with AFIDEP] on evidence use to the counties because we think capacity to use research must be built at all levels of service delivery.” Noted Dr Nzioka. “The partnership between AFIDEP and the Ministry of Health came at the right time. We had realised that there was a big gap in accessibility and use of research to inform health policies.”

Dr. Charles Mbakaya from Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) ““ Centre for Research in Public Health observed that AFIDEP is doing a good job of involving parliament and in articulating the value of research. He noted that as a result, MPs are demanding informed answers before making legislation.

Hon. Dr Bernard Muia, Nairobi City County Executive for Health, told the guests that he was a beneficiary of the training, and now his opinion in the Nairobi County Assembly is highly valued.

“Members trust what I say because I always back it up with evidence,” he noted.

In pursuit of getting research evidence as close to the policy-makers as possible, AFIDEP rolled out a programme on Evidence for Development in 2015, which saw the establishment of a Parliamentary Caucus on Evidence-informed Decision-making. The Chair of the Caucus, Hon. Susan Musyoka (MP, Machakos County) also graced the celebratory dinner. In her remarks, she stated that the Caucus is setting a good precedent in Parliament and this will largely improve the quality and output of Parliamentary debates.

Other speakers at the dinner included the Chair of the Board, Prof. Francis Dodoo. He said that AFIDEP has come of age and the achievements witnessed have been largely due to the existence of a dedicated staff committed to institutional building, a visionary Board of Directors, and the generous support of donors and partners. Going into the future, AFIDEP is looking at an even more successful #5YearsOfChange and beyond.

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