Conference Chairs

Dr. Shanil Haricharan, National Treasury, South Africa

Shanil Haricharan has a diverse professional work experience in the public sector as a senior official and advisor over the past 22 years in all three spheres of government, specialising in public management, leadership and organisational development. Promoting the use of evidence in public sector decision-making is a special interest area. To this end he has consulted to the South African Presidency’s Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy-making (PSPPSD) and the University of Johannesburg’s BCURE. Currently, he teaches public leadership and organisational behaviour on a MPhil programme at UCT’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice. For the past 12 years, Shanil has served as a senior technical advisor at the Technical Assistance Unit (TAU) and the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC), agencies of the National Treasury.

Dr. Rhona Mijumbi-Deve, Africa Centre for Knowledge Translation, Makerere University, Uganda

Dr. Rhona Mijumbi-Deve is a health policy analyst and knowledge translation specialist at Makerere University in Uganda. She is a researcher with research interests in Health Systems and Policy, and evidence to policy and practice. She also has special interest in building capacity to strengthen health systems in low and middle income countries. She is currently the principal investigator for the “Using Evidence to strengthen health systems in Africa and the Middle East” (UsEvidence project), a collaborative project between Uganda, Zambia and Lebanon. She was instrumental in setting up the first rapid response service to meet policymakers’ urgent needs for health systems evidence in a low income country and continues to support the start of similar services in different countries. A medical doctor by training, Dr. Mijumbi-Deve has a master’s degree in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and another in international public health.

Prof. Ruth Stewart, Chairperson of the Africa Evidence Network

Ruth Stewart is the chairperson of the Africa Evidence Network, and Director the Africa Centre for Evidence at the University of Johannesburg. Having grown up in Malawi, she studied in the UK and has worked in South Africa since 1998, as well as with University College London’s EPPI-Centre. Her work includes the production of evidence for decision-makers, as well as supporting civil servants to access and make sense of research. Her work has included leading the University of Johannesburg-based BCURE programme, Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence amongst national governments in Africa.

She has a background in social sciences, and has worked across academia and government, with a commitment to engage with stakeholders in her research using a wide range of approaches. Prof. Stewart has worked for nearly twenty years on the production of synthesised evidence to inform decision-making, including systematic reviews, rapid evidence assessments, and evidence maps. She is committed to making a difference through her work by ensuring that research evidence is useful and used.

Scientific Programme Committee

Dr Yvonne Erasmus (SPC Chairperson)
Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE), University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Yvonne Erasmus (PhD, Univ of London) is a Senior Researcher and specialist in evidence-informed decision-making and evidence synthesis at the University of Johannesburg’s Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE). She is an experienced systematic reviewer and was recently a lead investigator on two ACE-led evidence syntheses: (1) a NERC-funded demand-led evidence synthesis project on ecosystem services for poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa; and (2) a DFID-funded systematic review on what works to improve female labour market participation in LMICs. She recently worked as Deputy Director and Country Manager (Malawi) on the University of Johannesburg’s programme aimed at Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (UJ-BCURE), specifically supporting the capacity of government officials in South Africa and Malawi to increase the use of research evidence in decision-making. In South Africa, she worked closely with the Policy Unit of the Department of Water and Sanitation on the different aspects of evidence-informed decision-making in the development of their national Water Stewardship Policy.

She is an experienced researcher, and project and team leader, with 15 years of experience doing work for universities (University of Johannesburg, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Foundation for Professional Development), commercial companies (freelancing for TNS Opinion, Brussels), national institutions to uphold democracy (South African Human Rights Commission), international donors (DFID, NERC, USAID) and government (in South Africa and Malawi). Her academic background is in political sciences and development studies and she is particularly interested in inter-disciplinary work and how research can be used to bring about social change.

Danielle Mason (Quality Education Strand Leader)
Head of Research, Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), United Kingdom
Danielle Mason is the Head of Research at the Education Endowment Foundation, where she leads the work on the Teaching and Learning Toolkit and the Toolkit’s international counterparts in Australia, Latin America and other partner countries. Danielle began her career working on poverty alleviation in South Africa. Returning to the UK, she specialised in poverty measurement and childhood deprivation, first at the University of Oxford, and then for a number of independent poverty research centres, before joining the Government’s Child Poverty Unit in 2009 to advise on the Child Poverty Bill. Most recently she led the What Works initiative in the Cabinet Office, promoting better use of evidence in policy development in the UK and internationally. She was also the Lead Social Researcher across Cabinet Office and Treasury.

