RE: The pervasive power of western evaluation culture: how and in what ways do you wrestle with ensuring evaluation is culturally appropriate and beneficial to those who legitimise development aid? | Eval Forward

As an African evaluator, born and raised in a country that went through colonial dominance for 500 years, not only do I support the decolonization of evaluations, the Made in Africa evaluation movement and other initiatives but I also contend with and try to correct a culturally intriguing “sin” that most evaluations commit without knowing.

When designing questionnaires to capture respondents’ demographies, evaluations do often ask whether or not the person belongs to an “indigenous” group. Unfortunately in the African countries where Portuguese colonialism flourished for over half-a- century namely, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Sao Tome & Principe, the colonial system used a divide and rule approach, among other strategies and words such as “indigenous”, “assimilados” and others, were employed to legitimize a cultural caste system where the native black population was sub-divided into those categories where the “indigenous” was equivalent to “uncivilized” and the assimilado, as who acquired the Portuguese citizenship through a long process of acculturation, subservience and brainwashing, was closer to the system than the non-assimilados. Assimilates were thus used to tax their fellow blacks, using coercive measures including physical abuse, teaching, and playing religious roles.

As the world today grapples with social problems such as racism, it is worth bringing to everyone’s awareness that the employment of the word “indigenous”, in evaluations, in Portuguese speaking African countries resuscitates the legacy of dehumanizing class system the Africans have gradually been burying for generations.  Alternatively, evaluations would do less harm adopting categories such as "minority group" and others.


Ventura Mufume

Freelance evaluation consultant