RE: Racism in the field of evaluation | Eval Forward

Dear Harvey,

Good reflections! I believe that locally our fellow citizens who are not indigenous and have ancestry traced to European donor countries get priority treatment and higher pay. Even within the diversity promoting foreign governments' aid and UN agencies that talk a veneer of equality and equity, there is a seemingly a skeleton of racism. I notice groupings sometimes during major stakeholders' meetings on racial basis. Indigenous locals as beneficiaries (if representatives of beneficiaries from the grassroot have been invited) may usually be in the outer (4th) ring, followed in the inner (3rd) ring by junior government officials, then a  (2nd) ring of local employees of external aid agencies (wanting to be seen to be higher in status than public servants and and ordinary local civil society employees) and the inner (1st) ring of local descendants of Europeans (usually contractors of mixed race or one race), top management of donor and government agencies. Zambia is a multi racial state. Though, we should have ended racism 56 years ago at independence, sometimes it shows up in our national affairs. I wish to point out that some of the local descendants of Europeans do not engage in double dipping based on race and prefer to sit in the indigenous corner. Double dipping here I mean gaining as a Zambian and also from white privileges. The former Vice President of Zambia is a Zambian of Scottish descent. He has criticised some of the foreign development consultancy practices and the calibre of foreign consultants that get paid more than locals. 

I also blame ourselves for not fighting to end systematic racism in our profession; especially leaders of evaluation associations, development agencies and leading academics. Even where team leaders for country evaluations may be an indigenous evaluator, I see the Obama frontage. This is because nothing much changes for the rest of the indigenous evaluators. National evaluation capacity does not develop at the pace that it should as the drivers are mostly external. Most employees of development agencies and dealing with evaluation development are globetrotters. They do not stay long enough in one country to see the good or problems they create for countries. When they leave, if they were the ones leading capacity development, the gap they leave is not easily filled up. However, local specialists even if they  emigrate will always have ties to their motherland. Zambia even 56 years after independence is struggling to build evaluation capacity. 

In my opinion, what is seemingly adversely affecting evaluation capacity development is also the attitude of the leaders of the profession in Africa. Those who have been admitted into the inner ring do not demand what is good for their countries, continent and the rest of the indigenous evaluators but is good for themselves as individuals. Much of it is about promoting an individual self (CV) and being paid. Some fight to ascend to leadership of associations to get more assignments or to pinch from their coffers. Yes, we have one or two leaders who are selfless and have the passion to serve the profession and humanity. I humbly kneel to them. However, they are very few. We need more of them. So we have ended up with highly accredited academics or evaluators that sometimes accept assignments for peanuts. They will be reporting to less experienced expatriates and will happily sign off reports to up the quantity of their evaluation assignments for the sake of their CVs but not quality. What we end up with is the consultancy rate being lowered. If a commissioner can hire a University Professor who is prepared to be paid $250 or lower a day, how does he/she hire an emerging evaluator who shall ask for that amount?

Kind regards,

John T. Njovu