Research and evidence uptake: Why rigorous research is crucial for developing inclusive policies

Carson Christiano from the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA)

What you need to know:

  • Global summit convenes experts in Tanzania to accelerate evidence uptake in the fight against poverty
  • Local partners and the national government will champion the use of rigorous and inclusive research in support of Vision 2050 goals.

Dar es Salaam. As Tanzania seeks to compound economic growth that exceeded five percent in 2023 and chart a collective vision of development for the next 25 years, the annual Africa Evidence Summit convenes in Dar es Salaam this week in a dialogue among stakeholders and the national government to champion the use of rigorous and inclusive research in support of Vision 20250 goals.

Running under the theme ‘Bolstering African scholarships to advance the impact of evidence’, the event that has been in running for the last 12 years, brings together a network of scientific researchers and policy makers, including Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) fellows, global faculty at higher education institutions, policymakers, and practitioners from across the continent; to discuss the importance of rigorous research that produces evidence that is crucial to influencing policy and decision-makers for Africa and other low income regions across the globe, as well as the latest evidence on economic development and poverty alleviation in Africa.

The summit also advances new ways to integrate evidence into decision-making, amplifies African scholars’ voices, and engages stakeholders in the process.

In her welcoming remarks, the Executive Director for Economic and Social Research Foundation Prof Fortunata Makene explained that the summit underscores a critical priority, which is “…the need to strengthen our scholarly foundations to ensure that evidence-based practices are deeply rooted in our unique contexts and realities.”

“African scholars, researchers, and practitioners play a pivotal role in generating, interpreting, and applying evidence that is not only robust and credible but also relevant to the diverse and dynamic environments we serve,” she said.

Echoing in support Prof Makene’s sentiments, Carson Christiano, Executive Director of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), which is based at UC Berkeley in California, touched on the main goals for this year’s summit being to elevate the voices of African scholars in research and policy debates; disseminate new research findings; and inspire new research collaborations.

African scholars are now generating cutting-edge research and influencing policy, while the demand for evidence from policymakers, practitioners, and donors continues to grow.

Research and evidence from issues such as vaccine uptake in Tanzania with lived experiences from citizens’ poor response to the Covid-19 vaccine programs, preparing for an aging African population and prioritising economic research and policies to cater to this demographic, and even research ethics and transparency in Africa are crucial in reshaping how lasting policies can be put in place for inclusion of all.

In addressing the audience on the importance of evaluating, rigorously, the robustness of the various methodologies used by researchers to create relevant policies in different sectors; Tanzania’s Minister for Education, Science and Technology, Prof Adolf Mkenda warned all concerned parties to focus not just on growth, but on inclusive growth that lifts everyone.

“It is important to take into account three important factors to successfully accomplish this. Take into account the changing demographic dynamics, globalisation as well as technological advancement,” he said.

“Globalisation can be seen as both an opportunity and constraint and if we are not quick to adapt to the changes that both technology and globalisation bring, we will be left behind to play victim,” he added.

He explained further that these two factors greatly impact the generations that are coming up and as researchers and policy makers, the onus is on them to consider such critical factors or risk misleading a generation in the future.

Organised by the Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA), an association of African scholars that advances decision-focused impact evaluation of development programs, and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), a research hub at the University of California, Berkeley that generates innovative evidence decision-makers use to reduce global poverty; this year’s Summit speaks directly to key areas of Vision 2050 while continuing to grow the evidence-informed policy community on the continent.

Hosted at the Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam, this year’s Summit brings together an array of researchers and organisations working to alleviate poverty in Africa, including J-PAL Africa, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), the Mawazo Institute, Twaweza, and the Global Poverty Research Lab at Northwestern University (GPRL).

“As the global development community invests more in locally-led solutions, organisations like CEGA can accelerate this transition by advancing the scholarship of African researchers,” said Dr Edward Miguel, Founder and Faculty Co-Director of CEGA and Distinguished Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley.

“I’m delighted that the summit continues to serve as a platform for African scholars to increase the impact of their research.”