 

Dr Patrick Okwen (Communicable Diseases Strand Leader)
Research Fellow, Centre for Development of Best Practice in Health, Cameroon
Dr Okwen PM is a clinician with the ministry of health in Cameroon where he practices at the Bali District health service and also has an administrative and decision-making role as the district medical officer. He coordinates activities of Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa, which is an evidence implementation body and a Joanna Briggs Affiliated Group. He is a research fellow with the centre for development of Best practices in Health in Cameroon. He is the recipient of the Cochrane Aubrey Sheiham Leadership award for evidence-based healthcare for Africa in 2016. He is part of the Cochrane Learning Initiative for Experienced Authors. He is actively involved with Cochrane as an author and working groups. He is a Joanna Briggs Clinical Fellow. He leads the African Guidelines International Network Community. He has been working with the MagicApp Project to develop trustworthy rapid recommendations available on mobile devices. He is also an external member of the WHO guidelines review committee and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer with the University of Adelaide in Australia.
Dr Okwen is passionate about getting evidence into health systems and making healthcare more effective and more performant and training clinicians and researchers in Africa to be able to generate, synthesize, transfer and implement evidence for global health. He is currently working on two projects to get evidence into health systems in LMIC and developing a tool for informing development projects to use evidence called the evidence barometer.
Twitter: @okwen

Sibonelo G Mbanjwa (Climate Resilience Strand Leader)
Director: Climate Change Adaptation-Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South Africa
Sibonelo G Mbanjwa is currently the Director: Climate Change Adaptation-Natural Resources at the National Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa and joined the Department in January 2014. He worked as Junior Researcher/ Project Manager at Rhodes University. He also held various positions in different provincial government departments in South Africa which include being (Senior) Environment Officer in Gauteng Province, Divisional Manager: Development Impact Management and also responsibility for environmental monitoring in North West, Deputy Director: Environmental Quality Management in the Northern Cape province responsible for environmental quality work within the scope of environmental quality management since 2002. He a founding member and former Board member of the Environmental Assessment Practitioners of South Africa (EAPASA) and is member of South African Chapter for International Association for Impact Assessment. In his current role he is tasked to manage the process of developing the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for South Africa which will be used as the National Adaptation Plan for the country for the purposes conformance to South Africa’s global commitment made through the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and he also works with the South African Weather Service to develop the National Framework for Climate Services which will be critical in generating scientific evidence to inform climate change adaptation measures and a drive to achieve South Africa’s vision of a transition toward the climate resilient society. He has been involved in environmental, waste management, air quality management and climate change policy development since 2002 when he joined the public service. He holds the following degrees three masters’ degrees which include Master of Business Administration (Rhodes), Master Environmental Management (UFS) and Master of Education (Rhodes) and three honours degrees which include Hons BSc in Environmental Monitoring and Modelling and Hons BSc Botany (UNISA) and Hons Bachelor of Education (UKZN).

Dr Rose Oronje (Good Governance Strand Leader)
Director – Science Communications & Evidence Uptake, African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), Kenya 
Rose Oronje (PhD) is a development policy and communications specialist with over 15 years’ experience in development research-to-policy communications, and conducting policy analysis research. With a strong background in communication and policy analysis, Rose has extensive experience in conducting analyses of policies and policy environments, and translating and communicating research to policymakers and other general audiences (including the mass media). She also has extensive experience in designing and delivering capacity building programmes in knowledge translation, including research-to-policy communications, but also research utilisation by policymakers, media practitioners, and civil society.

Currently, Rose is the Director of Science Communication and Evidence Uptake at the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP). In this role, Rose provides strategic leadership in the design and delivery of evidence uptake research and interventions. Her publications have focused mainly on the areas of health policymaking, and research-to-policy in the health sector. Prior to joining AFIDEP, she headed the Policy Engagement and Communications department at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) from 2004-2009.

Rose earned her PhD from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. She also has Masters Degree in Communications from the University of Nairobi, and a Bachelor’s degree in Information Science from Moi University.