Halfway through AFIDEP’s five-year Strategic Plan 2020-2024 (Strategy 2024), AFIDEP staff paused their everyday work to gather for a two-day retreat in September 2022 to reflect on the Institute’s performance and chart the path for the next two and a half years. The Strategy aims to support African governments to accelerate progress towards achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, by driving the institutionalisation of evidence in decision-making across the continent. Explaining the significance of the retreat, AFIDEP’s Executive Director, Dr Eliya Zulu said “the retreat provides the team an opportunity to review the impact made as we implement Strategy 2024 and how best we can approach the remaining years in realigning to our super goal.” The super goal being ‘Improved well-being of all Africans and transformed lives.’
Africa’s sluggish performance and the role of evidence in accelerating progress
At the start of the Strategy’s implementation, Africa’s sluggish performance on SDGs and Agenda 2063 already needed to be countered. The 2020 Africa Sustainable Development Report, which analyses Africa’s progress toward the SDGs and their corresponding Agenda 2063 outcomes and goals put Africa’s average performance at 53.82%. The COVID-19 pandemic that brought the world to a halt in 2020, as well as subsequent economic crises, insurgencies and wars, added another strain to the slow progress, and in some countries, reversed gains spanning many years of effort. The 2022 report on Agenda 2063 highlights that nearly 40% of Africans still live in extreme poverty.
These unexpected global challenges drive home the need for Africa to strengthen its own capabilities to withstand and navigate shocks without plunging its people into further poverty. Thus, the value of AFIDEP’s mission of evidence as a strong anchor for Africa’s march towards sustainable development is more relevant than ever. Attesting to this through her session on ‘Accelerating Achievements of SDGs,’ the Head of AFIDEP Malawi Office, Prof. Nyovani Madise, highlighted how AFIDEP advanced the regional TB and lung health agenda by providing new evidence that supported parliamentary health committees in African countries to champion the need for policies and programmes that reduce the high burden of TB and lung disease in their countries. TB is among the leading causes of death globally, and a systematic effort that ultimately eliminates the disease will greatly improve health outcomes in Africa. Thus, Prof. Madise underscored the valuable nature of the work we do.
Need to improve how we document and share our impact
Dr Rose Oronje, Head of the AFIDEP Kenya Office, presenting on ‘Communicating our Impact’, provided an added boost to staff morale highlighting that the organisation is indeed making a positive difference on the continent, and we should be bolder in communicating our value. The value of our work is reported by governments, development partners and other stakeholders as essential to the realisation of national, regional and global priorities. She underscored the need for staff to do better on tracking, documenting and communicating the difference the Institute’s work is making on the continent and globally as we get into the second half of the strategic planning period.
Our staff are our most valuable resource
The retreat underscored the central place of the Institute’s staff in realising the ambitious goals set out in Strategy 2024. The retreat was therefore overdue considering that more than half of the current AFIDEP staff had joined the Institute when the implementation of Strategy 2024 was well underway.
Reflecting on the Institute’s establishment and growth, Dr Zulu noted that the last staff retreat in 2018 had a staff complement of less than 30. “Today AFIDEP has a staff complement of over 70, with a broad and diverse expertise drawn from across Africa,” he said.
An AFIDEP staff, reflecting after a session at the retreat, noted: “The session helped me understand how my role and duties contribute to the bigger goal. I can see how I can support team efforts for better results.”
Another staff said: “The retreat was enlightening…. Interestingly, I can now clearly see how projects are related to the broader AFIDEP mandate, especially the focus areas outlined in the Strategy.”
As the AFIDEP team moves to complete the objectives laid out in Strategy 2024, they left the retreat strengthened and emboldened to establish the Institute as Africa’s centre of excellence for evidence-informed decision-making serving the continent’s need to continually transform the lives of its people.