Original Research - Special Collection: Addressing Knowledge Asymmetries

The Swahili evaluation approach: Content and guidance for doing development evaluation

Almas F. Mazigo
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 12, No 2 | a739 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v12i2.739 | © 2024 Almas F. Mazigo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 January 2024 | Published: 20 June 2024

About the author(s)

Almas F. Mazigo, Department of History, Political Science and Development Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dar es Salaam University College of Education, University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Background: African development evaluation stakeholders express discontent with Euro-American evaluation methodologies and advocate for formulating evaluation theories and approaches rooted in African wisdom and values.

Objectives: This article focuses on generating wisdom and philosophical insights from Swahili proverbs, constructing a robust philosophy of evaluation and using emerging theoretical and methodological insights to guide development evaluations.

Method: Forty-five Swahili proverbs were analysed to uncover their philosophical insights and implications for development evaluation practices.

Results: Based on established philosophical insights, the evaluand is a single but multifaceted phenomenon; knowledge about the evaluand is possible through close and trusted relationships with people who have experienced it; adequate learning about and production of the credible history of the evaluand is possible in well-established humane relations; and the credible information and evidence on aspects of the evaluand are generated in well-managed processes of inquiry and assessment. These philosophical beliefs form the core of the Swahili evaluation approach, providing valuable guidance for development evaluators in selecting and engaging legitimate stakeholders, managing evaluation processes effectively, utilising diverse forms of knowledge and assessment criteria, and facilitating co-generation, co-learning, and co-validation of findings and reporting on project or programme successes, failures, and lessons.

Conclusion: The philosophy of evaluation underpinning the Swahili evaluation approach provides adequate guidance on the what, why and how of conducting development evaluations.

Contribution: This research contributes to the proverb-based approach to developing African-rooted evaluation theories and approaches by offering lessons on generating and applying philosophical insights to inform and improve development evaluation practices.


African proverbs and wise sayings; Swahili proverbs and wise sayings; Swahili wisdom; African-rooted evaluation; Indigenous evaluation; people-centric evaluation; Democratic evaluation; Participatory evaluation; Philosophy of evaluation; Development evalu

JEL Codes

C81: Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data • Data Access; C82: Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Macroeconomic Data • Data Access; C83: Survey Methods • Sampling Methods

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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Crossref Citations

1. Editorial: Addressing knowledge asymmetries in memory of Dr Sulley Gariba
Mark Abrahams, Florence Etta, Mjiba Frehiwot, Eddah Kanini, Jean P. Nzabonimpa, Nicola Theunissen
African Evaluation Journal  vol: 12  issue: 2  year: 2024  
doi: 10.4102/aej.v12i2.762